WASHINGTON -- A House committee asked the Justice Department yesterday to investigate whether former Orioles star Miguel Tejada lied in 2005 when he denied ever using steroids - a statement the panel says conflicts with information in the recently released Mitchell Report.
The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform made Tejada and other former Orioles central figures in a 4-hour, 15-minute hearing about baseball's steroid era.
The Sun reported on its Web site Monday that the committee was revisiting Tejada's statements to determine whether he lied.
Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who attended the hearing as a spectator to demonstrate support for commissioner Bud Selig and his testimony, said it was too soon to judge Tejada. Tejada, recently traded to the Houston Astros, could face a maximum five-year prison term if the Justice Department brought a case and he was convicted of knowingly making "materially false statements."
The investigative report released last month by former Sen. George Mitchell said former Oakland Athletics teammate Adam Piatt was asked by Tejada whether he had steroids in 2003 and that Piatt provided the drugs.
In a previously unreleased transcript, Tejada replied "no" when asked by the committee staff in 2005 whether he had ever taken steroids, androstendione or any other steroid precursor or whether he heard discussions among other players about steroids.
"Everyone is innocent until proven otherwise," Angelos said in an interview.
Angelos went further, saying former Orioles All-Star Rafael Palmeiro, who was suspended after testing positive for a powerful steroid in 2005, deserves the same consideration as Tejada.
Angelos and other baseball officials sat in the front row, behind the witness table. Angelos was quickly surrounded by media members during a break in the hearing and asked whether steroids were a bigger problem for the Orioles than for other teams. "I don't know that anyone knows," he replied evenly.
He said of Palmeiro: "No one would have ever concluded in any way that he was involved in the use of any improper or illegal substances. I still find it hard to believe, to be perfectly frank with you. Nonetheless, there are indications that that may have been the case. But ... until proven otherwise, he is completely innocent."
The committee also raised questions about whether Orioles officials knew about the use of human growth hormone by David Segui.
Segui said he used hGH with a doctor's prescription and that he has a low level of insulin-like growth factor. Segui played for the Orioles from 1990 to 1993 and again from 2001 to 2004.
Rep. Betty McCollum, a Minnesota Democrat, openly wondered whether Orioles front-office executives knew about Segui's hGH use and whether they investigated.
Mitchell, whose report on baseball's steroid problem was praised by the committee, was yesterday's first witness and told McCollum he didn't know the answer. "We don't have any more knowledge about the incident," Mitchell said.
Angelos said, "We did not know" about Segui's hGH use. "Certainly if that was improper - and we were able to establish beyond the usual reasonable doubt ... we would have taken appropriate action," the owner said.
The hearing was convened to follow up on the Mitchell Report, which named two current Orioles - Brian Roberts and Jay Gibbons - and 17 former Orioles among dozens of players.
Angelos indicated he believed Roberts' statement that he used steroids once in 2003 but hasn't used them or any other performance-enhancing drugs since.
"We didn't know anything about that," Angelos said. "I was sorry to hear that he used it - not used it but tried it, so to speak. I was glad that consistent with his character and his intelligence and the fact that he's a good young man, he decided that wasn't for him."
The hearing was held in the same high-ceilinged, wood-paneled room in which Palmeiro wagged his finger in March 2005 and said he had never used steroids. He was suspended for 10 days after testing positive for stanozolol in May of that year. He told the committee his positive test might have resulted from tainted vitamin B-12 that Tejada gave him.
Today, the penalties for first-time violators have been toughened to 50 games for a first offense - a big reason Selig was treated more kindly by the panel yesterday than he was in 2005.
But Maryland Democrat Elijah E. Cummings told Selig and players association chief Donald Fehr: "This scandal happened under your watch. I want that to sink in."
As the result of Palmeiro's positive test, the committee investigated whether he had perjured himself. It was during that investigation - which found no proof Palmeiro lied - that Tejada was questioned by committee staff at a Baltimore hotel.
"We do not presume that Mr. Tejada lied to the committee," committee chairman Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat, and Virginia's Tom Davis, the committee's top Republican, wrote to Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey. "But we do believe that this is a serious enough issue to warrant further examination by the Justice Department."
Tejada's agent, Fernando Cuza, could not be reached at his office in Osprey, Fla.
In other news from the hearing:
Selig said the San Francisco Giants should have reported steroid-related concerns about home run king Barry Bonds' personal trainer to Major League Baseball.
Mitchell said he had faith in the credibility of Brian McNamee, Roger Clemens' former personal trainer. McNamee told Mitchell that he repeatedly injected the seven-time Cy Young Award winner with steroids and hGH between 1998 and 2001. Clemens and McNamee are to appear before the committee on Feb. 13.