WASHINGTON (AP) – Rafael Palmeiro took responsibility Wednesday for his failed steroid test but offered a possible excuse hinging on a tainted vitamin shot, giving his first public explanation on the eve of a congressional report into whether he lied under oath.

In a statement released by his lawyers, the former Baltimore Orioles slugger acknowledged several facts that already had been reported, including that Palmeiro had raised the possibility that a shot of vitamin B-12 he was given by a teammate and took in April “might have been the cause” of the positive drug test that led to his 10-day suspension by Major League Baseball.

“Everything I have been working for all my life – to play the game that I love with dignity and earn the respect and admiration of my colleagues and fans – has been changed by my suspension. For this, I alone take full responsibility,” Palmeiro said in the statement. “I have never intentionally taken steroids. But I must also acknowledge that stanozolol, a banned substance, was found in my system in May.”

When he testified before the House Government Reform Committee on March 17, alongside Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco and others, Palmeiro jabbed a finger in the air and said: “I have never used steroids. Period.” On Aug. 1, Palmeiro became the highest-profile player suspended by Major League Baseball under its new steroids policy.

Major League Baseball executive vice president Rob Manfred declined comment.

Palmeiro’s lawyers posted on the Web a series of documents, including a detailed accounting of his statistics and quotations from baseball players lauding his power. He’s one of four players in baseball history with 500 homers and 3,000 hits – and the timing of his positive test means Palmeiro knew he faced a suspension as he approached the hit milestone this summer.

“Nobody is more frustrated and disappointed in me than I am. … All my accomplishments are now tainted,” Palmeiro said.

“I deeply regret the pain I have caused my family, my teammates, my fans and the game of baseball. I am sorry for the distraction that I have caused to the Orioles clubhouse and the League. I remain opposed to the use of steroids by athletes,” he added.

Palmeiro’s case has been cited as one of the reasons that lawmakers have continued to pursue legislation to mandate tougher rules for steroid testing and harsher penalties for positive tests in baseball and other major professional sports leagues.

A bill calling for a half-season ban for a first steroid offense, a full-season ban for a second offense, and a lifetime ban for a third reached the floor of the Senate. But a spokesman for one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., said Wednesday that an unidentified senator placed a hold on the bill, meaning it’s stalled indefinitely.

According to Palmeiro’s lawyers, he tested negative for steroids in 2003 and 2004; after he was informed he failed a test in May, he took a second test that month, which was negative.

“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.

“I’m not familiar with B-12 ever being invoked as an explanation for doping with an anabolic steroid,” said Dr. Gary Wadler, a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s medical research committee. “Contaminated B-12 doesn’t sound like a plausible explanation as a result of the manufacturing process. … So then if sabotage was a factor here, the burden of proof is to suggest who, what, where, when, why, how, and so on. You can’t just throw it out there. You have to have some basis for saying that.”

When Palmeiro rejoined the Orioles after his ban, he said he would not speak about the case until Congress concluded its perjury investigation.

“I have nothing to hide,” he said Wednesday.

Palmeiro, 40, had just two hits in 26 at-bats after returning from his suspension and was booed by spectators at Baltimore and on the road. He was sent home to Texas to rehabilitate injuries; the Orioles eventually told him not to return to the team.

On the Net:

Palmiero documents: http://www.rptranscripts.com

AP-ES-11-09-05 1942EST

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