Palmeiro's case still unresolved

In effort to be thorough, House committee takes time in reaching decision

September 09, 2005|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - A House committee remains uncertain whether there is enough evidence to warrant referring Rafael Palmeiro's steroids case to the Justice Department for a perjury investigation, and it is considering several options for handling his case.

In one scenario, the House Committee on Government Reform would make public the documents it received Aug. 12 from Major League Baseball related to the Orioles first baseman's positive steroids test, according to officials familiar with the discussions. That way, the public could decide for itself about Palmeiro, who had told lawmakers in a March 17 hearing that he had never used the performance-enhancing drugs.

The document release could happen in the next two weeks.

The documents include the results of Palmeiro's drug tests, the date of the tests and a record of secret proceedings before an arbitration panel to which Palmeiro had appealed the results of his positive test. His appeal was denied, and Palmeiro served a 10-day suspension beginning Aug. 1.

Releasing the documents would answer at least one important question: How did Palmeiro choose to defend himself when he appeared before the arbitration panel several months ago with his reputation at stake?

The Sun reported Aug. 19 that Palmeiro did not offer an explanation to the three-member arbitration board of how the steroid, stanozolol, entered his system. But Palmeiro did put on a defense of sorts, and it remains a mystery - at least to the public - what he said.

Palmeiro's public comments have been vague. He said in an Aug. 1 conference call that he never intentionally put a banned substance into his body and that he "would love to tell what happened so everyone would understand."

Experts have said stanozolol almost assuredly would not have entered Palmeiro's system by accident.

Palmeiro's agent, Arn Tellem, suggested in early August that an explanation was forthcoming, saying, "I hope that the public will wait to make a final judgment about Rafael until they hear his story in its entirety."

But Palmeiro has since said that he won't address the matter until the congressional committee has completed its work. He announced Monday that he was leaving the Orioles to return to his Texas home to rehabilitate his ailing right ankle and knee. He said he worried that he had become a distraction to the team.

The committee has not ruled out sending Palmeiro's file to the Justice Department, which could bring a perjury charge against him, according to congressional officials. The officials asked not to be named because the committee has not yet completed its review.

But that option appears less likely than others because of the difficulty of, in effect, going back in time and showing that the ballplayer had knowingly used the drug - if indeed he had - at the time he appeared before Congress.

The committee says its resolution of the case has taken so long mostly because it wanted to make a thorough review. The panel has had to contend with a congressional recess and with other matters. The committee will begin holding hearings next week on issues related to Hurricane Katrina.

Palmeiro was among a handful of current and former players who appeared before the committee in March. He sat at the same witness table with retired slugger Jose Canseco, whose book released in February accused Palmeiro and others of using steroids when they played together for the Texas Rangers during the 1990s.

In his testimony, Palmeiro said: "I have never used steroids. Period. I don't know how to say it any more clearly than that." He offered to be an advocate in educating young people about steroid risks.

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