WASHINGTON – All-Star shortstop Miguel Tejada pleaded guilty Wednesday to lying to Congress about the use of performance-enhancing drugs and admitted buying what he believed was human growth hormone.
Appearing before a federal magistrate, the 34-year-old starter for the Houston Astros admitted that he lied to congressional investigators who had asked about steroid use by major league ballplayers. Tejada also acknowledged purchasing the drugs while playing with the Oakland Athletics.
He said he had second thoughts and threw the drug away without using it. Prosecutors said they had no evidence to contradict his claim.
Tejada, who was born in the Dominican Republic, listened through headphones to a simultaneous Spanish translation to the court proceedings. As he pleaded guilty, his voice cracked and one of his attorneys patted him on the shoulder.
The misdemeanor charge of making misrepresentations to Congress can lead to as much as a year in jail. But federal guidelines call for a lighter sentence.
Federal Magistrate Judge Alan Kay said he would sentence Tejada on March 25, which falls during spring training. The Astros are not scheduled to play an exhibition game that day.
The terms of the plea deal were outlined in a letter to Tejada's attorneys dated Feb. 5, and he was given a deadline of Feb. 23 to respond. "His guilty plea in this case may subject him to detention, deportation and other sanctions at the direction of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement," the letter said.
An agency spokeswoman said it individually reviews cases of legal permanent residents convicted of a crime to determine if they should be deported. She said the agency would not talk about Tejada's status because it doesn't discuss individual cases.
The judge asked Tejada whether he had used any alcohol or drugs, legal or illegal, in the last 24 hours that could affect his decision. Tejada answered softly, "Last night I took a couple of drinks." But he told the judge he wasn't currently under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Tejada and his two lawyers declined to answer questions as they left the courthouse. They scheduled a news conference in Houston later in the day.
Tejada was the American League's Most Valuable Player in 2002 while playing for the Athletics.
Federal authorities also are investigating whether Roger Clemens lied to Congress when he denied using steroids or human growth hormone.
Charges against Tejada were detailed in documents filed in court Tuesday, a day after superstar Alex Rodriguez acknowledged past use of performance-enhancing drugs. The New York Yankees third baseman does not face charges.
Clemens and Rodriguez are atop a list of drug-tainted stars that includes Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, whose actions cast doubt on their on-field accomplishments.
In the court papers, Tejada was charged with lying to investigators for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in 2005. Congressional staffers did not place Tejada under oath when they questioned him, but court documents say the investigators advised him "of the importance of providing truthful answers."
Tejada came under scrutiny after another ex-teammate, the Baltimore Orioles' Rafael Palmeiro, testified before the House committee and declared that he'd never used steroids.
Palmeiro was suspended by baseball later that year after testing positive for steroids. He said the positive result must have been caused by a B-12 vitamin injection given to him by Tejada.