Major League Baseball has received a major league black eye over the past two years concerning steroid use among players. Some big names, including the San Francisco Giants’ Barry Bonds and the New York Yankees’ Jason Giambi have come under close scrutiny for their affiliation with BALCO, a company that allegedly supplied them with “the cream” and “the clear,” two forms of topical steroids. In addition, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, Giambi told a California federal grand jury that he had injected himself with human growth hormone during the 2003 baseball season. (While Bonds has sat out this season with an injury, Giambi — presumably juice-free — led the majors in home runs in July with 14, tying a Yankee record held by Mickey Mantle.)

Earlier this season, Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Juan Rincon was suspended for 10 days for testing positive for illegal substances, while just this week, we heard that Seattle Mariners pitcher Ryan Franklin will also be suspended 10 days for testing positive for a banned substance and, to everyone’s shock, the Baltimore Orioles’ Rafael Palmeiro was also slapped with a 10-day suspension after testing positive for an unspecified banned substance.

Palmeiro, who with over 3,000 hits and almost 600 home runs is making a serious case for the Hall of Fame once he retires, famously told Congress on March 17, 2005 that “I have never used steroids. Period. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never.”

Got that? Never.

Palmeiro was singing a slightly different tune yesterday when, during a conference call, he told reporters that “I am here to make it very clear that I have never intentionally used steroids.” (Emphasis ours.)

So his story has switched over the past five months from having never used steroids to never having intentionally used them. Apparently this slight shift was misunderstood by the anchors on ESPN’s SportsCenter this morning, when one of them said “Like he did before Congress, Palmeiro says he didn’t intentionally take any illegal substances.” (Emphasis ours.)

Problem is, Raffy didn’t tell Congress that he never “intentionally” used steroids. Rather, he denied using them flat-out. Is there some pro-Raffy bias at work at SportsCenter? Or did the anchor just goof? Either way, he and the network managed to leave the impression that Palmerio’s story has stayed consistent, when just the opposite is true.

Paul McLeary

Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.