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Baseball: Palmeiro banned for violating steroid code

The suspension imposed on Rafael Palmeiro of the Baltimore Orioles stunned the sport. He is not the first, but he is by far the highest profile player to be caught in breach of baseball's new drug regulations.

Palmeiro said he would accept the suspension but flatly denied he had ever intentionally used steroids, stressing that he had no idea of how "the banned substance entered my body".He recently became only the fourth player in major league history to reach the plateau of 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.

The immediate question now is whether the qualification that he had never "intentionally" used steroids will be enough to save him from facing charges of perjuring himself before Congress - charges that could carry a jail sentence.

The Congressional hearings at which he testified were called after publication by the retired slugger and self-confessed steroid-user Jose Canseco of a book alleging widespread drug use by top players, among them Palmeiro. The Canseco book followed the scandal at the Balco sports laboratory company near San Francisco, which implicated a number of top athletes.