WASHINGTON (AP) – Rafael Palmeiro’s reputation and future in baseball might be murky, but lawmakers said Thursday there isn’t enough evidence to prove that he lied under oath when he told Congress that he never used steroids – less than two months before failing a drug test.

The House Government Reform Committee’s 44-page report traces the former Baltimore Orioles first baseman’s whirlwind journey from Hall of Fame shoo-in and persuasive Capitol Hill witness to suspended pariah and subject of a perjury investigation.

Committee Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., released the report in the same hearing room where Palmeiro sat on March 17 alongside Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and vehemently denied using steroids. In May, Palmeiro tested positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol, leading to a 10-day ban from Major League Baseball.

“We couldn’t find any evidence of steroid use prior to his testimony,” Davis said. “That’s not a finding of innocence, but it’s a finding that we could not substantiate perjury.”

Davis said stanozolol – which sprinter Ben Johnson tested positive for at the 1988 Olympics, costing him a gold medal and world record – is detectable for three to four weeks. Because of the gap between Palmeiro’s Capitol Hill appearance and the failed test in May, Davis said, the steroid “could not have been in his system the day he testified.”

The report didn’t paint Palmeiro or Major League Baseball in a favorable light and raised questions about “confusing and contradictory” evidence.

Palmeiro issued a statement Thursday, saying in part, “I am pleased that after a thorough investigation – one in which I cooperated fully – the committee has chosen to drop this matter.”

According to the report, he was originally invited, then subpoenaed, to testify at the March 17 hearing on steroids because a congressional staffer saw a newspaper story in which Palmeiro said he wouldn’t have a problem speaking to Congress.

And after he pointed for emphasis while saying, “I have never used steroids. Period,” Palmeiro offered to be a part of Davis’ Zero Tolerance Roundtable to address the problem of steroid use by young people.

But while Congress might be now finished with Palmeiro – one of only four players in baseball history with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs – it’s clearly not done with Major League Baseball or steroids legislation.

“Our purpose was never to try to ruin careers or do a Gotcha’ on Major League Baseball,” Davis said. “Our purpose was to try to dry steroid use up.”

Since that initial hearing, spurred in large part by Canseco’s book, “Juiced,” in which he accused several major leaguers – including Palmeiro – of using steroids, major sports leagues have strengthened their drug policies.

But not enough for Congress.

The investigation into Palmeiro turned up information that amphetamines “may be a significant problem” in baseball, the report said. It also said Palmeiro and another, unidentified player raised doubts about baseball’s drug-testing procedures.

Baseball executive vice president Rob Manfred said the sport acknowledged those criticisms and has taken steps to correct them, including a proposal to test for amphetamines that the union has said it was willing to accept.

“The report identified previously unknown flaws in the league’s drug testing policy, and it found that baseball’s drug problems include amphetamines as well as steroids,” said Rep. Henry Waxman of California, the committee’s ranking Democrat. “Federal legislation may be needed to restore confidence in the integrity of the game.”

A Senate bill sponsored by Jim Bunning, R-Ky., and John McCain, R-Ariz., is pending, and three bills have been introduced in the House, including one by Davis. He predicted passage in the Senate and House this year.

The Bunning-McCain legislation was put on hold by an unidentified senator this week, but Bunning expects it to move forward to a vote soon. It calls for a half-season suspension for a first steroid offense, a full season for a second, and a lifetime ban for a third.

“We’re making progress on resolving the concerns of a few senators,” said Bunning, a member of baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Palmeiro issued his first detailed public comments on the case Wednesday.

including a possible explanation for why he might have failed the steroid test: a tainted vial of liquid B-12 given to him by a teammate. B-12 is used to treat anemia.

The report said Palmeiro told the players’ union, when asked, that it was given to him by Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada, the 2002 American League MVP.

The report is based on interviews with Palmeiro, his wife, Tejada and other players, doctors and trainers from the Orioles and the Texas Rangers (another team Palmeiro played for), and documents turned over by baseball related to Palmeiro’s drug tests and the arbitration hearing about his suspension.

During the arbitration, Michael Weiner, the union lawyer representing Palmeiro, said: “The players’ association does not contend that the B-12 shot that Mr. Palmeiro took caused his positive test result. We have no evidence to suggest that. As a matter of fact, all of the evidence that exists runs in the other direction.”

Weiner declined to comment Thursday.

Questioned by committee staff about whether he believed the vitamin shot caused the positive test result, Palmeiro said: “Now, I may be wrong. It could be something else. But if I have to guess, if I have to pinpoint something, that is the logical thing.”

AP Sports Writer Joseph White contributed to this story.

On the Net:

House Government Reform Committee report: http://wid.ap.org/documents/051110palmeiro.pdf

AP-ES-11-10-05 2009EST

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