Clemens denies HGH use before Congress; McNamee repeats accusations
Roger Clemens and his ex-trainer stick to different stories, amid withering questioning on Hill.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
On the baseball field one team wins, and another loses.
But in the House Oversight Committee's hearing Wednesday into allegations that pitcher Roger Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs, no winner immediately seemed apparent. Both Mr. Clemens and his accuser, former trainer Brian McNamee, suffered withering attacks on their credibility by committee members.
Legal experts noted that Mr. Clemens is putting himself in legal jeopardy by testifying before Congress, if he is less than completely truthful. But to not appear would be to receive a blow in the court of public opinion.
"Clemens may have decided that it is worse for him to lose [face], so he will stick to his story and attempt to save face no matter the consequences," says Jeffrey Standen, a sports law expert and professor at the Willamette University College of Law in Salem Ore., in an e-mail response to a reporter's inquiry.
Of course, it is possible that Clemens is telling the full truth. In his public testimony, he repeated his vehement denials that he had ever used either steroids or human growth hormone (HGH).
"I pride myself as [being] an example for kids, my own as well as others," Clemens told committee members.
In the early minutes of the panel hearing, however, lawmakers made clear that Clemens's former teammate on the New York Yankees and Houston Astros, fellow pitcher Andy Pettitte, had provided important corroborating evidence for his accuser.
In 1999 or 2000, Mr. Pettitte and Clemens had a conversation in which Clemens said that he had used HGH, according to a deposition Pettitte provided lawmakers.
Pettitte told his wife about that discussion at the time, he said. His wife, in her own deposition, backed up that story.
Then in 2005, Pettitte asked Clemens again about HGH, according to the deposition. At that time, Clemens denied to his teammate that he had used HGH – and said instead that his wife had had an HGH injection.
Pettitte's wife backed up his version of this conversation as well.
Clemens denied ever telling Pettitte that he had used any performance-enhancing substance.
"I think he misremembers our conversation," he told panel members.
Clemens did admit that his wife had a shot of HGH in an attempt to get in shape for a photo shoot of the couple. He did not find out about the incident until after the fact, he said.
Mr. McNamee, who administered the shot, said that Clemens had prior knowledge of it and approved the action.
After receiving the injection, Mrs. Clemens said she felt "wiggy" and was having circulation problems, said her husband. He called up McNamee and berated him for what had happened.
Under questioning, Clemens acknowledged that at no time did he call a health professional about his wife's reaction.
"I didn't take a lot of steps, Mr. Congressman," said Clemens, under harsh questioning by Rep. John Tierney (D) of Massachusetts.
McNamee had some uncomfortable moments as well. He was forced to admit that he has consistently revised the number of times he allegedly injected Clemens with steroids. He admitted as well that he had withheld physical evidence from investigators for former Sen. George Mitchell, who produced a recent report on drugs in baseball for commissioner Bud Selig.
The evidence includes syringes and pads allegedly used in injecting Clemens.
"I was afraid of hurting Roger Clemens," said McNamee.
McNamee indicated that he was trying to say as little as possible about Clemens's alleged actions – until Clemens played a tape of a phone call between them on national TV.
The inconclusive conversation, which occurred after McNamee's initial allegations became public, led among other things to public revelations of health problems of McNamee's son.
"That was despicable," said McNamee.
The level of detail discussed at the hearing was such that a considerable time was spent on the question of whether Clemens attended a party at the house of then-teammate Jose Canseco in June 1998.
According to McNamee, Clemens first raised the subject of steroids not long after McNamee saw Mr. Canseco and Clemens meeting during the party.
Clemens has said he wasn’t there, and that he had a time-stamped receipt from a golf course to prove that he was on the links instead. His account has been supported by Canseco, who filed an affidavit saying that the famous pitcher wasn’t there.
For lawmakers, McNamee recounted in vivid fashion his recollection of the party, including of a girl he later learned was the Clemens family nanny retrieving a toddler who was scooting toward the swimming pool.
Chairman Waxman revealed that panel investigators had spoken to the nanny, and that she said she had been at the party – and that Roger Clemens had indeed been there.
Whether any legislative action will result from the hearing remained unclear. Any prosecution of perjury on the part of either McNamee or Clemens would be carried out not by Congress itself, but by the Department of Justice.
Congress could at some point take further action in regards to laws governing regulation of performance-enhancing substances. In particular, committee members billed the day as a means of raising consciousness among both lawmakers and the public in the name of preventing abuse by young athletes imitating their heroes. "We are trying to disrupt and discredit the crass messages being aimed at our children," said Rep. Tom Davis (R) of Virginia.
As the hearing progressed, the questioning seemed to divide along partisan lines, with Democrats generally attacking Clemens’s credibility, and Republicans doing the same to McNamee.
By the end, tempers seemed to be fraying. When Waxman attempted to ask a question out of turn, there were cries from GOP members of “Mr. Chairman, regular order!”
In his closing remarks, Waxman then defended McNamee against some of the Republicans’ lines of questioning. “Mr. McNamee, you took some hits today,” said Waxman. “In my view some were fair and some were really unwarranted.”
Material from the Associated Press contributed to this report.