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Congressman doesn’t believe Palmeiro lied

Jan 5, 2011, 8:46 AM EDT

Palmeiro Orioles

Rafael Palmeiro’s positive drug test may forever doom his Hall of Fame case, but to the extent that those who would vote against him do so by virtue of his finger-wagging performance in front of Congress, this may be of interest:

The former head of the Congressional subcommittee that Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Jose Canseco testified in front of told FanHouse that Palmeiro indeed may not have knowingly used steroids despite a positive test days after he recorded his 3,000th hit—a benchmark that typically ensures entry to the Hall of Fame. Palmeiro will find out Wednesday if he’ll be a first-ballot selection as the Baseball Writers’ Association of America reveals if anybody reached the 75% threshold for induction.

“I feel bad for him,” said Tom Davis, a retired Virginia Congressman who now is director of Federal Government Affairs for Deloitte & Touche. “I believe that he didn’t know he was taking steroids. I think he told the truth. We conducted an investigation and that was the conclusion our investigators came to.”

My guess — and it’s only a guess — is that Palmeiro was more negligent than he was duplicitous. I think he was part of a culture in which guys were simply not all that critical about supplements, shots and whatever else they were using, to the extent that many of them didn’t know and didn’t really care all that much about the specifics. “Here, Raffy: take this. It’s B-12.”  Sure, he thought, because he never thought all that much about it at all. He wasn’t locked in a bathroom stall twirling his mustache and chortling about how he had pulled one over on Congress.

Not that this exonerates him in the slightest. In the post-testing era every player has an obligation to know what it is they’re taking, and one can’t be let off the hook simply because they were willfully ignorant or deluded about what went into their bodies.  I’ve never seen a single suggestion that Palmeiro’s test was a false-positive. Absent anything like that, it’s implausible to say that he wasn’t using a banned substance.

But it may impact our characterization of the guy. He’s made out to be evil by so many. In large part because of that image of him wagging his finger.  True evil is rare, however, and I’m pretty doubtful Palmeiro fits that description.  He was just uncurious and careless.  In my mind, that’s a venial sin, not a mortal one.

  1. largebill - Jan 5, 2011 at 8:52 AM

    I’ve been one of very few giving Palmeiro any benefit of doubt. The failure of congress to pursue perjury charges while they did go after others made me wonder if they knew mitigating information about his case.

    • proudlycanadian - Jan 5, 2011 at 9:01 AM

      Interesting point largebill. There is a very good chance that you are right.

    • quintjs - Jan 5, 2011 at 2:49 PM

      largebill, it wasn’t perjury in any way. He tested positive after the hearing. So he had never used at the hearing, but upon hearing more information thought it was a fine idea to use performance enancing drugs.

      That is why he was never done for perjury, there was no evidence he had taken anything before the hearing, only after.

  2. Panda Claus - Jan 5, 2011 at 9:15 AM

    The timing of this report is curious. Probably prepared as a tie-in to the HOF results that are being released today.

    Davis’ comments came too late to help Palmeiro this year, but could aid the eventual growth of support over the coming years.

  3. BC - Jan 5, 2011 at 9:25 AM

    I’d be monumentally shocked if he got more than 25% of the vote.

  4. jkcalhoun - Jan 5, 2011 at 9:36 AM

    Just to be safe, I think we should ceaselessly vilify Palmeiro by all possible means. Because not doing clearly amounts to an exoneration, and we can’t have that, if there’s an iota of a chance he knowingly dipped into the flaxseed oil.

  5. mrfloydpink - Jan 5, 2011 at 12:00 PM

    I would be interested as to how you can be so confident Palmeiro’s test was not a false positive. Of course no sportswriter is going to make that suggestion, because he or she would be called an apologist. The only person who could argue a false positive is Palmeiro himself. And perhaps he’s not conversant enough in probability to know that there’s a real chance that happened, or he simply decided it was even less likely to pass muster than the tainted B-12 shot story.

    All I know is that if the tests give a false positive once in a hundred times (a conservative number), then even doing two separate tests on two separate samples is going to generate a double false positive (and thus a failed test) 1 in 10,000 times. Looked at from that vantage point, the chances seem minimal (1 in 10,000) that Palmeiro was victimized. However, if we consider that, by now, probably 20,000 tests have been administered, it means that there must be AT LEAST one or two false positives out there (maybe way more, if the test fails at a higher rate). Given how different his response has been from other failures, I don’t think it’s impossible that he might have been the guy.

    • jkcalhoun - Jan 5, 2011 at 1:58 PM

      I would be interested as to how you can be so confident Palmeiro’s test was not a false positive.

      By the Pearlman principle, because we cannot know one way or the other, we can only resort to the worst of our baseless suspicions.

      See how simplifying that is?

  6. mrfloydpink - Jan 5, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    I might note, I don’t really care one way about Palmeiro or another. I’m not a fan of him or of any of the teams he played for. However, I do find it frustrating that an otherwise very mathematically- and scientifically-inclined community tends to ignore, or gloss over, or discount this very simple and obvious mathematical and scientific fact. These tests are not perfect, and are going to finger the wrong guy at some point.

  7. Richard In Big D - Jan 5, 2011 at 3:34 PM

    Craig, based on the parameters that you have laid forth, if a woman goes to a bar, is slipped a rufie in her drink, then taken home by a dozen guys and has sex several times with each of them, she is not a rape victim, but a slut. Raffy isn’t a slut, and neither, my friend, is the aforementioned woman…

    • quintjs - Jan 5, 2011 at 6:57 PM

      What a stupid argument, you should be ashamed of yourself.

      • Richard In Big D - Jan 5, 2011 at 7:10 PM

        Really? If someone spiked his Gatorade, how is that any different than a Rufy in an appletini? The only thing I’m ashamed of is that there are evil people in baseball…

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