The positive drug test that has left Rafael Palmeiro's legacy in doubt involved the potent anabolic steroid stanozolol [known by its brand name Winstrol] ...The question many people are asking is exactly when was this positive test first known. Last night, Jerry Remy alluded to the possibility that it had been known before Palmeiro recorded his 3,000th hit.
Palmeiro said Monday that he had never intentionally taken steroids, but stanozolol does not come in dietary supplements and is among the most popular steroids on the market. It can be ingested or injected and usually remains in a person's system for at least a month.
"It's a mildly strong to strong steroid," said Dr. Gary Wadler, a professor at New York University who is an expert in sports doping. "Potent is the word I would use."
Today, writing in the Herald, Howard Bryant tackles the question head-on. It's a pay column, so no link (bolding is mine):
Neither MLB nor Palmeiro will say when he was tested, calling into question how many games Palmeiro was allowed to play after testing positive. Did baseball know about Palmeiro's steroid use while he was battering the Red Sox right before the All-Star break? ...
When Alex Sanchez tested positive, his name was announced and his suspension served before the appeal process took place, therefore making it impossible for him to have a fair hearing. Even if his appeal was upheld (it wasn't), he may have received a financial refund for his 10-day suspension, but he could never be refunded time served or damage done to his reputation. The same was true for positives Jorge Piedra, Juan Rincon and Jamal Strong.
Yet Palmeiro was allowed to appeal before his positive test was announced and before he served his suspension. That means baseball allowed a steroid user to play, most likely for weeks. It can also mean that there are players who have tested positive for steroids playing right now, affecting pennant races, helping their teams win. The double standard should have every player who isn't a superstar shaking in his spikes. Baseball will gladly sacrifice you fellows, and it has.
Ultimately, Palmeiro was punished, but his suspension was carefully crafted by baseball to cause the least amount of damage to the game's image and bottom line. Baseball knew about the suspension ahead of time but did not want to upstage Hall of Fame weekend. It may have known weeks ago, but did not want to cause itself the embarrassment of having Palmeiro's suspension overshadow the All-Star game or deliver a financial torpedo to his own 3,000-hit quest.
That means that the efficacy (and believability) of the sport's drug program is at very best third on the priority list, behind revenues and politics. The end of the story is a familiar one. The rules do not apply equally. They never have. That's what created this mess in the first place.