Like many in the baseball world, I was visibly and emotionally shocked to learn that the once immortal Roger Clemens had steroids injected into his behind and had done other illegal performance-enhancing drugs for at least three years (1998, 2000, 2001).
Maybe I shouldn’t have been, since his name was among many others floated around in association with the Jason Grimsley affidavit last year. But then again, Grimsley claimed that affidavit was not accurate and denied volunteering the names of other illegal drug users. Thus, other than David Segui, no other alleged cheaters ever came forward or were confirmed as such, so I didn’t put much stock in the Grimsley affidavit.
But when you have Roger Clemens’ former trainer, Brian McNamee telling former Senator George Mitchell, some heavily detailed information about when and where he helped inject his high profile client with steroids and human growth hormone (HGH), you take those statements seriously. After all, like other witnesses in the 400+ page report, McNamee gave his testimony to Mitchell in front of agents from the FBI and IRS and knows he could get himself into legal troubles if he gave false information to them.
So, how did Roger Clemens respond to McNamee’s allegations? First, he sent his lawyer Rusty Hardin to issue a flat denial on his behalf just hours after the report became public last Thursday afternoon. Tuesday, a whole five days after the report came out, we get another statement, this time through his agent Randy Hendricks, which said in part: “I want to state clearly and without qualification: I did not take steroids, human growth hormone or any other banned substances at any time in my baseball career or, in fact, my entire life.”
That might sound plausible at first, but here’s the catch: HGH and steroids weren’t banned from baseball when he allegedly took them, from 1998-2001. In fact, it took years for baseball to catch up with federal law in banning steroids, which were finally outlawed in MLB in 2002, followed by HGH in 2005.
If he was telling the truth, Clemens would have said he never took, without qualification any performance-enhancing drugs his entire career. But he can’t do that, nor will he come out and deny these charges outright in person (instead of handing off statements through agents and lawyers) or under oath because doing so could risk becoming another Marion Jones.
Another fact worth noting is that on page 175 of the Mitchell Report, it says that even after 2001 when McNamee was dismissed by the Yankees, Clemens “remained a source of income for McNamee up to and including 2007.” In fairness, we don’t know what exactly Clemens kept paying him for, but the fact remains that in MLB, only he and Andy Pettitte were “loyal” to McNamee after he left the Yankees, according to the Mitchell Report.
If Roger Clemens is really innocent, he should be preparing to sue McNamee, Kirk Radomski (who supplied McNamee with some of the illegal drugs Clemens used) and perhaps Mitchell himself for defamation of character, libel and slander. But common sense tells you he’s not innocent in this matter, especially when his close friend Andy Pettitte admitted last Saturday that he too got HGH from McNamee (but allegedly used it for just one two-day period).
I’m sure this won’t be the last we hear from the Rocket, who is now no longer a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame. Like Barry Bonds, he cheated in the latter part of his career, but the “Integrity,” “Character” and “Sportsmanship” qualifications for the Hall make no such distinctions. And if in the next five years the facts that Brian McNamee and others gave to Mitchell are not successfully refuted by Clemens via a lawsuit, the Rocket’s legacy will be forever tainted and like the recently indicted Bonds, should be kept out of Cooperstown.