THE FORECAST called for rain in Santiago, but the dark, heavy clouds were stalled on the horizon, allowing sunshine to illuminate the diamond at Estadio Cibao. It was Jan. 31, two days before Miguel Tejada was to lead the Aguilas, his Dominican winter-league team, against the Yanquis of Mexico in the opening game of Latin America's biggest baseball event, the Caribbean Series. The 31-year-old Houston Astros shortstop, four times an All-Star with the Oakland A's and the Baltimore Orioles, bounded up the dugout steps, still tucking in his yellow practice jersey as he ran to join teammates. After batting practice, he soft-tossed with a team assistant and then headed for the infield. When he wasn't taking grounders, Tejada swung an imaginary bat at an imaginary ball, as a third-grader might.
The lightness of his step, the ease of his smile, however, masked a grimmer picture. On Jan. 15 Tejada learned that federal authorities would be investigating whether he had lied when he told U.S. congressional aides in August 2005 that he never took steroids or any other performance-enhancing drugs. If charged with and convicted of perjury, he could face up to five years in jail. What's more, just hours after hearing of the investigation, he received word that his older brother Freddy had died in a motorcycle accident.
But here at Estadio Cibao his demeanor was undeniably upbeat. He nodded to stadium workers who called his name and waved to reporters before he spied New York Yankees first base coach Tony Pe�a stepping onto the field. Pe�a, a five-time All-Star catcher during his 18-year major league career and idol to many young Dominican players, walked over and grabbed Tejada firmly by both arms, then whispered in the shortstop's right ear: "Don't let anybody hurt you. There are a lot of people after you."
"Tony," Tejada whispered back in Spanish, "my heart is clean."
"I know you," Pe�a said, still holding him tightly.
"My heart is clean," repeated Tejada.
WHILE ROGER CLEMENS, Chuck Knoblauch and Andy Pettitte gave depositions last week to a House committee investigating steroid use in baseball, Miguel Tejada took infield and received a key to the city of Santiago. Tejada, however, remained very much on the minds of the House members—and was in greater legal peril at the time than any of the players who were scheduled to testify at Wednesday's hearings.
On Aug. 26, 2005, Tejada, accompanied by his lawyer and an interpreter, was interviewed by congressional aides at a Baltimore hotel as part of a perjury investigation of his former Orioles teammate Rafael Palmeiro. Earlier that year Palmeiro, who had testified in front of Congress that he had never used performance-enhancing drugs, tested positive for the anabolic steroid Stanozolol. Palmeiro told a House committee that the positive test might have resulted from a steroid-tainted B-12 injection he had received from Tejada. During Tejada's hotel interview, an aide said to the shortstop, "You, I believe, testified to this earlier, but I just want to make sure, have you ever taken a steroid before?"
"No," Tejada replied.
More than two years later that statement was contradicted in the Mitchell Report, which contained 38 references to Tejada by name, including copies of two checks—for $3,100 and $3,200—that he wrote to former A's teammate Adam Piatt in March 2003. In the report Piatt, who retired from baseball in '04, told Mitchell's investigators that the checks were payment for Deca-Durbalin and human-growth hormone that he had obtained from Kirk Radomski, the personal trainer and former New York Mets clubhouse attendant. (Last week Radomski received five years probation after pleading guilty to distributing steroids and money laundering.)