Thursday, May 23, 2013
The trial of baseball legend Roger Clemens is over. The facts have been aired and the jury has found him not guilty on all counts.
There will, however, be no convincing sportswriters of Clemens's innocence. Angry at being duped by star players, these self-appointed protectors of America's pastime turned their fury on Clemens when he refused to apologize for a sin he denied committing. Congress got swept up in the outrage, forcing Clemens to testify before the cameras and referring him to the Justice Department for indictment when he did not say what lawmakers wanted to hear.
I advised Clemens and his legal team before, during and after the congressional hearing that was the basis of his prosecution. Here is what I saw:
The most remarkable thing about Clemens is his physique. He is huge -- his neck, thighs, arms. He is a barrel-chested man. Athletes who use steroids seem to shrink after they stop using; Clemens is as big as ever.
Clemens works out obsessively. Every day, before or after trips to Capitol Hill or court, Clemens would run and go to the gym. He gave fitness tips to the legal team. He even admitted to occasionally watching his wife's exercise videos. He talked about how, as a young pitcher, he figured out that Nolan Ryan got his power from his legs and became determined to train his way to an even faster fastball.
Behind closed doors, Clemens never wavered in asserting his innocence.
I have spent my career around politicians and people in trouble, and you can almost always tell when you're not getting the whole story. We in Washington know how answers are carefully crafted to avoid embarrassing truths. Not with Clemens. Never once did Clemens try to shade the facts or exhibit uncertainty. During hearing preparation in a room full of attorneys, when asked if he would take a lie-detector test, Clemens did not hesitate before answering yes.
Clemens felt so strongly about his innocence that he insisted on writing his own opening statement for the hearing to try to clear his name -- never a good idea for an inexperienced witness under fire on Capitol Hill.
Myriad inaccuracies about the case have been reported. For one, Clemens never insisted on testifying before Congress. He was threatened with a subpoena and had to testify or risk being smeared by a one-sided presentation.
Former teammate Andy Pettitte was always uncertain about the content of his conversations with Clemens about human growth hormone. The transcripts of Pettitte's interview with congressional investigators make clear that Pettitte signed a more definitive affidavit only as a last-ditch effort to avoid testifying.
And the credibility of the accuser, Brian McNamee, was under-explored by the media and underinvestigated by the committee.
In court, Pettitte acknowledged that there was a 50-50 chance he misinterpreted Clemens; McNamee acknowledged intentionally lying and that his version of events evolved; McNamee's wife contradicted key elements of her husband's testimony; and the supposedly damning "medical waste," materials with possible DNA, was jumbled in a beer can and deemed the worst physical evidence a DNA expert said he had seen in 30 years of trials.
Clemens also had stellar pitching seasons beyond the years that McNamee alleges Clemens used steroids, and Clemens acknowledged receiving B-12 shots, which are perfectly appropriate and which other ballplayers verified were available in clubhouses.
Clemens never tested positive for steroids, and nothing in his medical records indicates steroid use. His massage therapists testified under oath that they witnessed no physical signs of steroid use. The woman who cleaned his apartment testified that she never saw evidence of vials, needles or steroids.
(Continued on page 2)