Steroid use unintentional, he says

report due today

Palmeiro Renews Claim

Baseball

November 10, 2005|By JEFF BARKER | JEFF BARKER,SUN REPORTER

WASHINGTON -- Former Orioles star Rafael Palmeiro said yesterday that he never knowingly took steroids, but that he made "a foolish mistake" by injecting himself in April with a possibly tainted vitamin he got from a teammate without consulting a doctor first.

Palmeiro and his lawyers issued a series of statements - offering a blend of remorse and pugnacity - on the eve of today's release of a House committee's report on whether he lied under oath when he testified in March that he never used steroids.

While the Government Reform Committee would not comment, there were no indications last night that it was planning to recommend that the Justice Department investigate the first baseman for perjury. The committee had faced a difficult task to determine whether Palmeiro was on banned performance-enhancing substances when he appeared on March 17 - seven weeks before testing positive for stanozolol, a powerful steroid.

Even if the panel does not recommend a perjury probe today, it is likely to criticize Palmeiro and his suggestion that he was a victim of teammate Miguel Tejada's innocent error in giving him a vial of possibly contaminated B-12.

Eager to restore his reputation, Palmeiro and his attorneys maintained yesterday that he only identified Tejada by name in the case because he was required to by the players union during a closed-door arbitration proceeding.

Ever since his 10-day suspension was announced on Aug. 1, Palmeiro had promised to tell his side of the story.

He did so yesterday, not in person but in documents in which his lawyers discussed his natural home run-hitting skills and accused Major League Baseball of "inconsistencies" in the case against him.

In particular, the attorneys argue that baseball's case against Palmeiro, presented at a closed-door arbitration hearing over the summer, was flawed. The documents said baseball relied on a steroid expert, Gary Green, who testified that it was implausible that Palmeiro's B-12 shot could have been tainted with a steroid and caused his positive test.

"It appears that Dr. Green's testimony about vitamin B-12 was incorrect or ill-informed at almost every point," one of the documents said. In fact, Palmeiro's lawyers said, experts have said that B-12 is sometimes mixed with steroids.

But others have said stanozolol isn't likely to be taken accidentally unless there is sabotage involved.

The lawyers also argued that baseball has wrongly suggested that Palmeiro's power numbers indicated he may have used steroids while playing with acknowledged steroid user Jose Canseco.

His lawyers said Palmeiro "had already established himself as one of the premier power-hitting first basemen in 1991 and 1992, before Canseco joined the Rangers."

To make the point, Palmeiro's agents prepared a PowerPoint presentation - included in yesterday's documents - that refers to "one of the best swings in baseball" and says Palmeiro was fortunate to have played in two of baseball's "friendliest" hitters' parks - Camden Yards and Arlington Stadium.

Major League Baseball spokesman Rich Levin declined to comment yesterday on the attorneys' assertions and the committee's upcoming report. "We haven't seen it, so I don't think it's appropriate to comment," Levin said.

It's uncertain whether Palmeiro will attempt a comeback next year, or whether a team would claim the 41-year-old.

Palmeiro's attorneys - from the law firm of Mayer, Brown, Rowe and Maw - include former Indiana congressman David McIntosh and former Clinton administration Cabinet member Mickey Kantor.

The law firm declined to grant interviews, saying it was waiting for the congressional committee to act.

Palmeiro's reputation, already in decline after his suspension, worsened after The Sun reported that he had privately named a teammate - later identified as Tejada - as the supplier of the B-12.

Palmeiro had taken the B-12 in April because he was feeling "run down" after spring training, according to yesterday's documents.

Vitamin B-12 helps maintain healthy nerves and red blood cells. People with normal diets usually get enough of the vitamin. Nevertheless, B-12 injections are thought by some athletes to increase energy and shorten muscles' recovery time after workouts.

In his statement, Palmeiro sought to clarify his actions, saying: "I am not trying to hold others responsible. I was careless in not seeking a doctor's advice and made a foolish mistake."

Said Palmeiro, whose Hall of Fame credentials are now the subject of debate: "All my accomplishments are now tainted, and many people have been hurt.

"I deeply regret the pain I have caused my family, my teammates, my fans and the game of baseball," he said. "I am sorry for the distraction that I have caused to the Orioles clubhouse and the league. I remain opposed to the use of steroids by athletes."

Palmeiro was tested May 4 before a game with the Toronto Blue Jays. "He warmed up, took batting practice and then went to take the test before hitting the field," one of the documents said.

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