Clemens 'Ready' For His Hearing
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Roger Clemens has been named by a former trainer as a steroid user, both in the report former Senate majority leader George J. Mitchell issued for baseball officials and in testimony to congressional lawyers. He has defended himself on his Web site, in a television interview, during a news conference in Houston and in one-on-one meetings with members of the House of Representatives.
But the most significant moment for Clemens, one of the greatest pitchers of all time, comes today, when he will sit in a hearing room on Capitol Hill with his greatest detractor, when he will face questions under oath about his involvement with performance-enhancing drugs, and when he reportedly will be confronted with accusations from a former teammate and close friend that he discussed human growth hormone years ago.
"He's ready," said Rusty Hardin, one of Clemens's attorneys.
In a hearing this morning before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Clemens will have a face-to-face meeting with Brian McNamee, his former trainer and current accuser whose testimony to Mitchell's investigators became the most explosive portion of the former senator's report. Clemens will be asked by committee members about his claims that McNamee injected him with vitamins rather than steroids. He also likely will be questioned about the testimony yesterday from a panel of medical experts who told the committee that there are very few reasons to take the substances Clemens claimed he did -- vitamin B12 and lidocaine -- by injection.
And perhaps most damaging, he could be confronted with testimony from Andy Pettitte, long perceived as a friend and confidante, that he discussed use of HGH in 1999 or 2000. The Associated Press reported late last night that Pettitte revealed, in a sworn affidavit to the committee, a conversation about HGH when the two were teammates with the New York Yankees. Pettitte originally was scheduled to testify today, but was excused earlier this week.
"We don't know what Andy said," Hardin said late last night. "Roger will testify that he did not have that conversation, if that's what comes up. But we don't know what he said, and we look forward to what the committee has to say."
All this comes with the possibility that either Clemens or McNamee will perjure himself if both stick to their stories, which directly contradict each other. Representatives for both men have said that they intend to change nothing about what they told committee lawyers in depositions last week. If committee members aren't satisfied with what they hear from Clemens and McNamee, they could recommend that the Justice Department investigate the truthfulness of their statements, as they did with all-star shortstop Miguel Tejada last month.
"Roger is going to tell the truth," Hardin said in a telephone interview earlier yesterday. "Congress absolutely has the right to make a referral to the Justice Department if they feel that's the right thing to do. I hope and trust that they won't choose to do that."
Three federal investigators -- Heather Young, an FBI agent, and Jeff Novitzky and Erwin Rogers, both of the Internal Revenue Service -- are expected to be at the hearing, according to a legal source. The three have a link to McNamee, who has served as a cooperating witness in an ongoing steroids investigation involving the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. Though they will not testify, their mere presence would be symbolic of the stakes for Clemens. The Balco scandal resulted in the indictment of slugger Barry Bonds for perjury and the imprisonment of track star Marion Jones for lying to investigators.
Two people who won't be at today's hearing are former Clemens teammates -- Pettitte and retired second baseman Chuck Knoblauch. Both players met with lawyers for the committee and were excused from testifying by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), the committee chair and ranking minority member. Kirk J. Radomski, the former New York Mets clubhouse attendant who, like McNamee, is at the center of the Mitchell report, also was excused.
Pettitte and Clemens had a close public relationship during their time with the Yankees and Houston Astros, and Pettitte has admitted that McNamee injected him with HGH to help recover from an elbow injury in 2002.
Also yesterday, the Associated Press reported that former major leaguer Jose Canseco said in an affidavit dated Jan. 22 that he never had seen Clemens "use, possess or ask for steroids or human growth hormone." A source with knowledge of the affidavit confirmed Canseco's testimony. Canseco has admitted his own use of performance-enhancing drugs and has made broad accusations about some of the game's brightest stars.
It is clear, though, that some committee members intend to grill Clemens on the specifics of his claims that McNamee injected him not with HGH or steroids, but with vitamin B12 and lidocaine, a synthetic compound used as a local anesthetic. The possibility of Clemens being confronted with Pettitte's reported affidavit adds a potentially explosive element to the hearing.
Waxman, in particular, seemed to be preparing to confront Clemens with medical evidence when he asked the four-member panel in a hearing entitled "Myths and Facts About Human Growth Hormone, B12 and Other Substances" about the behavior of athletes. At least twice he began questioning by saying, "If an athlete tells me . . .," an indication that he could confront Clemens with medical questions today.
Both in their testimony and in interviews after the hearing, some of the medical experts questioned the efficacy of HGH as a builder of muscle mass or a healing agent for injuries when used by itself. Rather, it could have such benefits when used in conjunction with an anabolic steroid, they said.
Todd Schlifstein, a sports medicine specialist at New York University Medical Center, said in an interview he was struck by some of the claims made by both Clemens and McNamee, among them that Clemens would allow McNamee to inject him with anything.
"It's a little unusual if it's not a physician," Schlifstein said. "He has access to the best health care in the world. Why would he want a trainer to do it?"
Members of the panel also played down the benefit of B12, which Clemens has said he continues to take. Susan B. Shurin, the deputy director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health, said it's only normal to inject B12 when a patient can't take it orally and process it because of a serious stomach problem or disease. Panel members suggested HGH and B12 could have placebo effects only, but more research is needed, particularly of HGH.
There is still some question, barring a recommendation to the Justice Department, as to where the committee's investigation will go from here.
"I think they'll wash their hands of it a bit," said Thomas Buchanan, the head of litigation for the Washington office of the firm Winston and Strawn. "That's what tends to happen with these things. There's a big hullabaloo, and then they go away."
That would likely be welcome for Clemens. Yesterday, as he walked the halls of House office buildings in a gray pinstriped suit, passersby waited to take pictures on cellphones. At one point, as Clemens strode from one office to another, two men called out after him. "We love you, Rocket!" they yelled. Clemens turned and waved an acknowledgement.
Asked how it was going, Clemens said, "Good conversations," before he moved on. More conversations -- in public, under oath, on national television -- await today.