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Congress To Investigate Palmeiro

Baltimore Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, center, flanked by former Major Leaguer mark McGwire, left, and Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, testifies on Capitol Hill in this March 17, 2005 file photo. Palmeiro was suspended 10 days for violating Major League Baseball's steroids policy Monday Aug. 1, 2005, nearly five months after emphatically telling Congress that "I have never used steroids. Period."
AP (file)
Even after failing a drug test, Rafael Palmeiro insists he was being truthful when he told Congress that he never used steroids.

Congress wants to find out for itself.

A House committee has Palmeiro's permission to obtain documents from Major League Baseball about the steroid test that led to his 10-day suspension this week. That information will be used to investigate whether the Baltimore Orioles slugger committed perjury in March.

"As a practical matter, perjury referrals are uncommon. Prosecutions are rare," House Government Reform Committee chairman Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., said Wednesday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

"But this is a high-profile case, so I think it will get an honest look-see. I don't think anyone can avoid it."

And then Davis added: "If we did nothing, I think we'd look like idiots. Don't you?"

On March 17, Palmeiro appeared before Davis' panel alongside Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, pointed his finger for emphasis and declared: "I have never used steroids. Period."

On Monday, baseball announced he was being suspended, though it did not say when Palmeiro tested positive or for what substance. Palmeiro stood by his statements to Congress and said he didn't know what caused the test result.

"It's hard for me to reconcile that someone doesn't know that they have steroids in their body. I'm extraordinarily skeptical," said committee member Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn.

Said Davis: "You've got to remember — of all the people who testified, he was probably the most convincing. So if you asked me who would they catch, and I were listing a thousand ballplayers, he would be No. 1,000."

A person with knowledge of the sport's drug-testing program told the AP on condition of anonymity that Palmeiro tested positive for the powerful steroid stanozolol.

That's what sprinter Ben Johnson tested positive for when he was stripped of his gold medal and world record in the 100 meters at the 1988 Olympics. It is not available in over-the-counter supplements and is known as a powerful strength-builder. It can be ingested in tablet form, leaving one's system in less than a month, or injected, lasting several weeks longer.

Palmeiro's positive test came after his appearance before Congress but before he recorded his 3,000th hit last month. That means he reached the milestone after he knew about the positive result, the source told the AP.

Rather than relying on news reports, Davis said, Congress will wait to see what it learns from the information baseball provides. Palmeiro agreed that it be released during a telephone conversation with Davis on Tuesday night.

"He was pretty adamant about the point he didn't do anything. He also remarked he didn't have a lot of time to enjoy his 3,000th hit," Davis said.

"What we are concerned about, obviously, is the integrity of the committee process when we swear people in. We have an obligation to look further into it, and I explained that to him, and he said he understood."

Davis and the committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Henry Waxman of California, asked Major League Baseball to turn over information about the failed test — and any other drug tests Palmeiro has taken.

In confirming that he would cooperate with the committee, Palmeiro said in a statement that if it has any additional questions, "I am ready and willing to answer each and every one of them."

Palmeiro's agent, Arn Tellem, did not return a telephone call from the AP on Wednesday.

Baseball spokesman Rich Levin said the documents would be released as requested "in a timely manner," but did not give specifics and did not know if they would be made public once received.

Davis was critical of the union, commissioner Bud Selig and the sport's steroid policy at the March hearing. He and Waxman have proposed legislation that would establish uniform drug programs and punishments in the major U.S. professional sports.

But Davis praised baseball's handling of the Palmeiro case.

"He did get an appeal under this procedure. He filed it. And obviously they didn't cut him any slack," Davis said. "I'm satisfied that baseball proceeded as they said they would."

One of Palmeiro's former teams, the Texas Rangers, canceled a planned ceremony before Friday night's game against the Orioles to honor him for reaching 3,000 hits. Major league rules don't allow suspended players on the field after batting practice.