Undergoing hours of pointed questioning by a House committee, Roger Clemens repeatedly proclaimed Wednesday that he had never used steroids or human growth hormone -- accusations leveled against the legendary pitcher under oath by his former personal trainer, who sat a few feet away and faced intense scrutiny about his own credibility.
The somber, occasionally tense hearing was called after Clemens vehemently denied the accusations made by Brian McNamee in the Mitchell Report, a sweeping examination of the steroid problem that has come to dominate baseball over the last decade.
Clemens was asked why his longtime friend, teammate and training partner, Andy Pettitte, would say under oath that Clemens had told him he had used HGH if he never did. He was asked about his wife’s admission that she had received an HGH injection from McNamee. And he was asked about his denial that he had attended a party at Jose Canseco’s home after a surprise statement from his former nanny that placed him at the Miami residence around the time of the gathering.
McNamee, for his part, faced questions about lying to police in an unrelated incident in 2001, and for lying to federal authorities about players’ steroid use and then withholding evidence from them even after he agreed to tell the truth.
But after 4 1/2 hours of curiously partisan questioning, with Democrats primarily taking aim at Clemens and Republicans generally attacking McNamee, the he-said, he-said stories remained largely unresolved, and it was unclear whether either man might ultimately face perjury charges.
“Someone is lying in spectacular fashion,” said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III of Virginia, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) opened by saying Clemens had made statements in his deposition that “we know are untrue.” At another point, Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) said to McNamee: “I don’t know what to believe. I know one thing I don’t believe, and that’s you.”
Clemens, 45, nervously licked his lips while fielding questions, some of which cut to the heart of his success: Had he cheated to gain an edge over the last 10 years, resurrecting a waning career with illicit drug use?
If Hall of Fame voters believe the answer to that question is yes, Clemens’ chances to gain admission into baseball’s shrine would be gravely jeopardized. Fabled slugger Mark McGwire’s chances of making the Hall of Fame were derailed after he repeatedly told the same committee three years ago that “I’m not here to talk about the past.”
“I’m not saying Sen. Mitchell’s report is entirely wrong. I am saying Brian McNamee’s statements about me are wrong,” Clemens said. “Let me be clear: I have never taken steroids or HGH.”
It is possible that Wednesday’s hearing could be the end of the matter. The committee could also refer the matter to the Justice Department for a perjury investigation, or the department could initiate an investigation on its own.
Jeff Novitzky, the lead federal steroids investigator whose work led to perjury probes against all-time home-run leader Barry Bonds and former track star Marion Jones, sat in the second row at the hearing.
Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd would not comment on the hearing or a possible investigation.
Waxman and Davis each said he would consult the other before deciding whether to refer the case, although another committee member, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), said Waxman and Davis had indicated “they didn’t see any referral coming.”
Added Cummings: “We’re closing the book. If anyone else like the Justice Department wants to do something, that’s their business.”
Rusty Hardin, an attorney for Clemens, said his client “certainly did not commit perjury. He told the truth.”
Richard Emery, one of the attorneys for McNamee, said he expected the Justice Department to convene a grand jury to consider a perjury case against Clemens.
Waxman said he was surprised that the questioning splintered largely along partisan lines in a hearing advertised as the committee’s final review of the Mitchell Report, but neither he nor Davis offered any explanation.
“The end result is that all the questions got asked,” Davis said.
Those questions were prompted by McNamee’s claims in the Mitchell Report -- amid a warning from government agents that he could face federal charges if he did not tell the truth. McNamee, 40, told former Sen. George J. Mitchell that he had injected Clemens with steroids and HGH, and Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch, another former Clemens teammate, with HGH.
Clemens publicly denied McNamee’s claims. After Pettitte publicly confirmed McNamee had injected him, Clemens said he had no idea Pettitte had used HGH and never had discussed it with him.
In depositions before the hearing, Pettitte and Knoblauch corroborated McNamee’s statements about themselves. Pettitte also said he took HGH in 2004.
In a subsequent affidavit, Pettitte said Clemens “told me he had taken HGH” in a conversation in 1999 or 2000.
“I think he misremembers the conversation,” Clemens said.
However, Pettitte also said that in 2005, he asked Clemens what he would say if reporters asked whether he had used performance-enhancing substances, given their previous conversation. Pettitte said Clemens told him he must have misunderstood that conversation since his wife, Debbie, had used HGH.
Yet, as Waxman and Cummings noted, Clemens and McNamee agreed that McNamee had injected Debbie Clemens with HGH in 2003. At the time of that previous conversation, then, Debbie Clemens had not used HGH.
After Clemens testified that Pettitte “is a very honest fellow,” Cummings asked Clemens what motive Pettitte might have to “fabricate a story about you, his friend?”
Said Clemens: “Andy would have no reason to.”
Later in the hearing, Cummings said that, faced with concerns about the credibility of Clemens and McNamee, he would side with Pettitte.
“To have Clemens verify the guy as very honest, I can’t do much better than that,” Cummings said afterward.
Said Waxman: “I think McNamee has a lot of credibility. . . . It’s Clemens’ word not just against McNamee’s, but against Pettitte’s.”
But Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) said after the hearing that he did not put much stock into Pettitte’s conversations with Clemens. “It’s just a whole lot of locker-room talk,” he said. “It’s not actual evidence.”
McNamee’s credibility took several hits during the hearing, perhaps most under questioning about a party he said Clemens had attended at Canseco’s Miami home in 1998, when Clemens and Canseco played for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Davis said committee investigators asked Canseco, his ex-wife, two Toronto trainers, one teammate and the team’s traveling secretary about the claim. None could recall seeing Clemens there, Davis said.
Waxman later produced testimony from Clemens’ nanny, saying he had been at Canseco’s house during that weekend, if not necessarily at the party itself. Waxman criticized Clemens’ lawyers for speaking with the nanny before committee investigators did, saying the action “raised the question of whether you tried to influence her testimony,” which prompted outbursts from Hardin and another Clemens attorney, Lanny Breuer.
“This is nothing but innuendo,” Breuer said.
The committee obtained medical records from the Blue Jays showing that Clemens had an abscess on his right buttocks in July 1998, about the time McNamee claimed he injected Clemens with steroids. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.) said the committee solicited an independent review of the MRI exam results, with the report claiming the wound was “more compatible” with a steroid injection than a strained muscle or a vitamin B-12 injection.
Davis said the Blue Jays’ orthopedist, who had treated Clemens, “didn’t even see an abscess.”
Clemens said McNamee injected him with B-12 and the painkiller lidocaine; McNamee said he never had injected anyone with either substance.
McNamee said he saved -- and has turned over to federal agents -- syringes, gauze and other evidence associated with Clemens’ injections. He also testified Wednesday that he had saved similar evidence with regard to Knoblauch.
McNamee said he preserved the Clemens items because “while I liked and admired Roger Clemens, I don’t think that I ever really trusted him.”
When Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) noted that McNamee had provided illegal drugs to players, McNamee objected to Shays’ characterizing him as “a drug dealer.”
Said McNamee: “That’s your opinion.”
Said Shays: “No, it’s not my opinion. . . . 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?”
Said McNamee: “Dealing in them, yes.”
In his prepared opening statement, Clemens said he trained hard with McNamee and trusted in him.
“I had no idea that this man would exploit the trust I gave him,” Clemens said, “to try to save his own skin by making up lies that have devastated me and my family.”
As the hearing wore on, Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) asked Clemens: “Can I look at my two children with a straight face and tell them that you, Roger Clemens, have always played the game with honesty and integrity?”
Said Clemens: “Yes sir. . . . You can tell your boys that I did it the right way and I worked my butt off to do it.”
Times staff writers Ben DuBose and Richard B. Schmitt contributed to this report.
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EXCERPTS FROM STEROID HEARING
A lot of questions and some heated opinions
Here are excerpts from Wednesday’s hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is examining steroid use in baseball. The witnesses were veteran pitcher Roger Clemens, his former personal trainer Brian McNamee and Charlie Scheeler, who helped compile baseball’s Mitchell Report. Scheeler sat between Clemens and McNamee.
Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills): “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.”
Waxman: “It’s clear from our deposition with Mr. McNamee that he didn’t tell federal prosecutors everything he knew. . . . Mr. McNamee says he did not tell the full truth because . . . ‘I was trying not to hurt the guy. . . .’ That’s no excuse. It’s a serious matter that Mr. McNamee did not tell the investigators the full truth. We need to keep this in mind in evaluating his credibility today.”
Waxman: “During [Clemens’] deposition, he made statements we know are untrue. And he made them with the same earnestness that many of the committee members observed in person when he visited your offices. In other areas, his statements are contradicted by other credible witnesses or simply implausible.”
The key witnesses
Clemens: “Let me be clear: I have never taken steroids or HGH.”
McNamee: “During the time that I worked with Roger Clemens, I injected him on numerous occasions with steroids and human growth hormone. I also injected Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch with HGH. . . . 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.”
Clemens on Pettitte
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.): “Mr. Clemens, do you think Mr. Pettitte was lying when he told the committee that you admitted using human growth hormones?”
Clemens: “Mr. Congressman, Andy Pettitte is my friend. He will be my -- he was my friend before this. He will be my friend after this. And, again, I think Andy has misheard.”
Questions for McNamee
Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.): “You’ve alleged Mr. Clemens’ steroid use to at least five groups of people: your lawyers; federal agents; Sen. Mitchell and his staff; private investigators for Mr. Clemens; and then our staff during depositions. Why has the number continued to change if we’re coming clean each time?”
McNamee: “I downplayed at the beginning where I didn’t want to hurt the players, even though I told the truth about their injections and their use. And then . . . I started to think more about it. Even though I can’t be accurate, you know, these are just ballpark numbers.”
Davis: “I mean, the ballpark for Knoblauch went from seven to nine times to 50 times.”
Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.): “First of all, you lied about him being at Canseco’s. Canseco said he wasn’t there in a sworn affidavit. . . . And now, you admit you lied about [not having kept needles and gauze as possible evidence]. Are you lying about anything else? I mean, why don’t you tell us?”
McNamee: “No, sir. And I’m not lying about Jose Canseco’s house.”
Burton: “So you just -- you just lie when it’s convenient for you.”
McNamee: “No, sir.”
Burton: “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.”
The middle man
Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski (D-Pa.): “In an attempt not to have Mr. Scheeler appear to be a potted plant, I’m going to talk with you.”
On McNamee’s doctorate
Davis questions McNamee about his doctorate from Columbus University in Metairie, La.
Davis: “OK. So, did you -- you held yourself out as a doctor, then, to athletes.”
Davis: “Ph.D. Can you tell us a little bit about the university? Does it have a campus?”
McNamee: “As I found out later, no, it doesn’t.”
Davis: “Is this what you call a diploma mill, to some extent?”
McNamee: “As I found out later on, yes, it is.”
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), after Clemens explained why he trusted McNamee’s professional training: “And following up on that, it seems like Ph.D. must stand for pile it higher and deeper.”
Defining ‘is’ and ‘It is what it is’
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.): “When [Clemens] asked you to tell the truth, why didn’t you just, in plain English, so everybody could have understood you, that . . .”
McNamee: “If I had known he was going to air it on national TV, I would have said, ‘I did tell the truth.’ But as far as him taping a conversation and releasing personal information on my son, I wouldn’t have said that if I knew it was going to be aired on national TV. And I would have said, ‘I did tell the truth.’ But it is what it is.
Westmoreland: “That depends on . . . what ‘is’ means, I guess.”
Davis: “Why didn’t you just tell Mr. Clemens during the course of that conversation, ‘Roger, I did tell the truth, I had to tell the truth, I’m not trying to hurt anybody?’ ”
McNamee: “But if you listen to it and you know my jargon, I did say that: ‘It is what it is.’ ”
Davis: “How in your jargon did you say that?”
McNamee: “I said, ‘It is what it is,’ meaning that I did tell the truth.”
Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.): “I asked a New Yorker on the floor, and he said that is not only a Mr. McNamee expression [but] a New York expression for ‘I told the truth.’ Would it be appropriate in the record to have some discussion of that phrase?”
Waxman: “Well, we’ll hold the record open if [you] want to submit some documentation. And whatever it is, it is, we’ll put in the record.”
Debbie Clemens tries HGH
Clemens, reading a statement from his wife: “I’m not sure of the dates, but I read a news article about the benefits of growth hormone. . . . McNamee . . . said it was not illegal and used for youthfulness. The next mid-morning he said he had some and would be able to give me a test shot. He gave me one shot. . . .
“I was very comfortable in trying it, but it was a harmless act on my part. Also, since McNamee had a Ph.D., he was a trusted, good trainer. Roger said let’s back off this, we need to know more about it.”
A closing spat
Waxman in his final statement: “Chuck Knoblauch and Andy Pettitte confirmed what Brian McNamee told Sen. Mitchell. We learned of conversations that Andy Pettitte believed he had with Roger Clemens about HGH. And even though Mr. Clemens says his relationship with Mr. Pettitte was so close that they would know and share information with each other, evidently Mr. Pettitte didn’t believe what Mr. Clemens said in that 2005 conversation.”
Clemens, interjecting: “It doesn’t mean he was not mistaken, sir.”
Waxman: “Excuse me, but this is not your time to argue with me.”
Transcript provided by CQ Transcripts Wire.