By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
HOUSTON, Jan. 7 -- For at least the fourth time since being accused last month by a former trainer of using steroids and human growth hormone, pitcher Roger Clemens on Monday vehemently denied the charges. But this time, in a news conference in his home town, Clemens and his attorneys struck back forcefully at trainer Brian McNamee, playing an audiotape of a telephone conversation between the men in which a distraught McNamee tells Clemens he'll do "whatever you want" to make the situation "go away."
"I'm telling the truth and I want it out there," Clemens says at one point during the 17-minute tape, which Clemens's attorney said was recorded Friday after McNamee initiated contact. On the tape, McNamee responds: "Tell me what you want me to do. I'll go to jail. I'll do whatever you want."
While the taped conversation provides no conclusive evidence of either man's truthfulness -- and indeed, raised questions as to why Clemens did not press McNamee further for an admission he had lied -- it sets up a showdown next week on Capitol Hill when accuser and accused are scheduled to testify under oath before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Rusty Hardin, who on Sunday night filed a defamation lawsuit against McNamee, said Clemens would appear voluntarily at the Jan. 16 hearing, and added: "He will not plead the Fifth. He will not try to avoid questions." Asked why Clemens had not pressed McNamee for a recantation in the telephone conversation, Hardin said, "His lawyers [had] already told him, 'You've got to be very careful so nobody could ever suggest you're trying to persuade a potential federal witness.' "
Clemens's first denial came in a statement Dec. 13 from Hardin immediately following the release of the report by former Senate majority leader George J. Mitchell into steroid use in baseball. Next was a videotaped statement days later in which Clemens himself denied McNamee's allegations. Then came an interview with the CBS broadcast "60 Minutes" that aired Sunday night.
At Monday's news conference, Clemens appeared defiant and animated, eventually stalking off the stage after speaking about his motivations as a player during a career that included an unprecedented seven Cy Young Awards and that until recently seemed destined to land him in the Hall of Fame.
"Do you think I played my career because I'm worried about the damn Hall of Fame?" Clemens said. "I could give a rat's ass about that. If you have a vote . . . you keep your vote. I don't need the Hall of Fame to justify when I put my butt on the line and I worked my tail off. And I defy anyone to say I did it by cheating or taking any shortcuts."
When he told Mitchell he had personally injected Clemens with steroids and HGH at least 16 times between 1998 and 2001, McNamee was cooperating under an agreement with federal authorities that he could be subject to criminal charges if he lied. But in their lawsuit, Clemens's attorneys provide a theory as to why McNamee might have done so, claiming McNamee -- whom investigators representing Clemens interviewed the day before the Mitchell report's release -- "originally made his allegations to federal authorities after being threatened with criminal prosecution if he did not implicate Clemens."
Earl Ward, one of McNamee's attorneys, said in a statement Monday that both the federal authorities who interviewed him, and Mitchell and his investigators "conducted themselves professionally and respectfully, and never engaged in coercive tactics."
"Brian told federal authorities the truth," Ward said. "Thereafter Brian met with Senator Mitchell and confirmed the statements made to the federal investigators."
In a telephone interview Monday, Ward said McNamee said what he did to Clemens's representatives "because he wanted to stay in Roger's good graces."
In making Clemens's case to the media, Hardin also criticized Mitchell for not doing enough legwork to investigate McNamee's background, particularly a 2001 incident in St. Petersburg, Fla., in which authorities questioned McNamee about a possible rape, but ultimately did not press charges.
"If you're trying to decide whether McNamee is a truth teller, wouldn't you want to at least talk to those police officers down there and say, 'In your investigation did you find him to be a truth teller?' " Hardin said. "Because what they have told us [is], 'No, he lied to us.' That's relevant. If you're going to make these kind of allegations in a public report, that blasts somebody like that, don't you want to run things to the ground before you do it? And all I'm saying is we're finding [Mitchell] didn't."
Mitchell, through a spokesman, declined to respond to Hardin's criticism. However, in a statement released Monday night, Mitchell took exception to the characterization of his interviews with McNamee -- as attributed to McNamee in Clemens's lawsuit -- as akin to a "Cold War-era interrogation."
"At each of the [three] interviews, I told him that all I asked of him was the truth, nothing more and nothing less," Mitchell said. "He said that he understood and would comply."
In the audiotape played at the news conference, Clemens makes reference to the toll the events of the last few weeks have taken on himself and his family, saying "everyone's got ulcers here," while McNamee laments being alone and broke.
"I didn't do this, Mac," Clemens says on the tape, using his former trainer's nickname. "I just need somebody to tell the truth."