WASHINGTON -- Roger Clemens' denial of steroid use warrants further investigation, Congress said Wednesday in asking the Justice Department to determine whether the star pitcher lied under oath in testimony to a House committee.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Henry Waxman and ranking Republican Tom Davis sent a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, urging more scrutiny of Clemens' statements in a Feb. 5 sworn deposition and at a Feb. 13 public hearing where he said he "never used anabolic steroids or human growth hormone."
"That testimony is directly contradicted by the sworn testimony of Brian McNamee, who testified that he personally injected Mr. Clemens with anabolic steroids and human growth hormone," the congressmen wrote.
"Mr. Clemens's testimony is also contradicted by the sworn deposition testimony and affidavit submitted to the committee by Andrew Pettitte, a former teammate of Mr. Clemens, whose testimony and affidavit reported that Mr. Clemens had admitted to him in 1999 or 2000 that he had taken human growth hormone," the letter said.
Clemens declined to comment Wednesday when approached by reporters at the Houston Astros' spring training camp in Kissimmee, Fla.
"Now we are done with the circus of public opinion, and we are moving to the courtroom," Clemens' lead lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "Thankfully, we are now about to enter an arena where there are rules and people can be held properly accountable for outrageous statements."
McNamee, Clemens' former personal trainer, told federal prosecutors, baseball investigator George Mitchell and Congress that he injected the seven-time Cy Young Award winner at least 16 times with human growth hormone and steroids from 1998 to 2001. Clemens repeatedly and vigorously denied the allegations.
Congress turned its attention to the matter because Clemens' denials questioned the legitimacy of the Mitchell Report, prepared by the former Senate majority leader and released in December.
After both men stuck to their stories under oath, first separately in closed-door depositions and then while sitting a few feet from each other at this month's hearing, it was expected that one or the other -- or perhaps both -- would be referred to the Justice Department for a criminal inquiry.
Instead, only Clemens faces additional scrutiny, after the committee decided not to refer McNamee.
"Roger has known since December that if he publicly took the position he has taken, this would be the result. The good news is we are now going to be on a level playing field," Hardin told the AP. "These matters are now going to be decided in court and by the ultimate lie detector -- a jury. I am comfortable that when a jury hears this case ... they will conclude that Roger did not use steroids or growth hormone and he is telling the truth and that McNamee's allegations are totally false."
Clemens' prominent place in the Mitchell Report tainted the legacy of a man who ranks eighth in major league history with 354 wins. Now his legal fate could rest with the Justice Department, which must decide whether to follow the recommendation and open a probe.
"It's what we expected, but Brian is not joyful about this. No one is celebrating," said McNamee's lead lawyer, Earl Ward. "We think it's a sad and unfortunate situation that one of baseball's greatest pitchers now has the potential of being a defendant in a criminal case."
The Feb. 13 hearing generally divided along party lines, with Democrats giving Clemens a rougher time, and Republicans reserving their toughest questions for McNamee.
"Given the letter that the committee has sent out, the Republicans who attacked him owe him an apology because of the manner in which they went after him, calling him a 'drug dealer,' a `liar," Ward said. "The decision to send out a referral letter says quite clearly that Brian McNamee told the truth."
Waxman and Davis jointly appealed to the Justice Department.
"For the good of the investigation and integrity of the committee, we've asked the Department of Justice to get to the bottom of this," Davis said.
Davis was the chairman of the committee when it held its 2005 hearing with Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro.
"We are not in a position to reach a definitive judgment as to whether Mr. Clemens lied to the committee," Waxman and Davis wrote to Mukasey. "Our only conclusion is that significant questions have been raised about Mr. Clemens's truthfulness and that further investigation by the Department of Justice is warranted. We ask that you initiate such an investigation."
Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the department "is reviewing the letter and has no further comment at this time."
"Roger knew all along that if he told what he knew to be the truth, he would be getting a criminal referral, yet he still chose to testify both by deposition under oath and in public under oath," Hardin said. "That should tell you something about how deeply he believes in what he is saying."
Just last month, Waxman and Davis asked for an investigation into whether 2002 American League MVP Miguel Tejada lied when he told committee investigators in 2005 that he never took performance enhancers and had no knowledge of other players using or talking about steroids. The FBI did open a preliminary inquiry into that case.
The committee pointed to evidence in the Mitchell Report that it said contradicted statements given by Tejada, now with the Astros.
Clemens was at the Astros' camp Wednesday, pitching in an indoor batting cage, when the committee announced its decision. Clemens emerged to sign autographs and ignored several questions from reporters about what happened in Washington before he ducked into the minor league clubhouse.
Asked whether his client would eventually comment on Wednesday's news, Hardin said: "Roger's trying to concentrate on baseball and spring training. He's going to let the courtroom decide all of this. And he's done talking."
Depending on how all this shakes out, some lucky warden might have one helluva prison baseball team.
Barry Bonds at DH. Miguel Tejada at shortstop. Roger Clemens on the mound. Knowing Bonds, he'd insist on solitary confinement and never warm up with the rest of the cons, but what else is new?
Anyway, this is what happens when the feds think you've lied to them. They go Terminator on you and don't stop until you're getting deloused in a holding cell.
Bonds has been charged with four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice. His defense team wants the case dismissed because there was a typo in the government's recent legal filing. If that doesn't work, Bonds' lawyers will accuse the feds of ampersand laundering.
Tejada is the subject of a preliminary federal inquiry into allegations that he lied to a congressional committee. The Houston Astros, who collect these guys like baseball cards, immediately announced plans for a "Plea Bargain Night" promotion.
Clemens, who is used to pinstripes, is next on the Justice Department's to-do list. On Wednesday, Congress asked the agency to investigate whether Clemens "committed perjury and made knowingly false statements."
Clemens has only himself to blame. In less than three months, Clemens has y'all-ed his way into more corners than a folded flag.
Remember a movie last year called "Reservation Road"? The poster tagline read: "To find the truth, you have to find who's hiding it."
Clemens hid the truth. He didn't hide it very well, which is why IRS special agent Jeff Novitzky of BALCO fame is now Clemens' worst nightmare. Let the lip licking begin.
Novitzky is a grinder who has already put away Olympian Marion Jones and former NFL defensive player of the year Dana Stubblefield. So the idea that Clemens will "eat his lunch," as Team Clemens attorney Rusty Hardin so ham-handedly put it, is beyond hilarious. Clemens got his clock cleaned by little, gavel-waving Rep. Henry Waxman of California. Just wait until Novitzky starts dumpster diving into his life.
Clemens hasn't given the feds much of a choice. Every time there's smoke, Clemens seems to be standing there with a blowtorch. And Hardin has been brilliant in his role as the hot-air machine who says the absolute wrong thing at the absolute wrong time. (Memo to Rusty: You can pretty much forget about that Texas Bar Journal cover shoot.)
The truth hiding began in early January. Clemens told CBS' Mike Wallace that if he had known Brian McNamee had accused him of performance-enhancing drug use, he would have met with Mitchell report reps "in a heartbeat."
Not true. Clemens' agents knew about McNamee's allegations eight days before the report's Dec. 13 release. Clemens testified he knew about the claims by at least Dec. 9. That's four full days of heartbeats during which he could have contacted former Sen. George Mitchell.
When Wallace suggested it was impossible for a middle-aged pitcher to have Clemens' kind of success, Clemens said, "Not impossible. You do it with hard work. Ask any of my teammates."
So the feds did. They asked close friend, teammate and workout partner Andy Pettitte. Pettitte distinctly recalled a 1999 or 2000 conversation where Clemens said he used human growth hormone.
"I think he misremembers," Clemens told a congressional committee on Feb. 13.
Really? He just sort of "misremembers" his close buddy telling him he took HGH? According to Pettitte, Clemens later said he was referring to his wife's HGH use.
Not true. Debbie Clemens wasn't injected with HGH by McNamee until 2003, at least three years after the initial Pettitte-Rocket conversation.
Congressional investigators asked Clemens several times during his deposition if he had ever discussed HGH or steroids with McNamee. Each time Clemens said no.
Not true. Clemens later testified in the congressional hearing that he and McNamee had a heated exchange after Debbie Clemens suffered an adverse reaction to an HGH injection.
During Clemens' Feb. 5 deposition, Team Clemens lawyers Hardin and Lanny Breuer blasted the Mitchell report for its supposedly sloppy investigative work. They were especially upset about McNamee's claim that Clemens attended a June 1998 party at then-teammate Jose Canseco's house. The party was the alleged birthplace of Clemens' involvement with PEDs.
"We will be able to establish categorically, without question, that our client wasn't there," said Breuer that day.
Clemens chimed in too. "And second of all, I never was at the party."
"You weren't at this party?" said a congressional attorney.
"That's correct," said Clemens.
Categorically and without question, huh? Then what about the alleged photo of Clemens and a Canseco neighbor posing together at the party? What about the Clemens nanny telling congressional investigators that Clemens was at Canseco's house that day?
Clemens, with a considerable assist from committee member Rep. Tom Davis, tried to undermine the former nanny's credibility by suggesting she could barely put a noun and verb together.
"And her English, as I understand it, is not that good," said the helpful Davis.
"It is not that good," confirmed Clemens.
Not true. A spokesperson for a congressional attorney who took part in a recent telephone interview with the nanny, told The New York Times that she spoke with an accent, but was otherwise completely literate.
In his opening statement at the congressional hearing, Clemens said, "I have tried to model my baseball career, and indeed my entire life, on the premise that 'your body is your temple.'"
Not true. By Clemens' own admission, the temple has ingested painkilling Vioxx pills "like they were Skittles," (by the way, Clemens said he had no idea who prescribed them) and been injected with assorted painkilling shots. And those injections were administered by everyone but a stadium hot dog vendor.
During his deposition, Clemens scoffed at McNamee's impact on his legendary workout sessions and suggested the personal trainer was a clubhouse mole.
If true, then why did Clemens continue to employ him?
Clemens told Wallace, "If [McNamee is] putting that stuff up in my body … I should have a third ear out of my forehead."
Or an abscess from an improperly administered steroid injection by McNamee.
"I'm going to Congress and I'm going to tell the truth," said Clemens in his Jan. 7 news conference in Houston.
Pettitte and McNamee would disagree. So might the Justice Department, which now has the matter in its hands. But other than throw him into prison for perjury, is there anything the feds can do to Clemens that he hasn't already done to himself?
Pettitte, an admitted HGH user, said recently, "The truth will set you free."
But first you have to quit hiding it. That's a lesson apparently lost on Clemens.