2005-08-18 / Sports

Palmeiro Gets Mixed Response From Steroid Scandal

By Michael Avallone Sports Columnist

By Michael Avallone
Sports Columnist

Rafael Palmeiro reacts after he swung and missed on a pitch at Camden Yards last Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays. (AP Photo/ Gail Burton)Rafael Palmeiro reacts after he swung and missed on a pitch at Camden Yards last Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays. (AP Photo/ Gail Burton) When Rafael Palmeiro walked to the plate last Sunday for his first at-bat since he was suspended for a positive steroid test on August 1, the boos cascaded down like a summer thunderstorm

Just a split-second later, a cheer rose up to drown out the Camden Yards boo-birds. The scene would be played out, albeit to a lesser and quieter extent, the next time Palmeiro was introduced. Boos followed by cheers.

This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. The reaction in Baltimore has been mixed from the moment news broke of Palmeiro’s positive test and 10-day suspension. Some fans believed the soon-to-be 41-year-old when he stated he did not ingest any illegal substance intentionally. Of course, others had no time for such excuses and immediately branded him a phony and a cheat.

Unknown Dae-Sung Koo throws a pitch during an intrasquad spring training game. (AP/Rick Silva)Unknown Dae-Sung Koo throws a pitch during an intrasquad spring training game. (AP/Rick Silva) The steroid issue is a double-edged sword for baseball as well as its fans. The fact that a player of Palmeiro’s stature was caught and suspended proves that the testing program has worked. On the other hand, a potential Hall of Famer has been outed as a cheat as well as a liar. It’s a catch-22.

It has been more than two weeks since the news broke and no one really knows any more than they did after Palmeiro held his delivered a statement via conference call, saying he did not take steroids intentionally and would not be able to prove it because of a confidentiality agreement.

Palmeiro also held an impromptu media conference in the Orioles dugout when he rejoined the team Thursday but again veered around any specific explanation for the presence of the illegal steroid Stanozolol in his system. The announcement about the type of substance infuriated the player’s union, who believe that MLB leaked the information to the press.

For those who don’t know, Stanozolol is not your run-of-the-mill, “I didn’t know what I was taking,” steroid. This is the same substance that was found in Canadian runner Ben Johnson during the 1988 Olympics that caused him to lose his gold medal. So if in fact the reports are true, Palmeiro could not have mistakenly taken such a steroid without knowing what he was doing, despite his claims to the contrary.

No doubt, the response by the more than 30,900 in attendance was muted by the intense heat that kept a large portion home, but enough o crowd showed up to give a reasonable representation of the mixed emotions that have gripped this baseball town.

Palmeiro supporters continue to hold out hope that there is some logical reason he has passed up several opportunities to demonstrate his innocence, though there really is nothing preventing him from clearing his name if he really is the victim of some terrible miscarriage of the steroid-testing program.

The angry Palmeiro critics still want him to either come clean or go home, though he has every right under baseball’s collective bargaining agreement to resume his career even if he has been using steroids since college.

Then there are those who just want the whole steroids issue to disappear. Everyone knew what was going on in the 1990s when offense – home runs in particular – began to explode. But who was going to say anything when the offensive exploits of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were filling ballparks across the country?

Baseball is a business. Always has been, always will be. Steroids is just another in a long line of issues that the sport has dealt with in its history. There will be more fires to put out in the future.

nfortunately for Palmeiro, he got trapped in the burning building.

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