Rafael Palmeiro was the first, and perhaps the most affected subject in what ended up being Major League Baseball’s version of the Salem Witch Trials. In 2005, while Palmeiro was in the twilight of a likely Hall of Fame career, he testified before congress about the then alleged steroid epidemic in baseball. There that day were several potential Hall-of-Famer’s, and while almost all of them left the hearing looking guilty as sin, Palmeiro appeared to emerged as the one innocent white knight of the group.
“Let me start by telling you this: I have never used steroids, period. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never,” Palmeiro famously, or perhaps infamously said to congress, backed by a wagging finger. And by-and-large we all believed him.
Then, just three months later Palmeiro tested positive for steroids, becoming the first major star to succumb to a suspension for performance enhancing drugs. His previous testimony echoed across the world as fans around the nation stood in shock, diehards questioned their devotions, and Palmeiro sheepishly disappeared into the night. Baseball had changed as we all had to come to accept the steroid epidemic was real, that our heros had lied to us, and that the numbers we consider oh-so-sacred were in fact…phony.
Now, five years later, Palmeiro has emerged from his self-imposed darkness to insist that he is in-fact innocent. Of course, it is no coincidence that he speak out now, just weeks before he is eligible to be voted into the Hall of Fame for the first time. Still, Palmeiro says, as he did back then, that his positive test was the result of a contaminated B-12 vial, given to him by proven steroid user and teammate Miguel Tejada. In 2005 he disappeared knowing that his words would fall silent to the angry mob that faced him, yet his persistent denial in the face of an overwhelming doubt make you wonder…could Palmeiro telling the truth?
A lot has changed since 2005. Many of the games best, even those that were considered all-time bests have been linked to the juice. Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez have all been linked to steroids in the past five years, and all have faced their own scrutiny. As hero after hero fell from grace, the pain of the fans shifted from an outrage over cheating to a lack of implicit trust in their heros. They had come to accept the fact that everyone and their mother was juicing in baseball, they were just tired of being lied to. Lies tell fans that while players weren’t the men they made themselves out to be on the baseball field, that also don’t respect the fans intelligence.
Players began to realize that perhaps telling the truth was the best way to deal with this issue, and time has proven that this has been the case. Alex Rodriguez came clean after a leaked story about his use, and people have by-and-large forgiven him. The same is true with Mark McGwire and Jason Giambi. This makes it all more puzzling that Palmeiro after all these years would stick to his guns that he was innocent. Palmeiro is a well-spoken and intelligent man, if this were a true PR campaign to get himself into the Hall of Fame, you would think he would just admit and apologize.
Palmeiro instead maintains that the positive test was a fluke. That his tests the previous two seasons were negative, and a test he took three after his positive result was negative as well.
The bottom line comes down to this. Palmeiro tested positive for steroids under Major League Baseball’s testing policy which is more proof then was ever actually given for many, including the demonized Barry Bonds. He was the first major star to be linked in such a way to steroids, and while always being considered a leader on the field, the bold faced contradiction of his testimony to his lab results were perceived as an insult to the American people.
We have no way of knowing whether or not he has told the truth, we can only decide whether or not we personally believe him. Do you?