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Baseball drug saga appears certain to only get worse


On the day that Rafael Palmeiro was suspended for a positive steroid test, he took part in a conference call and insisted that there was no logical reason for him to have turned to anabolic steroids during the final stages of his apparent Hall of Fame career.

"There's no absolute reason for me to do anything at this stage of my career; there's nothing for me to gain and everything to lose," he said. "This is probably going to be my last year. I was not about to put everything on the line, my reputation and everything I've worked for so hard in my life, to do anything like this. It just makes no sense. I'm not a crazy person, I'm not stupid. It was an accident and I'm paying the price."

I didn't believe him then, but I don't know what to believe now.

The conventional wisdom at the time was that Palmeiro, perhaps frustrated by his slow start in early 2005, rolled the dice and hoped he would not be tested again after spring training. He argued that he had somehow ingested the steroid stanozolol inadvertently ... and told congressional investigators that he might have gotten it from a contaminated vial of injectable vitamin B-12 that was given to him by Miguel Tejada.

Now, in the wake of the Jason Grimsley revelations, the illogic of Palmeiro's positive steroid test actually takes on a strange new dimension.

If Grimsley was able to acquire human growth hormone (hGH) through the mail ... and hGH is not detectable under the testing regimen adopted by Major League Baseball ... then why would a high-profile, multimillionaire athlete with more than 500 career home runs and a first-class ticket to Cooperstown take a chance with the same detectable steroid that was linked to him in Jose Canseco's tell-all book a few months earlier?

It doesn't make sense, unless you believe that Grimsley was the Godfather of hGH or that Palmeiro was so isolated from baseball's other high-profile cheaters that he just didn't get the hGH memo.

The only thing we know for sure is that Palmeiro tested positive and he handled the news so clumsily that nobody even wanted to believe him after the Tejada B-12 revelations came out, but the latest turn in baseball's tawdry drug scandal has created an environment where just about anything is - and was - possible.

The names that were blacked out in the Grimsley affidavit eventually will come out, and some of them almost certainly will be Orioles and former Orioles. If the use of various restricted substances was common in the Orioles' clubhouse - and players were so indiscriminate in their use of anything from "leaded" coffee to the injectable vitamins that Tejada allegedly was bringing in from the Dominican Republic - then you have to concede that Palmeiro's "accidental ingestion" theory is not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

Of course, Raffy acted so guilty and his lawyers handled the public relations side of the case so poorly that it's hard to imagine he was truly a victim, but Grimsley has taken us through the looking glass ... and we won't be coming back anytime soon.

The scariest thing about this is what logic really tells us: Grimsley could not possibly be the centerpiece in the blossoming hGH scandal. He could not have been the only player ordering those $1,600 kits through the mail, though he might have been the only one stupid enough to have it delivered to his home.

For that reason, federal investigators may have gotten to him first and tried to use him to get some bigger fish, but they're eventually going to find billing records and other informants and this thing is going to blow right through the roof. The 1984 Pittsburgh cocaine scandal is going to seem, well, recreational in comparison.

Meanwhile, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell will continue his plodding MLB-sponsored investigation by questioning everyone who doesn't know anything, because the real culprits don't have to talk without a subpoena and the feds are telling other key witnesses not to cooperate with him.

The sad thing is that it's all going to end up being true. The big percentages blurted out by Canseco and Ken Caminiti. The seedy bathroom stall scenarios that once seemed incredible. The admonitions of steroid experts who warned of the coming hGH storm just as baseball was upgrading its anti-steroid program to the point where it had some real credibility. The whole miserable ball of performance-enhancing wax.

They blinded us with science, and we're going to wish we never opened our eyes.

"The Peter Schmuck Show" airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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