Posted: Tuesday August 2, 2005 11:59AM; Updated: Tuesday August 2, 2005 12:59PM
Rafael Palmeiro doesn't have much to celebrate anymore after Monday's news.
Tom Verducci will answer select questions from SI.com users in his Baseball Mailbag.
Rafael Palmeiro violated baseball's drug policy and began serving his 10-day suspension after the Major League Baseball Arbitration Panel ruled against a grievance he filed. Those are the facts. The tainting of Palmeiro, however, raises more questions than it answers. I'll attempt to answer some of the many loose ends of the case.
Q: When did Palmeiro take the test that led to his suspension?
We don't know for certain, but there is typically a lag time of 10 days between when a positive test is returned and when it is confirmed. In this case, the lag time appears to have been longer, partly because of Palmeiro's stature in the game. (He was allowed to have his grievance filed and heard before public disclosure.)
I heard as far back as July 26 that a "major star" had flunked a drug test. Several sources confirmed the general nature of the rumor, but without a name or substance attached to those confirmations. In addition, there was no way commissioner Bud Selig was going to allow news of Palmeiro's flunked drug test to precede the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies -- and rightly so. The weekend was the highlight of the professional careers of Ryne Sandberg and Wade Boggs. They and the other Hall of Famers deserved to have their moment without having to answer for Palmeiro.
Q: What substance triggered the positive result?
We don't know, and Palmeiro has made a huge mistake in not disclosing it. He did say on a conference call, "You know it is a steroid because I have been suspended for 10 days." Early indications are that it was not nandrolone, the source of 73 positives in the survey testing year of 2003 but only one last year. So-called prohormones, such as andro and 19-norandro, so closely resemble nandrolone in structure that they are identifiable in the body or processed in the body as nandrolone. Even the smallest trace amounts will produce a postive. Such elements were known to show up in muscle-enhancing supplements, but they have all but disappeared from supplements this year because they have been given the same legal classification as steroids, which is to say they now are illegal without a doctor's prescription. Palmeiro's refusal to be forthright with his career reputation at stake allows all kinds of speculation, including the possibility that he took a more hardcore steroid.
Q: Palmeiro said he wants to help other players and kids to make sure "this doesn't happen again." Is he sincere?
No. He blamed his refusal to explain the details of what happened on the "confidentiality" of the drug policy. I believe the man is at liberty to reveal his own personal information. He's not helping anybody by hiding behind the policy. If we are to believe him that his professional reputation was ruined by unknowingly using a steroid, his lack of explanation allows for the same fate to hit someone else.
Q: Are you surprised he tested positive?
Hello? Where have you been for the past 15-20 years? When do you stop being surprised? Hundreds of players have used steroids during that time. Most of them do not have bulging biceps. Forget your "Ah-nold"-pumping-iron vision of steroids. Today's substances can increase bat speed, fire quick-twitch muscle fibers, aid in recovery from injury, help an aging player retain energy and strength, ease muscle stress and allow greater capacity to work out.