Pitching legend Roger Clemens is indicted on charges of lying to a congressional committee

Roger Clemens issues his opening statement to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. From Feb. 13, 2008.
By Dave Sheinin and Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, August 20, 2010

Roger Clemens, the most decorated pitcher in baseball history, was indicted Thursday on charges of lying two years ago when he told a congressional committee that he never used performance-enhancing drugs.

The indictment charges Clemens, 48, with one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of making false statements and two counts of perjury in connection with his February 2008 testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

While it could be some time before the case sees a trial, the indictment was a blow both to Clemens's own legacy and Major League Baseball's efforts to distance itself from a steroids scandal that tainted the game for more than a decade and involved some of its greatest stars. With Barry Bonds also under indictment for perjury in California and scheduled for trial in March, and now Clemens, baseball must endure the twin embarrassments of seeing the best hitter and best pitcher of the past generation essentially labeled as steroids users by the federal government.

"I never took HGH or Steroids," Clemens posted on his Twitter account late Thursday afternoon. "And I did not lie to Congress. I look forward to challenging the Governments accusations, and hope people will keep an open mind until trial. I appreciate all the support I have been getting. I am happy to finally have my day in court."

In an e-mail, Clemens's lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said, "Roger did not use steroids. He did not use HGH. And he didn't lie to Congress."

HGH refers to human growth hormone. Like anabolic steroids, HGH is a controlled substance banned by baseball; both are believed to assist in muscle recovery from strenuous exercise or injury, though they also carry the risk of several negative side effects.

The indictment was returned to U.S. Magistrate Deborah A. Robinson of the District at a brief hearing shortly after 1:30 p.m. It does not offer any proof that Clemens used steroids and has little new information about Clemens and the use of performance-enhancing drugs. It cites the veracity of the 2007 report by former Sen. George J. Mitchell into steroids use in baseball and the testimony of Brian McNamee, Clemens's longtime friend and personal trainer.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Clemens faces 15 to 21 months in prison if convicted.

"Our government cannot function if witnesses are not held accountable for false statements made before Congress," said U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. in a statement accompanying the indictment. "Today the message is clear: If a witness makes a choice to ignore his or her obligation to testify honestly, there will be consequences."

The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, who also presided over the perjury and obstruction trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to vice president Dick Cheney.

Prosecutors did not seek an arrest warrant, leaving it to the judge to issue a summons for Clemens to appear at an arraignment in the coming days at which he would be read his constitutional rights and asked to enter a plea. After the arraignment, a trial could be held in as few as 70 days, although motions by either side inevitably would delay that timetable.

McNamee's accusations

At issue is whether Clemens lied to the House panel when he voluntary appeared before it in February 2008 to deny accusations made by McNamee that he had used steroids and human growth hormone.

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