WASHINGTON – The FBI said Thursday it has opened a preliminary investigation into whether baseball all-star Miguel Tejada lied to federal authorities when he denied taking steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs.
The inquiry, in response to a congressional request, amounts to an initial look at facts surrounding the case. It does not mean charges will be brought against the Houston Astros shortstop, who in 2002 was the American League's Most Valuable Player.
"The Justice Department has referred the Miguel Tejada matter to the FBI and a preliminary inquiry will be conducted," said FBI spokesman Richard Kolko.
Investigators with the FBI's field office in Washington will handle the inquiry. It is unclear how long initial fact-finding will take.
At issue are comments Tejada gave to House committee investigators in August 2005 when he was with the Baltimore Orioles. He denied during the interview that he used illegal performance-enhancing drugs or knew of other players using or talking about steroids.
Tejada was among a number of star athletes named in a lengthy report by former Sen. George Mitchell, released last month, that looked at drug use in baseball.
The Houston Astros had no comment on news that the FBI is now investigating Tejada. Drayton McLane, the Astros owner, was attending the baseball owners' meeting on Phoenix and was not immediately available for comment.
Tejada was in the Dominican Republic for the funeral of his brother, who died Tuesday in a motorcycle accident there.
Tejada's interview with congressional aides, held Aug. 26, 2005 at a Baltimore hotel, was in connection with an inquiry over whether his then-teammate, Rafael Palmeiro, had used steroids. Palmeiro had denied during House testimony earlier that year that he had used steroids, but he ultimately tested positive.
Palmeiro was suspended by baseball later in 2005. He has said his positive test must have resulted from a B-12 vitamin injection given to him by Tejada.
The House Oversight and Government Committee this week asked Attorney General Michael Mukasey to investigate Tejada's statements, parts of which were included in a letter to the Justice Department.
"Has there been discussion among other players about steroids?" a committee staffer asked, according to the letter.
"No, I never heard," Tejada replied.
"You never knew of any other player using steroids?" Tejada was asked.
"No," he replied.
"Have you ever taken a steroid before?" he was asked at another point.
"No," he said.
Tejada also answered "No" when asked if he had ever taken any illegal performance-enhancing drugs or any other steroid precursor.
The Mitchell report includes statements by Adam Piatt, Tejada's former teammate with the Oakland Athletics, who said he gave Tejada steroids and HGH in 2003. Mitchell also included copies of checks allegedly written by Tejada to Piatt in March 2003 for $3,100 and $3,200.
Making false statements to Congress is a felony.
The House committee also has looked into whether Palmeiro should face perjury charges, but eventually dropped the matter.
Tejada, who won his MVP award with the Oakland Athletics, was traded to Houston from Baltimore on Dec. 12 — one day before the Mitchell Report was released.