The latest development in the Roger Clemens/performance-enhancing drug (PED) saga took a new turn this week when word leaked out that Clemens told 60 Minutes his trainer Brian McNamee injected him with the Lidocaine – a local anesthetic – and Vitamin B-12, and not steroids, human growth hormone or any other illegal or banned substance.
There are two ways to look at this explanation. Clemens and his team are staking out their position that either McNamee exaggerated and claimed he injected the Rocket with steroids or that Clemens was dosed with PEDs without his knowledge.
From what we know so far, Clemens is admitting that McNamee injected him with something. Let’s look at this excuse from Clemens’ position while reviewing just what these substances do.
Vitamin B-12 is an essential vitamin that is found in abundance in a variety of foods including fortified breakfast cereals, red meat, fish, shellfish and dairy products that helps maintain red blood cells and healthy nerve cells while making DNA. B-12 deficiency is typically found in people who suffer from pernicious anemia and certain gastrointestinal disorders.
Anyone who has access to a healthy, balanced diet that features Wheaties, salmon, trout and sirloin steak will have no problem getting more than enough B-12.
The purported energy giving properties of B-12 are the reason that supplementation of this vitamin has been so popular over the years despite the fact there isn’t a whole lot of reliable scientific data. According to the Mayo Clinic’s web site the effectiveness of B-12 intramuscular injections is graded as a “C,” along with the statement that well-designed clinical studies need to be conducted in order to confirm such a claim.
Lidocaine is a local anesthetic that can be administered via injection or topically. Lidocaine is available only with a doctor’s prescription. There are amounts of Lidocaine in topical, over-the-counter remedies such as Solarcaine. A cream, patch, lotions and sprays can administer prescription Lidocaine.
SCIENTIFIC JARGON ALERT! Lidocaine is typically injected intrasynovially, which means that the needle goes directly into the synovial sac of a joint or synovial tendon sheath. This is serious stuff and not likely something that can be/should be done by anyone but a qualified physician or other medical professional. Injecting into a joint, and particularly into the sheath of a tendon, is an incredibly delicate operation and these shots are frequently done with the aid of a fluoroscope, an x-ray machine that allows the physician to see precisely where the needle is.
Furthermore, Lidocaine pretty much affects only the joint that it’s injected into, and doesn’t really have a systemic effect.
Lidocaine, under the brand name Xylocaine, is also used to treat irregular heartbeats, and can be injected into the muscle or delivered via an intravenous drip. People who use the drug for this reason are given kits so that they can self-administer their shots. This local painkiller can also be injected to numb an area prior to surgery or other medical procedure.
Now let’s get back to Clemens and look at his excuse with our basic understanding of the substances involved and their delivery systems. Let’s start with the Lidocaine since Clemens claims that these shots were to help him alleviate pain in his joints.
Given the delicate nature of injections into a joint and/or tendon sheath you have to be amazed that Clemens allowed this kind of procedure to be administered by non-medical personnel in a non-clinical setting, without any apparent medical supervision. Since Lidocaine can only be obtained via a prescription Clemens needs to be asked where the drug came from. The other obvious questions revolve around the lack of medical supervision with regard to this extremely delicate injection regimen, and in what joints did Clemens receive these shots.
This kind of therapy is not a one-shot deal, and according to Clemens’ lawyer Rusty Hardin, "Roger took bunches of his shots (sic) over his career, much the way racehorses do, unfortunately." This makes Clemens’ excuse that much more interesting, and as a result of this statement questions have to be asked of both Clemens and his lawyer with regard to who administered all of these shots and what kind of shots they were.
The Vitamin B-12 shots are basically harmless and are as likely to be a placebo as actually performance enhancing. Using these injections just speaks to a basic lack of knowledge with regard to effective treatments that so many people have. There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of pro athletes who get B-12 shots. Since there are no real toxic side effects from over using this vitamin, it is a “no-harm/no-foul” admission that allows Clemens to admit he received shots – probably with the added claim that the pitcher is afraid of needles – of some basically harmless stuff.
The other possibility is that Clemens’ will claim that McNamee dosed him with illegal, banned substances without his knowledge. This is a variation of the claim made by Barry Bonds where he claimed he didn’t know what he was given and thought it was flaxseed oil.
If Clemens says that McNamee drugged him without his knowledge or consent, the pitcher should then initiate a lawsuit against his former trainer and pressure the authorities to prosecute McNamee. Certainly if Clemens was given these drugs without his consent a crime was committed and he would be justified in pursuing legal action against McNamee in an effort to clear his name as well as make sure his trainer is punished for committing an egregious breech of trust.
It’s worth mentioning that despite Bonds’ claim that he didn’t know what he was being given, he never pursued legal action against BALCO Labs, Victor Conte or Greg Anderson.
Unless he asks probing questions, Mike Wallace will add nothing more to this story, and Clemens’ interview on 60 Minutes will be nothing more than a puff piece that gives the pitcher a chance to stem the tide of bad news. If Sunday’s interview doesn’t get into the grit of the excuse hopefully others in the mainstream sports media will pick up the slack and get to the bottom of this issue.