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Tejada They Come, Tejada They Fall

Baseball and SteroidsAfter A-Rod’s memorable apology and admission of using steroids and performance enhancing drugs from 2001-2003, many comments and allegations, both positive and negative, have been thrown around. Alex Rodriguez was another big name star on the list of admitted steroid users during baseball’s “asterisks era.” Although Alex did tarnish his reputation by acknowledging his use of what is only now deemed an illegal substance by Major League Baseball, many people have applauded his honesty. Despite Alex’s negative press lately, The University of Miami still named their baseball field after him. Most importantly, he has not been legally charged with any crime.

The juiced era reportedly began in 1994 and ended around 2004. The BALCO investigation was at its climax in 2005 and enhanced the spotlight placed on Major League Baseball and its star performers, which included Tejada’s “testimony”. With the continued intervention of Congress on the issue, the list of admitted steroid users started growing even larger. Some wrote books blaming others, calling out players and naming fellow users. Some chose the path of Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, and continue to deny their transparent use of the substances, while others like A-rod and Andy Pettitte decided the best option was to bite the bullet and come clean. Whatever path these players chose, there have been no legal ramifications, until now.

A few days after Rodriguez’s interview and apology Houston Astros star shortstop Miguel Tejada became the first player to be officially convicted of a crime in the juiced era. Last Wednesday, Tejada pled guilty to the charge of misrepresentation to Congress by withholding information. The weird aspect about this big-time conviction is that it predominantly talks about Miguel’s lying to congress about his teammates use of illegal substances. He did however, acknowledge his individual use of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) when he was in Oakland, but still claims that he “threw away the HGH that he purchased before using it.”

The crime is a misdemeanor and with Tejada’s continued cooperation he will likely receive probation as opposed to any jail time. The direct terms of Tejada’s plea bargain state that by agreeing to the deal he may still be subject to “detention, deportation and other sanctions at the direction of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

According to Fox News, a Customs Enforcement agent replied to the statement saying the agency “individually reviews cases of legal permanent residents convicted of a crime to determine if they should be deported.” The agency would not talk about Tejada’s case in any more detail because it does not discuss individual cases.

Only a year ago, Tejada (34) divulged in an interview that he lied about his true age and produced a fake birth certificate when he originally entered the United States from the Dominican Republic to play in the league. After making this voluntary declaration, Tejada was never punished, other than harsh comments and criticism in the media, and he still remained in the America. Although nothing happened after this first incident, Tejada’s past admittance and repentance certainly was on the minds of some people.

In the complaint, the government states that Tejada violated 2. U.S.C. 192, entitled “Refusal of witness to testify or produce papers.” Tejada accordingly was under oath in August of 2005 when congressional staffers from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform questioned him in a Baltimore hotel room.

U.S. Code, Title 2, Section 192 expressly states that “Every person who having been summoned as a witness by the authority of either House of Congress to give testimony or to produce papers upon any matter under inquiry before either House, or any joint committee established by a joint or concurrent resolution of the two Houses of Congress, or any committee of either House of Congress, willfully makes default, or who, having appeared, refuses to answer any question pertinent to the question under inquiry, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not more than $ 1,000 nor less than $ 100 and imprisonment in a common jail for not less than one month nor more than twelve months.”

Using 2. U.S.C. 192. Tejada did not fully comply with congressional staffers when he was interviewed regarding questions pertaining to the use of HGH and other banned substances.  Yale 2L Aaron Zelinski analyzed the topic and pointed out that this was the first case to date brought under 2. U.S.C. 192 that contained facts from acts that took place in a hotel room with only a group of congressional members and the defendant.

Although, I believe Tejada is clearly and blatantly guilty, as does Mr. Zelinski, we differ when I contend that Miguel did violate the expressed language in 2. U.S.C. 192. However, I do agree with him when he suggests that this interpretation of the law broadly stretches the government’s reach on matters concerning perjury.  When are you really under oath? Can it be any time you talk to members of congress?  If that is what emerges from this case then we are all in trouble.

With Tejada’s fall from greatness, it seems that the government is looking to make a statement by investigating and reporting on big name players. This is understandable, as something drastic must be done to try and halt the use of banned substances in baseball. Alex Rodriguez was only one name on a huge list of players randomly tested by the MLB. His name was leaked and he was induced into finally confessing. 103 more names still remain on that list. The way these players and their agents and advisors handle the disclosure of that list is really the determinative factor regarding the government bringing a suit against them.

A-Rod’s decision might have kept him outside of a cell for now, but many lost faith in his every word and still do not believe he is telling the complete truth.  Roger Clemens is currently the one feeling the most heat from the F.B.I. for his adamant denial in front of congress last year. The Rocket might be the next one to fall from the ranks of baseball greats.

Tejada’s sentencing will take place on March 25th. Although he is the first in the steroid era, he certainly will not be the last. This decision could lead to many more individuals facing charges and should send signals to others who plan on talking about the juiced era.