O's Refute Claims

Players Call Steroid Allegations `Witch Hunt,' `smear' Campaign

October 02, 2006|By Childs Walker, Jeff Zrebiec and Roch Kubatko | Childs Walker, Jeff Zrebiec and Roch Kubatko,Sun Reporters

BOSTON -- The Orioles closed this season much as they did the previous one, with a disappointing record on the field and drug allegations hanging over the clubhouse.

Last year, it was Rafael Palmeiro, the first prominent major leaguer to test positive for anabolic steroids. This year, three pillars of the team - shortstop Miguel Tejada, second baseman Brian Roberts and outfielder Jay Gibbons - stand accused of taking steroids by former teammate Jason Grimsley.

Their names became public in a Los Angeles Times report yesterday that also listed Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte as players linked to performance enhancers in the affidavit Grimsley gave to federal agents this spring.

Whether the players like it or not, the Orioles' clubhouse has become a hot spot in baseball's ongoing battle against performance-enhancing drugs. The list of current and former Orioles implicated has now grown to six. Former first baseman David Segui was also mentioned in the affidavit, and he has confirmed that he took human growth hormone with a doctor's prescription.

But the Orioles bristle at the idea that their clubhouse is somehow plagued by a drug culture.

"The sad thing is that it's just basically one guy saying he said and this said and that said with no proof or evidence," said first baseman Kevin Millar. "You know your name gets smeared out there before getting proved guilty, before anything getting proved."

The players said they feel like prey in a process that's out of their control.

"I think it's just a witch hunt," said infielder Chris Gomez. "I just wish it would go away for all the people involved. They are just trying to keep this thing going. I think the game is getting cleaned up and it definitely is moving in a positive direction. Things like this are just going to keep coming up and dragging out the negatives."

Gomez said the players have known for "a while" that their teammates were named in the affidavit.

Tejada said little and Roberts declined to follow up on comments they made to The Sun on Saturday night discounting Grimsley's allegations. But Gibbons reiterated his innocence and said he and his teammates get tired of the same old drug questions.

"It's obviously a distraction and you hate distractions in the clubhouse," Gibbons said. "It'd be nice for this to all be behind us, and it will be eventually. It's something that we don't like dealing with."

Gibbons and other players have distanced themselves from Grimsley, who played with the team in 2004 and 2005 but was away much of the time as he recovered from shoulder surgery.

"I briefly talked to him when I played with him," Gibbons said. "I haven't talked to him since he's been gone. He was hardly on our team last year."

Roberts said Saturday that he had "zero relationship" with Grimsley. Segui said that was true as far as he could tell in 2004, his last season.

"B-Rob's locker and Gibby's locker were by mine and I don't think I saw Jason ever speak to them off the field," he said. "And Tejada, they definitely didn't hang out. So how he would know anything about their personal lives is beyond me."

Segui described his former roommate, Roberts, as "about as milk and cookies as you can get," and said he'd be surprised if either Roberts or Gibbons used steroids. He questioned Grimsley's reliability.

"Here's a guy who was put in a situation where he was scared and started talking, probably thinking that he was going to help himself in some way," he said. "Obviously it doesn't, but it causes problems for people who have nothing to do with his situation. Unless you've seen them do [drugs], unless you've had conversations with them about it, or injected them, then you have no grounds to make a statement like that at all, to even bring their names into it."

Gomez tried to empathize with his former teammate.

"My opinion is he was probably put in a horrible situation," Gomez said of Grimsley. "I don't think it was his intention to throw anybody under the bus. Knowing what has been going on with all the investigations and stuff, I am sure they put him in the worst situation possible and they are probably taking what he said and trying to make it look a lot worse than what is really said."

The team's front office hasn't had much to say about Grimsley's accusations. "Our players have addressed the accusations quite strongly, and we support them," executive vice president Mike Flanagan said in a written statement. "We have not seen the affidavit and therefore will not comment on it further."

Players and team officials point to the fact that the Orioles have taken and passed steroid tests for the past two years (baseball has tested for anabolic steroids but not for human growth hormone during that time).

"It's just that we're subject to testing, and we've done that, and we've been cleared," manager Sam Perlozzo said. "With the exception of David Segui coming out and saying what he said, there's nothing really to talk about."

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