The baseball world is in shock over the suspension of Baltimore Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro after it was revealed Monday that he had tested positive for steroids.
Rafael Palmeiro is one of only four players in Major League Baseball history to have recorded 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. But his 10-game suspension for a positive drugs test threatens to radically change the reasons why he will be remembered by baseball fans. In particular, Palmeiro's testimony before a congressional panel on steroid use in baseball this past March has raised questions over whether or not the slugger lied under oath when he pointed his finger at the committee and said he was clean.
"I have never used steroids. Period," he said.
But Palmeiro maintains that he told the truth to Congress, and that he does not know how the banned substances got into his body.
"When I testified in front of Congress, I knew that I was testifying under oath, and I told the truth," he said. "And today, I am telling the truth again, that I did not do this intentionally or knowingly."
After Palmeiro's testimony five months ago, many observers felt that his words seemed the most honest compared to fellow sluggers Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Republican Congressman Christopher Shays of Connecticut told ESPN television that Palmeiro's suspension now makes what the players said back then seem even worse.
"Major League Baseball's performance before our committee I think was pathetic," he said. "They had no sense of the importance of the game to our nation, to our kids. They had no real respect for the game as it appeared in their testimony before our committee. They had basically, frankly, lied to the committee."
Baltimore Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said that when the news of Palmeiro's suspension was announced before his team's game with the Chicago White Sox on Monday, the players were surprised.
"I think the guys were taken aback by it," he said. "They were saddened, and I think a little disappointed in what happened. And the guys, I know, all together wanted to give their support to Raffy [Rafael]."
One of Rafael Palmeiro's longtime teammates, Orioles outfielder B.J. Surhoff, said that the team will have to do the best it can to not be distracted by the controversy so it can stay in the playoff race.
"He's had a great career and today was going to be his day off anyway," he said. "We've played without a number of guys so far this season who have been banged up, but everybody goes through that. We've just got to play, we've got to fill in, and this could be an opportunity for somebody else to try to get their foot in the door."
Palmeiro said that when he does come back from his 10-game suspension, he hopes he will once again be known for what he does on the field instead of off it.
"This is a hard lesson learned for me and hopefully something good can come out of it," he said. "I will face it, I will face it like a man, and I will take my punishment, and I will come back strong and I will help my team when I get back."
Thus far, public opinion has been split over what Rafael Palmeiro's legacy will be, and in particular whether he should be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame after he retires. For him and for many others involved in the steroid scandal, that will likely remain an open question for a long time to come.