The plot thickens as hearing nears
As a star-studded, nationally televised show on the eve of spring training, Wednesday’s steroid hearing by a House committee is surely not the kind of curtain-raiser on the 2008 season that Major League Baseball officials would prefer.
The hearing promised fireworks from the day it was scheduled last month, when the committee invited Roger Clemens to appear and answer questions under oath about allegations from his former personal trainer, Brian McNamee, that he had received steroid and human growth hormone injections.
And that was before Clemens’ wife became part of the conversation.
McNamee told House investigators during a deposition that he injected Debbie Clemens, then 39, with human growth hormone to help her prepare for a bikini photo shoot for the 2003 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, the New York Daily News reported Friday, citing an anonymous Washington source.
“McNamee discussed his wife’s use before the committee,” the source told the Daily News. “She was trying to get in shape for the SI cover. He told them the story that Debbie took growth.”
The Daily News report could not immediately be confirmed. But it sparked a denunciation Friday from Rusty Hardin, an attorney for Clemens.
“Now there can be no doubt what kind of person we are dealing with,” Hardin said in a statement, referring to McNamee. “To say that Roger directed [injections for his wife] is a colossal lie.”
Debbie Clemens, who married Roger in 1984, is active in charity work in Texas. She was one of several athletes’ wives photographed for the 2003 swimsuit issue.
“Roger came to me one day and told me that we had been asked to do a photo shoot for Sports Illustrated,” she wrote on her website, according to the Daily News. “I had major anxiety! I was a 39-year-old mother of 4! Once I realized that this WAS going to be a reality, I decided I had to give it everything I had.”
The report came at the end of a dizzying week of depositions, meetings and news conferences in the Rayburn House Office Building, where McNamee testified Thursday for seven hours, while Clemens met and greeted some of the 41 members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee who will question the seven-time Cy Young Award winner under oath about his alleged doping. He continued to visit informally with representatives Friday.
Among other things, McNamee told committee lawyers about evidence he had saved for more than seven years -- vials, needles, gauze pads and a crumpled beer can to store them in -- that he said would incriminate Clemens, his former close friend and training client. Clemens’ attorneys again denied he had ever used drugs and called McNamee’s actions “psycho.”
“It will be a cross between a zoo and a circus,” said Larry Sabato, director of University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “It will be quite a show. You hold a hearing on an energy program, and you’re lucky if you get two reporters. You have something like this, and you’ve got to find an auditorium.”
Also testifying will be Clemens’ close friend and star pitcher Andy Pettitte, who has already provided credibility to McNamee by admitting he did take injections of human growth hormone, as McNamee told former Sen. George Mitchell in his investigation into baseball doping. Clemens’ former teammate Chuck Knoblauch is also scheduled to testify.
“Clemens is a mythical figure,” Sabato said. “Let’s be honest: People always like to see the greats fall.”
The fifth attendee will be a man identified by some as the most involved baseball doping figure.
Kirk Radomski, a former New York Mets clubhouse attendant, pleaded guilty last year to supplying McNamee and others with steroids and human growth hormone.
Radomski had his day in federal court Friday in San Francisco, when he was sentenced to five years’ probation and an $18,575 fine after cooperating with federal authorities and baseball investigators putting together the Mitchell Report. His deposition to Congress is set for Monday.
Radomski pleaded guilty in April 2007 to selling steroids, human growth hormone, amphetamines and other drugs to “dozens of current and former MLB players,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in San Francisco.
Radomski had deposited the proceeds of his drug sales into his personal bank account, and relied on the money to finance his Long Island, N.Y., home, which served as his “base of operation, warehouse, and communication center for his anabolic steroid-dealing business,” federal prosecutors said.
That home was raided by federal agents in December 2005, and Radomski ultimately admitted to selling drugs to baseball players from 1995 until the raid. As part of his plea bargain, he promised to cooperate with Mitchell’s investigators.
Radomski’s cooperation was a boon to the Mitchell investigation. In three personal meetings and a telephone conversation, he revealed contacts he had not only with McNamee but several other players, including former Dodgers catcher Paul Lo Duca. Canceled checks from players to Radomski and even a personal note from Lo Duca on Dodgers stationery were part of Mitchell’s report.
McNamee’s allegations against Clemens and Pettitte then surfaced in the Mitchell Report, a 400-plus page account of performance-enhancing drug use in baseball that leaders of the game commissioned. McNamee was required to tell investigators what he knew as part of his own plea agreement on steroids-dealing charges.
Before Friday’s sentencing, Radomski’s attorney, John F. Reilly, asked U.S. District Judge Susan Ilston for the “leniency” of probation, noting Radomski’s role in exposing baseball’s drug-tainted players.
The attorney also noted Radomski, 38, had no previous criminal history, and is working six days a week, 10 hours a day to support his car detailing business in St. James, N.Y.
Radomski is now headed to the same hearing room where congressmen held the memorable March 17, 2005, steroid inquiry starring a somber Mark McGwire and an agitated Rafael Palmeiro.
McGwire repeatedly said “I’m not here to discuss the past” when asked about his own alleged doping, prompting a rebuke from Rep. Mark E. Souder (R-Ind.), who told him, “As far as this being about the past, that’s what we do. This is an oversight committee.”