Palmeiro gets caught

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:21 AM ET

On the night of March 17, we spoke to an elderly and wise baseball man.

The two of us discussed the testimony of Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro the previous day at the U.S. Congressional hearings on steroids. I thought Palmeiro handled things better than McGwire.

Palmeiro pointed his index finger toward the committee, raised his voice and pronounced: "I have never used steroids."

After a pause he said: "Never!"

My elder friend responded: "Son, did you ever study Shakespeare in high school? Palmeiro reminds me of that line 'Thou doth protest too loudly, methinks.' "

Palmeiro, of the Baltimore Orioles, became the first big fish caught in baseball's drag net on steriods as he was suspended for 10 days yesterday for "violating baseball's anti-drug policy."

On a conference call yesterday he again was denying he had ever used steroids.

Palmeiro failed a test, filed a grievance and challenged the suspension on the grounds he had "never intentionally put a banned substance into my body." Said grievance was denied by arbitrator Shyam Das.

Palmeiro will be wearing the suspenders, losing $163,934 US on his $3 million contract.

But that is peanuts compared to what lies down the road for Palmeiro. Recently, he reached the 3,000-hit mark and already had hit 500 homers.

Now, with 569 career homers and 3,018 hits, what's in store for Palmeiro? Are his Hall of Fame numbers bogus? Should face perjury charges for lying to Congress?

Now that he has been suspended, was he a long-time user or someone who just dabbled in steroids this spring when he turned 40?

In his book Juiced, Jose Canseco claimed Palmeiro was a steriod user, although during the Congressional hearings, Canseco basically denied everything he had written save for the author's name.

But check out these Palmeiro numbers:

He broke in during the 1986 season with the Chicago Cubs, averaging 13.4 home runs during his first seven years (1986-1992) in the majors, averaging 61.4 RBIs.

At the end of August in 1992, Canseco, fresh from owning the title as the best player in the game, was dealt to the Texas Rangers for Ruben Sierra, where he joined Palmeiro.

For the next 12 seasons, Palmeiro averaged 38 home runs per year with 113 RBIs.

"I definitely do not believe Rafael is using steroids right now. In the past he has, but not right now," Canseco told The Jeff Rickard Show yesterday.

We always try to give players the benefit of the doubt.

But there isn't any doubt here.

There's isn't any switch of urine bottles. There isn't any French judge scheming as ordered by the Russian judge.

Palmeiro took a pee.

He tested positive.

It's his burden now.

Not only did he lie to Congress and fans, he agreed to serve on the No Tolerance Committee with the four major pro sports organizations and Congress.

"I feel the need to communicate a serious message to my fellow players and to kids everywhere," Palmeiro said at the time.

Maybe he should have stayed clean, that would have been a better message to convey.

"All of us have to be responsible and exercise extreme care in what we put in our body," he said. "I hope that all players and kids will learn from what has happened to me."

By being suspended, Palmeiro has replaced the content which goes beside his name in all future dispatches.

Rather than 'Rafael Palmeiro, who had more than 500 homers and 3,000 hits,' inside the commas will now read as such:

'Rafael Palmeiro, who was suspended 10 days in 2005 for violating baseball's drug policy', ...

It is a tag line he will carry forever.


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