Read Stephen's bio and previous columns


January 14, 2008

Eight Questions (and Answers) About Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee


Last week, in one of the more bizarre moments in the history of either American sports or jurisprudence, legendary pitcher Roger Clemens hosted a press conference at which he 1) denied that he had used steroids or human growth hormone, as stipulated in the recent Mitchell Report; 2) announced that he was suing the former trainer, Brian McNamee, who is his principal accuser; 3) played a recording of a phone conversation between himself and the trainer; and 4) told off numerous reporters, before storming out of the press conference.


Before their rematch in court, the two men will likely face off again before Congress, in hearings scheduled for Feb. 13. In the meantime, here are some questions (and answers) about what has transpired and what’s to come.


1. Is Clemens telling the truth? No one really knows. Clemens’s late-career dominance, in which he was somehow a better pitcher in his 40s than in his 30s, led many to speculate in recent years that he was among those in baseball partaking of performance-enhancing drugs. But until the release last month of George Mitchell’s report about the history of steroids in baseball, no hard evidence had yet been introduced tying the pitcher to the substances.


Helping Clemens’s case is that he has issued full, not-weaseled denials, and put his money where his mouth is with a lawsuit. He clearly has done everything an innocent man would do, were he to be accused of such an offense.


Hurting his case is that nearly all of the 80-some players mentioned in the Mitchell Report –including Clemens’s best friend, Andy Pettitte, and several other McNamee clients – have either admitted using the drugs, or said nothing to refute the accusations.


2. Will we ever know the truth? Unless one or the other breaks down, which may very well happen before a congressional committee with both men under oath under penalty of perjury, we may never know whether or not he used steroids.


3. Doesn’t the recorded phone conversation prove that Clemens is telling the truth? Not quite. We know that the pitcher had lawyers with him, and the trainer may have as well. Both men were clearly mindful of the legal consequences of every word they said, and therefore neither sounded like they probably would have in a normal conversation.


4. When McNamee kept asking “What can I do?,” why didn’t Clemens specifically ask him to recant? Because had he done so, Clemens may very well have found himself accused of witness-tampering.


5. Doesn’t McNamee have an incentive to lie, since investigators had him dead to rights? Not at this point, no. McNamee made a deal with prosecutors that required him to cooperate fully with the Mitchell Report, but with the understanding that that deal would go south should he not be completely truthful. Having lied about Clemens would put McNamee in jail, so unless prosecutors explicitly demanded he implicate Clemens as a condition of the deal – which is unlikely – McNamee would have no incentive to do so.


6. Doesn’t the fact that Clemens sued McNamee mean that he must be telling the truth? Not necessarily. Track star Marion Jones also denied her steroid use for years, even going so far as to sue multiple people who accused her of such, but was ultimately forced to admit lying to investigators as part of a guilty plea, and was sentenced just last week to six months in prison.


7. Will this keep Clemens out of the Baseball Hall of Fame? It may. As we’ve seen in recent years, Cooperstown voters have shown not much of a tolerance for drug users, whether it be steroids or cocaine. What hasn’t yet been tested is whether the voters will allow for the election of an all-time great player who has been found to have started using steroids towards the end of his career, when that player would have likely made the Hall even prior to the start of the usage.


Two players, Clemens and Barry Bonds, will be the first test cases for this. And if both retire this off-season, as expected, both will come up for first-time Hall consideration the same year, 2013.


8. That said, who do you believe, Clemens or McNamee? McNamee.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


Click here to talk to our writers and editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.


To e-mail feedback about this column, click here. If you enjoy this writer's work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry it.

This is Column # SS078. Request permission to publish here.

Op-Ed Writers
Eric Baerren
Lucia de Vernai
Herman Cain
Dan Calabrese
Alan Hurwitz
Paul Ibrahim
David Karki
Llewellyn King
Gregory D. Lee
David B. Livingstone
Nathaniel Shockey
Stephen Silver
Candace Talmadge
Jamie Weinstein
Feature Writers
Mike Ball
Bob Batz
The Laughing Chef
David J. Pollay
Business Writers
Cindy Droog
D.F. Krause