Rafael Palmeiro, his possible Hall of Fame career tainted by a steroid suspension and an ongoing congressional investigation, will not be in uniform again this season, the Baltimore Orioles announced Friday -- an action amounting to a paid suspension.
Palmeiro, who turns 41 today and is considering retirement, was expected to return to the club Friday after rehabilitating a sore knee and ankle for three weeks at his Texas home.
Instead, he was told he was not welcome back.
Oriole officials met Friday after published reports that Palmeiro allegedly had told an arbitration panel that teammate Miguel Tejada provided him with a vitamin that might have led to his testing positive for the steroid Stanozolol. At the end, they decided Palmeiro’s presence over the final 10 days of the season would be too great a distraction.
At the same time, the Health Policy Advisory Committee, which hears appeals from players who have tested positive for banned substances, issued a statement Friday calling “incorrect” the reports that Tejada provided steroids to Palmeiro, or that Palmeiro claimed it to be so.
“There is no evidence whatsoever supporting any claim that Miguel Tejada has ever provided any illegal substance of any kind to any player,” the statement said.
The health policy committee, whose members include representatives from Major League Baseball and the players’ association, along with one or two doctors, can recommend a case be heard by an arbitration panel, which it did for Palmeiro. Ultimately, the Oriole slugger received a 10-day suspension Aug. 1, less than three weeks after becoming only the fourth player in history with at least 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.
Oriole executive vice president Jim Beattie said he expected Palmeiro to clean out his locker this weekend.
“He won’t be dressing for the rest of the year,” Beattie told Associated Press. “We felt it wouldn’t be appropriate for the organization.”
Palmeiro could file a grievance through the union and try to force the Orioles to allow him to wear his uniform and sit on the bench. The Orioles would not have to play him, however.
“I’ll have to talk to somebody and see how we want to proceed,” union executive director Don Fehr said.
Palmeiro, who has 18 homers and 60 runs batted, can be a free agent after this season and is not expected to return to Baltimore, where he spent seven seasons over two periods.
Accused of using steroids in an off-season book written by Jose Canseco, Palmeiro threatened a lawsuit, then testified before the House Government Reform Committee on March 17, “I have never used steroids, period. I do not know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never.”
He said it forcefully, and for emphasis pointed his finger at the congressional panel. Five months later, the committee obtained records relating to Palmeiro’s positive test for Stanozolol as part of an investigation into whether the player had perjured himself, and contacted other players as well as acquaintances of Palmeiro.
As Palmeiro prepared to return to the Orioles, reports said he had revealed in baseball’s appeal process that Tejada supplied him with a syringe Palmeiro believed contained the vitamin B-12. A source with knowledge of that testimony said Palmeiro did not claim Tejada had knowingly given him steroids, and said further tests revealed the substance was, indeed, B-12.
Tejada told reporters Thursday night he was “in shock” over the allegation. On Friday, Beattie said he told Palmeiro of the decision reached by owner Peter Angelos, vice president Mike Flanagan, interim Manager Sam Perlozzo and Beattie that he not return.
“I would say he wasn’t totally in agreement,” Beattie told AP. “He had his sights on finishing out the season.
“He wanted to come back and play, but I think in this instance we had to do what we felt was best for the rest of the players out there.”