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Baseball Star Called to Account on Steroids

February 13, 2008 at 6:30 PM EDT
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Baseball pitching great Roger Clemens testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government reform Wednesday to answer allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his career. The testimony is the latest twist in an ongoing controversy over the use of steroids in professional sports.

JIM LEHRER: Next, today’s big collision over steroid use between a baseball star and his former trainer. Ray Suarez has our report.

RAY SUAREZ: His Hall of Fame-caliber reputation on the line, pitcher Roger Clemens arrived on Capitol Hill this morning for the most consequential duel of his career.

Clemens came before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to deny allegations he used performance-enhancing drugs. Opposing Clemens, and sitting just a few feet away, was his former friend and athletic trainer, Brian McNamee.

McNamee’s sworn statements about alleged steroid use by Clemens were a major focus of former Senator George Mitchell’s December 2007 report examining drug use in baseball.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D), California: If the Mitchell report is to be the last word on baseball’s past, we believe we had a responsibility to investigate a serious claim of inaccuracy.

It’s impossible to believe that this is a simple misunderstanding. Someone isn’t telling the truth.

If Mr. McNamee is lying, then he has acted inexcusably, and he has made Mr. Clemens an innocent victim. If Mr. Clemens isn’t telling the truth, then he has acted shamefully and has smeared Mr. McNamee. I don’t think there’s anything in between.

RAY SUAREZ: The report quotes McNamee as saying he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormones at least 16 times in 1998, when Clemens played in Toronto, and in 2000 and 2001, when Clemens was a New York Yankee.

Clemens has denied all of McNamee’s allegations of steroid use. Instead, Clemens has said McNamee injected him with vitamin B-12 and the painkiller lidocaine.

McNamee also alleged he provided performance enhancers to at least two other players, Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte and second baseman Chuck Knoblauch. Both players corroborated Mr. McNamee and were excused from testifying today.

Clemens', trainer's accounts differ

RAY SUAREZ: The Congress members and a packed gallery then heard two entirely different stories of past events, delivered under oath.

ROGER CLEMENS, Major League Baseball pitcher: I have been accused of something I'm not guilty of. How do you prove a negative? No matter what we discuss here today, I'm never going to have my name restored. But I've got to try and set the record straight.

However, by doing so, I'm putting myself out there to all of you, knowing that because I said that I didn't take steroids, that this is looked as an attack on Senator Mitchell's report. Where am I to go with that?

I'm not saying Senator Mitchell's report is entirely wrong. I am saying Brian McNamee's statements about me are wrong. Let me be clear: I have never taken steroids or HGH.

BRIAN MCNAMEE, trainer: Make no mistake: When I told Senator Mitchell that I injected Roger Clemens with performance-enhancing drugs, I told the truth.

I told the truth about steroids and human growth hormone. I injected those drugs into the body of Roger Clemens at his direction.

Unfortunately, Roger has denied this and has led a full-court attack on my credibility. And let me be clear: Despite Roger Clemens' statements to the contrary, I never injected Roger Clemens, or anyone else, with lidocaine or B-12.

I have no reason to lie and every reason not to. If I do lie, I will be prosecuted.

I was never promised any special treatment or consideration for fingering star players. I was never coerced to provide information against anyone. All that I was ever told to was to tell the truth to the best of my ability. And that is what I have done.

RAY SUAREZ: McNamee added that, after speaking to the Mitchell investigation, he came to the conclusion he had injected the players even more often than he originally said. Clemens also had to contend with new allegations from his close friend and former teammate, Andy Pettitte. The Yankee lefty told congressional investigators last week Clemens had admitted using human growth hormone, or HGH, on more than one occasion.

Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings pressed the pitcher.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), Maryland: Now, Mr. Clemens, I'm reminding you that you are under oath. Mr. Clemens, do you think Mr. Pettitte was lying when he told the committee that you admitted using human growth hormones?

ROGER CLEMENS: Mr. Congressman, Andy Pettitte is my friend. He was my friend before this; he will be my friend after this. And, again, I think Andy has misheard.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS: I'm sorry. I didn't hear you.

ROGER CLEMENS: I believe Andy has misheard, Mr. Congressman, on his comments about myself using HGH, which never happened.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS: And let me read another excerpt from the deposition, and this was a question to Mr. Pettitte: "You recollect a conversation with Mr. Clemens. Your recollection is that he said he was taking human growth hormone?" Answer, "Yes."

"And you have no doubt about that recollection?" "I mean, no, he told me that."

Now, Mr. Clemens, you know Mr. Pettitte well. You just, again, described your relationship. You described him as a close friend in your deposition.

Would he tell the Congress that one of his close friends was taking an illegal performance-enhancing drug if there were any doubt in his mind about the truth of what he was saying?

ROGER CLEMENS: Mr. Congressman, once again, I believe in my -- I'm sorry?

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS: I just want you to just go ahead and answer that. Do you think he would do that?

ROGER CLEMENS: I think he misremembers.


McNamee's credibility questioned

RAY SUAREZ: But McNamee also got tough questions from the panel. The trainer recently gave investigators what he claims is physical evidence of Clemens drug use, syringes and gauze pads that McNamee says contain Clemens' DNA.

McNamee also says Clemens attended a party at the home of former major leaguer and avowed steroid user Jose Canseco, where Clemens asked for the drugs. Clemens and Canseco have both denied McNamee's charges.

Indiana Republican Dan Burton.

REP. DAN BURTON (R), Indiana: I want to make sure I've got this straight. Your friend, Roger Clemens, you allegedly gave him these shots. You kept the pads and the needles for five years and went on and kept working for him because he was your employer.

And then you said you felt bad, you felt bad about proposing and giving these to the Mitchell committee when you first started talking to them?


REP. DAN BURTON: Gee-whiz. Are you kidding me?


REP. DAN BURTON: My goodness. And as I understand it from my colleague here, you told the New York Times that you had no direct proof at the beginning of this investigation, right?


REP. DAN BURTON: You told The New York Times that you had no direct evidence, like the gauze and needles at the beginning of all this?

BRIAN MCNAMEE: I told the -- I didn't talk to The New York Times. I told the federal investigators and the Mitchell people that I had no direct evidence...

REP. DAN BURTON: On Jan. 5, 2008? What's that? So you didn't tell the truth, then, initially to them?


REP. DAN BURTON: You lied.


REP. DAN BURTON: There are several things here that really bother me. First of all, you lied about him being at Canseco's. Canseco said he wasn't there in a sworn affidavit. On the radio and on television, they said he wasn't there. And yet you still maintain that he did come there.

And now you admit you lied about this. Are you lying about anything else? I mean, why don't you tell us?

BRIAN MCNAMEE: No, sir, and I'm not lying about Jose Canseco's house.

REP. DAN BURTON: So you just lie when it's convenient for you?


REP. DAN BURTON: This is really disgusting. You're here as a sworn witness. You're here to tell the truth. You're here under oath.

And yet we have lie, after lie, after lie, after lie, where you've told this committee and the people of this country that Roger Clemens did things that -- I don't know what to believe. I know one thing I don't believe, and that's you.

'An appearance of impropriety'

RAY SUAREZ: The Canseco party, and whether Clemens was there, returned in a dramatic way. McNamee testified Clemens' former nanny was also at the party. Chairman Waxman said the committee asked Clemens' attorneys for the nanny's contact information.

Today, Waxman questioned Clemens about the pitcher's decision to contact the woman himself. Clemens' lawyers stood up and responded heatedly.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: Did you think it was a good idea to invite her to your home after you hadn't seen her for seven years?

ROGER CLEMENS: I was told on Friday night to see if we could locate the nanny. Obviously, that's very nice. I don't think that she needs any publicity. But I was told on Friday night that you guys may want to talk to her. And so...

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: And you felt you should talk to her first? Well, I don't know if there's anything improper in this.

ROGER CLEMENS: Mr. Chairman, I hadn't talked to her in years, and I did everything I could to locate her, if you guys have any questions for her, and I did tell her to answer truthfully. Again, I'm not sure.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: Well, I don't know if there's anything improper in this, but I do know it sure raises an appearance of impropriety.

LANNY BREUER, Clemens' attorney: Mr. Chairman, with all due respect, this is nothing but innuendo. Your statement is -- and I have the highest respect for the chairman -- is calculated to do nothing but to have innuendo against this man. We have cooperated with you fully...

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: I understand your...the gentleman, as I indicated, the rules do not allow the lawyers to speak, but I did not cut you off. This action means there's always going be a question whether you tried to influence her testimony.

RAY SUAREZ: After a short recess, Clemens said Senator Mitchell and his investigators made no attempt to contact him throughout the league-ordered probe.

ROGER CLEMENS: Sir, I was never told by my baseball agent or the Players Association that Mr. Mitchell requested to see me. Those letters or phone calls never came to me. But once again, if I knew the lies this man were telling about, I'd have been down there to see him in a heartbeat.

RAY SUAREZ: But attorney Charlie Scheeler, who worked with Mitchell on the report and sat between Clemens and McNamee, said the Major League Baseball Players Association, the league's powerful union, acted as a gatekeeper for its members and sent a letter about Clemens' availability.

CHARLES SCHEELER, Attorney: We received a letter back on Aug. 8, 2007, from the Players Association in which they stated, "The following players have asked us to inform you that they respectfully decline your request for an interview at this time, Roger Clemens."

Partisan split evident in hearing

RAY SUAREZ: A partisan undercurrent ran through much of the hearing. Waxman and other Democrats were tougher on Clemens. Republicans repeatedly denounced Chairman Waxman's focus on baseball in lieu of other priorities. And Republican members tended to interrogate McNamee more harshly than Clemens.

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), Connecticut: So now we have a player here, one player. There were 89 players. One player is here. And he's here because everyone in this audience knows he is the icon in baseball. He's what brings all of these cameras and all those people out there.

In my judgment, we're lining up like we're going to a Roman circus seeing the gladiators fight it out. And so my view of this hearing is this isn't where it's at. It's where it's at.

I mean, for you, Mr. Clemens, it's where it's at because it's your life. For you, Mr. McNamee, I believe some of what you say, but, you know, it depends when. I view you as a police officer who is a drug dealer.

BRIAN MCNAMEE: I understand your concerns. But as far as your comment about a drug dealer, I only did what players asked. And it was wrong.

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS: Tell me how it's legal to do illegal things and you not call it what you were. You were dealing in drugs, weren't you?

BRIAN MCNAMEE: I'm dealing in them, yes.

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS: Were they legal drugs?

BRIAN MCNAMEE: No, they weren't.


REP. HENRY WAXMAN: Would the gentleman yield? I certainly think that you would agree that the players had asked him for drugs were also dealing with an illegal substance.

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS: I would. And reclaiming my time, that's a good point. If you had 89 players here, I'd feel a lot better about this hearing.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: That concludes our hearing today, and we stand adjourned. Thank you.

RAY SUAREZ: After the hearing, both Chairman Waxman and ranking member Tom Davis said they were not sure who was telling the truth, but that, in either case, it was unclear whether charges of perjury could be brought.