Clubhouse syringes
Nearly all of the Orioles' links to the drug controversies, however, started with one player and eventually spread to others. That trend began with Palmeiro.

At the time of his suspension, Palmeiro said in a teleconference that taking the banned steroid stanozolol was "not an intentional act on my part."

Later, The Sun learned Palmeiro told an arbitration panel the drug might have entered his system when he injected liquid vitamin B-12, which he said Orioles teammate had given him.

Before that revelation, Orioles players had publicly supported Palmeiro, a relatively private man who didn't often socialize with his teammates. But once Palmeiro mentioned Tejada as part of his defense - even though Palmeiro suggested Tejada didn't know the B-12 was tainted - an already tense clubhouse snapped.

"If you're going to call somebody out, that's not right, but he's trying to save his name, too," then-Orioles reliever Steve Kline said in 2005. "I guess you do things when you're in tight situations. Do two wrongs make a right? Who knows?"

Gibbons said at the time: "I don't think it would help ... to say another teammate gave you something. I think you've got to look in the mirror and take responsibility for your actions."

Palmeiro's allegation about the liquid B-12 - which isn't a steroid or illegal, but requires a prescription in the United States - triggered an investigation that found no traces of steroids in Tejada's other vials of the B-12. But it also uncovered that Tejada and two other unidentified Orioles injected each other with the vitamin repeatedly in 2004 and 2005, creating the possibility that there was an underground culture of syringes in the Orioles' clubhouse.

Allegations mount
More disturbing evidence arose in June 2006, when federal officials intercepted a shipment of hGH headed for former Orioles reliever Jason Grimsley, then with the Arizona Diamondbacks. According to a federal affidavit, Grimsley admitted to buying 10 to 12 shipments of hGH, including a double dose while he was a member of the Orioles in July 2004.

Also in the affidavit, Grimsley allegedly mentioned a conversation he had with three 2005 Orioles teammates about amphetamine use, and he supposedly accused specific players of using steroids. However, all names in the document were redacted before it was filed in Arizona court.

Within days, former Orioles first baseman David Segui said publicly that he was one of the blacked-out names in the Grimsley document. However, he said he uses hGH with a prescription for medical reasons and did nothing illegal.

Then, last October, the Los Angeles Times, citing an unidentified source, reported that Grimsley listed Gibbons, Tejada and Orioles second baseman as steroid users. All three denied the allegations.

Finally, this year, Gibbons and two other former Orioles, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Matthews, as well as several other major leaguers, were linked to targeted online pharmacies, which shipped hGH and steroids throughout the country, according to various media reports.

"It seems that all of the people that have been mentioned have played with the Orioles. It's kind of weird," said Orioles third baseman , who joined the club in 2000 and is the longest-tenured current Oriole. "I hope it stops, because this organization does a lot of [good] things for guys."

Where's the proof?
Jim Beattie, Orioles executive vice president from 2002 to 2005, said the number of Orioles involved in the scandals makes it difficult to dismiss as purely coincidental. But he cautioned that the information is trickling out, so it's too early to pass judgment on any one player or organization.

"Everybody's trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle with a lot of the pieces missing," said Beattie, whose contract wasn't renewed after the 2005 season. "So you fill in the missing pieces with what you think makes sense. But it may not make sense at all."

Beattie said there were players on the Orioles and the Montreal Expos - the team he ran in the late 1990s - whom he suspected might be using performance-enhancing drugs. The suspicions, he said, came primarily from the eyeball test - from observing the size and muscularity of certain players. But those were also the guys, he said, who worked out tirelessly in the weight room. There was never tangible proof that those players were using illegal drugs, so no punitive measures could be taken.

"You have to have the smoking syringe," Beattie said. "You have to have physical evidence."