Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Say It Ain't So, Roger!

This was published on Blogcritics in December. An UPDATE is at the end of the article.

Like many in the baseball world, I was visibly and emotionally shocked to learn that the once immortal Roger Clemens had steroids injected into his behind and had done other illegal performance-enhancing drugs for at least three years (1998, 2000, 2001).

Maybe I shouldn't have been, since his name was among many others floated around in association with the Jason Grimsley affidavit last year. But then again, Grimsley claimed that affidavit was not accurate and denied volunteering the names of other illegal drug users. Thus, other than David Segui, no other alleged cheaters ever came forward or were confirmed as such, so I didn't put much stock in the Grimsley affidavit.

But when you have Roger Clemens' former trainer, Brian McNamee telling former Senator George Mitchell, some heavily detailed information about when and where he helped inject his high profile client with steroids and human growth hormone (HGH), you take those statements seriously. After all, like other witnesses in the 400+ page report, McNamee gave his testimony to Mitchell in front of agents from the FBI and IRS and knows he could get himself into legal troubles if he gave false information to them.

So, how did Roger Clemens respond to McNamee's allegations? First, he sent his lawyer Rusty Hardin to issue a flat denial on his behalf just hours after the report became public last Thursday afternoon. Tuesday, a whole five days after the report came out, we get another statement, this time through his agent Randy Hendricks, which said in part: "I want to state clearly and without qualification: I did not take steroids, human growth hormone or any other banned substances at any time in my baseball career or, in fact, my entire life."

That might sound plausible at first, but here's the catch: HGH and steroids weren't banned from baseball when he allegedly took them, from 1998-2001. In fact, it took years for baseball to catch up with federal law in banning steroids, which were finally outlawed in MLB in 2002, followed by HGH in 2005.

If he was telling the truth, Clemens would have said he never took, without qualification any performance-enhancing drugs his entire career. But he can't do that, nor will he come out and deny these charges outright in person (instead of handing off statements through agents and lawyers) or under oath because doing so could risk becoming another Marion Jones.

Another fact worth noting is that on page 175 of the Mitchell Report, it says that even after 2001 when McNamee was dismissed by the Yankees, Clemens "remained a source of income for McNamee up to and including 2007." In fairness, we don't know what exactly Clemens kept paying him for, but the fact remains that in MLB, only he and Andy Pettitte were "loyal" to McNamee after he left the Yankees, according to the Mitchell Report.

If Roger Clemens is really innocent, he should be preparing to sue McNamee, Kirk Radomski (who supplied McNamee with some of the illegal drugs Clemens used) and perhaps Mitchell himself for defamation of character, libel and slander. But common sense tells you he's not innocent in this matter, especially when his close friend Andy Pettitte admitted last Saturday that he too got HGH from McNamee (but allegedly used it for just one two-day period).

I'm sure this won't be the last we hear from the Rocket, who is now no longer a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame. Like Barry Bonds, he cheated in the latter part of his career, but the "Integrity," "Character" and "Sportsmanship" qualifications for the Hall make no such distinctions. And if in the next five years the facts that Brian McNamee and others gave to Mitchell are not successfully refuted by Clemens via a lawsuit, the Rocket's legacy will be forever tainted and like the recently indicted Bonds, should be kept out of Cooperstown.

UPDATE: A couple of Mondays ago, Clemens officially filed a defamation suit against Brian McNamee. But that's not going to be enough to clear his name, as he (along with other Yankees including Chuck Knoblauch and Andy Pettitte) are scheduled to testify under oath to Congress on February 13.

News reports on ESPN.com and elsewhere have claimed that Roger's representatives were warned by McNamee's reps as far back as 2004 that when MLB began stricter steroid testing that Roger may be in trouble for doing steroids.

Before this development, I was willing to at least hold out hope that Clemens was in the right and McNamee, for whatever reason, was in the wrong. But now, a situation may be developing where McNamee, who also has to testify on Feb 13, is willing to be a Greg Anderson and go to jail for Clemens - like Anderson did for Barry Bonds - instead of sticking with his story he told to Mitchell investigators. Will McNamee go to Congress and actually take back most or everything he said about Clemens and lose his freedom in order to protect The Rocket's legacy, even if what he told George Mitchell was the truth? That would be fucked up, I know.

The equally important question is, will Clemens lie under oath or will HE change his mind and tell Congress not only what he did from 1998-2001, but also what, if any illegal substances he took in 2004 or any other year? All I have to say is, Barry Bonds=perjury. Will Clemens be foolish enough to possibly suffer that same fate? Only if he refuses to tell the truth about his past and if the feds can prove he lied to them and if McNamee's claims remain credible or are never solidly refuted.

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