WASHINGTON - Baseball star Rafael Palmeiro will not be prosecuted on perjury charges after lawmakers said Thursday there isn't enough evidence to prove he lied when he told a congressional panel under oath that he had "never used steroids" - six weeks before failing a steroid test.
"The committee will not make a perjury referral to the Department of Justice," the House Government Reform Committee said in a 44-page report released Thursday. "A referral for perjury is a serious step. In this case, the evidence before the committee is insufficient to merit a perjury referral."
The report said the panel "did not make further determinations about the accuracy or inaccuracy of assertions by Mr. Palmeiro or others."
At issue was Palmeiro's statement at a House Government Reform Committee hearing March 17: "I have never used steroids. Period."
On May 4, he failed a Major League Baseball drug test, coming up positive for an anabolic steroid. In August, shortly after baseball suspended Palmeiro for 10 days, the committee's chairman, Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., said Congress would look into whether the player committed perjury.
"We have a responsibility, an obligation, to investigate it, and that's what we've done," Davis told a news conference Thursday.
"We were not concerned with why he tested positive or how he tested positive except for how that related to his testimony," Davis added.
Palmeiro issued his first detailed public comments on the case Wednesday, including a possible explanation for why he might have failed a steroid test even though he says he never knowingly took steroids: A tainted vitamin shot given to him by a teammate.
"Every other item that might be to blame for Rafael's failed test - from vitamins to protein drinks - was tested, and no steroids were found. The only item that could not be tested - and is therefore suspect - was a vial of liquid, injectable vitamin B-12 which Rafael took in the middle of April 2005," his lawyers wrote, noting the vial was thrown away.
"The B-12 was provided to Rafael by a teammate; it was labeled as B-12; and Rafael has always been convinced that his teammate absolutely believed it to be B-12."
Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada has acknowledged he was that teammate; baseball absolved him of any wrongdoing.