Houston Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada accepted "full responsibility" today, apologizing to "Congress, the court, all the fans of baseball -- especially the kids" before he was sentenced to a year of probation for misleading congressional staff in their probe of steroids in his sport.
In heavily accented English, the 34-year-old, five-time All Star and former American League MVP told a federal magistrate judge in a gentle voice that he'd learned a "very important lesson."
Tejada had faced up to one year in prison for lying to House committee staffers in an August 2005 interview in a Baltimore hotel.
The investigators asked Tejada whether he had heard of any other players who had used steroids.
"No, I never heard," Tejada said.
A one-count prosecutor's information filed last month alleged that Tejada had discussions about performance-enhancing drugs with a fellow player in 2003, from whom Tejada that year bought more than $6,000 worth of human growth hormone.
After the details of the exchange were listed in the Mitchell Report last year, the House committee referred the case to federal prosecutors, who filed the single count of "misrepresentations to Congress," to which Tejada pleaded guilty last month.
In recommending Tejada's sentence to the court today, assistant U.S. attorney Steven Durham said that when Congress or its representatives ask a question of a witness, "that question must be answered truthfully. There are no options to prevaricate or withhold the truth."
"People may disagree with the purpose or manner of the questions," Durham said. "That is the right of citizens, to disagree."
But to lie? "No one has that right," he said.
"Not the people who are well-known, not the people who are unknown, nor the people in between," he said.
Despite lectures to Tejada on the importance of honest testimony from the prosecutor and Magistrate Judge Alan Kay, both showered him with praise. Durham noted how Tejada had "lifted himself up from the depths of poverty" in his native Dominican Republic.
Kay said that "with hard work and athletic talent," Tejada has become a wealthy and productive member of American society.
Kay also told Tejada that with no prior arrests before being charged with lying to investigators, "You have led an exemplary life."
Agreeing with the prosecutors' recommendation of a sentence on the light end of the federal guidelines, Kay ordered Tejada to serve one year of unsupervised probation, perform 100 hours of community service and pay a $5,000 fine.
The magistrate waived any requirement that Tejada take a drug test during the course of his probation.