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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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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?
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