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Miguel Tejada

Like Many Others, Tejada Punished for Lying, Not for Steroids

February 11, 2009 05:31 PM
by Denis Cummings
Miguel Tejada pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about steroids, but many wonder if perjury cases are a just a way to punish the players of baseball’s steroid era.

Tejada Pleads Guilty

Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to one misdemeanor count of making a misrepresentation to Congress. He faces up to a year in prison and could possibly be deported to his native Dominican Republic, though it is likely that he will just be fined.

Tejada told Congressional staffers in a 2005 interview that he did not know anybody who took steroids and did not hear any players discussing steroids. However, according to the Mitchell Report, Tejada asked teammate Adam Piatt if he used steroids and Piatt admitted that he had taken steroids and human growth hormone. Tejada purchased $6,300 worth of human growth hormone from Piatt, though he denies using the drugs and prosecutors have no evidence that he did.

Several steroid users have been convicted for perjury, including cyclist Tammy Thomas and sprinter Marion Jones. Tejada is the first ballplayer to be found guilty of lying to the federal government over steroids, but Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens may soon follow. Bonds goes on trial in March for perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to a federal grand jury. Clemens could be facing perjury charges for lying before a congressional hearing.

“It is not good news for Clemens,” writes ESPN legal expert Lester Munson about the Tejada case. “The same prosecutors and the same grand jury that investigated Tejada are still investigating Clemens. … The Tejada charge is a clear signal that the Clemens investigation is not over and that there may well be more to come for Clemens.”

Opinion & Analysis: Perjury charges against athletes

Many pundits are wondering what federal prosecutors are accomplishing by charging Tejada. The Washington Post’s Sally Jenkins writes that trying to penalize every ballplayer who used steroids “only creates a larger cycle of untruth” and ignores the cultural steroid problem that extends far beyond baseball and sports.
The Houston Chronicle’s Jerome Solomon objects to the government’s focus on individual players rather than investigating baseball executives like commissioner Bud Selig. “Like our farce of a ‘War on Drugs’; the lowest level is where the enforcement is,” he writes, “We’re chasin’ crack heads.”

Some object to the use of perjury charges—or, similarly, the misrepresentation to Congress charge against Tejada—to punish players for using steroids. “And don’t tell me that these criminal prosecutions of athletes are really about perjury,” writes Jenkins. “There are two separate issues here: steroid use and lying under oath. One is a debatable misdemeanor, the other a substantive offense. But the latter is clearly being used as a method of punishing the former.”

Relying on perjury charges creates disproportional punishment for steroid users. Tejada, who was only shown to purchase HGH, may go to jail while many proven steroid users, such as Alex Rodriguez, will likely never face criminal charges because they were never questioned by federal investigators. Rafael Palmeiro, who testified for Congress that he never used steroids and then failed a steroid test six weeks later, has avoided charges because there isn’t enough proof that he used steroids before testifying.

Though the prosecution of Tejada has received criticism, the Baltimore Sun’s David Steele believes that such cases are good way to learn the truth about steroid use in baseball. “Time to stop deluding ourselves about ‘closure,’” he writes. “Also, time to stop demanding everybody be let off the hook because of our own fatigue. We got lied to for two decades, at least, and at some point we should be more tired of the lies than we are about revelations that get in the way of our Cupid’s-eye view of the so-called national pastime.”

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