Only days after reaching a rare milestone, his 3,000th major league hit, Baltimore Oriole first baseman Rafael Palmeiro received a drug suspension from Major League Baseball for testing positive for a steroid.
Five months earlier, Mr. Palmeiro, testifying at a Congressional hearing, denied using illegal drugs in the strongest possible terms. During the hearing he said, "I have never used steroids. Period."
Major League Baseball has been under pressure from Congress to follow a more stringent drug policy. Although Mr. Palmeiro is not the first baseball player to test positive for steroids, he is the most high-profile. In a revised statement, Mr. Palmeiro claims he never "intentionally" used steroids.
Many had considered Mr. Palmeiro an almost certain candidate for baseball's Hall of Fame. In a 19-year career, he has amassed more than 500 home runs and 3,000 hits -- rare milestones only three others in the history of major league baseball have reached.
Ex-major leaguer Jose Canseco, who had accused Mr. Palmeiro of steroid use when they were teammates with the Texas Rangers, said the positive test might be the result of past history. "Steroid use over a long period of time, and a combination of certain steroids, leaves a fingerprint, an imprint, a metabolite for many years to come."
Fans have differing opinions on Mr. Palmeiro's situation. One fan said, "Doctors will prescribe steroids to my son because of asthma, my daughter because of asthma."
Another fan had this reaction, "It's incredibly depressing. It's almost like he was my childhood hero, I grew up with Raffy [Palmeiro]."
During his suspension, Rafael Palmeiro will lose more than $163,000 in pay. He stands to lose a lot more, because his reputation, and place in the Hall of Fame, are at risk.