By Amy Shipley and Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, February 28, 2008
The Justice Department should investigate whether pitching great Roger Clemens committed perjury when he told a congressional committee two weeks ago that he never used steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs, two prominent lawmakers wrote yesterday in a letter to Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey.
Several witnesses and other evidence contradicted Clemens's claims in a sworn deposition Feb. 5 and under oath Feb. 13 during a hearing in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, committee chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and ranking member Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) said in the letter, which was released yesterday.
"We are not in a position to reach a definitive judgment as to whether Mr. Clemens lied to the committee," Waxman and Davis wrote. "Our only conclusion is that significant questions have been raised about Mr. Clemens's truthfulness and that further investigation by the Department of Justice is warranted."
Clemens becomes the second professional baseball player referred this year by the committee to the Justice Department for an investigation into possible perjury, which carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment if convicted. Houston Astros slugger Miguel Tejada also might have lied about his performance-enhancing drug use to the committee during sworn testimony in 2005, Waxman and Davis wrote to Mukasey in January.
Mukasey received yesterday's letter and is reviewing it, Justice Department spokesman Paul Bresson said. The Tejada investigation, he said, was "ongoing."
"Obviously, I am disappointed with this development, but Roger continues to stand tall," Lanny A. Breuer, one of Clemens's attorneys, said in a phone interview. "He has consistently said he has not used performance-enhancing drugs and he's going to continue, and we're going to continue, to fight to clear his name."
Clemens, who is working with minor league pitchers at the Houston Astros' spring training complex in Kissimmee, Fla., declined to speak with reporters there.
This month's hearing was the committee's third on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball since 2005. It was called after Clemens's former trainer, Brian McNamee, said he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone in a report on performance-enhancing drug use in baseball by former Senate majority leader George J. Mitchell that was released in December. After Clemens vehemently and repeatedly denied the charges in the report, Waxman invited Clemens and McNamee to testify.
Mitchell's report also led to the referral of the Tejada case in mid-January as it contained copies of checks Tejada allegedly wrote for drug purchases.
Though McNamee's credibility was called into question during the Feb. 13 hearing by several Republican members of the committee, he was not referred for an investigation, suggesting that the committee reached some level of comfort with his truthfulness.
McNamee, a witness in a federal steroid investigation, told the committee he injected Clemens at least 38 times between 1998 and 2001 with human growth hormone and three different steroids: Winstrol, testosterone and nandrolone, according to an 18-page memorandum committee staff members prepared on Clemens's testimony that Waxman said "influenced" his decision to send yesterday's letter. The memorandum, which contains nine areas of inquiry that are analyzed in great detail, also was released yesterday.
The memorandum said McNamee's claims were "bolstered" by testimony from ballplayers Chuck Knoblauch and Andy Pettitte, who verified McNamee's charges about their drug use.
Pettitte also gave sworn statements to the committee saying he had two conversations with Clemens about Clemens's use of human growth hormone, but Clemens said during the hearing Pettitte "misremembers" those discussions. Clemens also said he received only shots of vitamin B12 and the painkiller Lidocaine from team personnel.
The memorandum, however, quoted medical staff and trainers from the four Major League Baseball teams for which Clemens has played disputing various accounts he gave of receiving those substances.
Yesterday's referral brings to six the number of current or former professional athletes who could face, or have faced, federal charges of lying about steroid or other drug use in connection with the five-year-old investigation into a steroid ring run by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (Balco). McNamee and former Mets clubhouse official Kirk Radomski, who also supplied information to Mitchell, were forced to cooperate with Mitchell by Balco investigators.
Track star Marion Jones will begin a six-month prison term in March after having been convicted on two counts of making false statements to Balco investigators about her steroid use and knowledge of a fraudulent check scheme. Baseball slugger Barry Bonds, meantime, has been charged with five counts of perjury and obstruction of justice and faces a maximum of 30 years in prison.
Former cyclist Tammy Thomas and track coach Trevor Graham also have been indicted on federal charges of making false statements in connection with Balco.
Waxman and Davis made their request on the same day that the commissioners and players' union leaders of MLB, the NFL, the NBA and the NHL told a House subcommittee that their leagues had taken significant steps to address their problems with performance-enhancing drugs.
The House subcommittee on commerce, trade and consumer protection is considering possible legislation to standardize drug-testing procedures among the major professional sports.
The executives largely urged the lawmakers to leave the formulation of drug-testing policies to the collective bargaining process in each league.
"I think that they have done what they could do," Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), the subcommittee chairman, said during a break in the hearing. "But despite the fact they pronounce it's fully under control, we could do more. . . . There's nothing concrete we're looking at. At the conclusion of this process, we'll figure out where we are and where we need to be."