Roger Clemens' vehement public denials about using steroids drew congressional scrutiny. Now his denials under oath have the Justice Department's attention.
Clemens failed to convince a House committee he was telling the truth about performance-enhancing drugs, so two congressmen asked the Justice Department to investigate whether the star pitcher committed perjury.
It was possible a federal inquiry could open as soon as today.
In a letter sent Wednesday to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Henry Waxman and ranking Republican Tom Davis said Clemens' testimony that he "never used anabolic steroids or human growth hormone warrants further investigation."
The seven-time Cy Young Award winner gave a sworn deposition behind closed doors Feb. 5, then spoke alongside his accuser, former personal trainer Brian McNamee, at a public hearing Feb. 13.
"We are not in a position to reach a definitive judgment as to whether Mr. Clemens lied to the committee," Waxman and Davis wrote. "Our only conclusion is that significant questions have been raised about Mr. Clemens's truthfulness."
Clemens didn't answer questions Wednesday or today when approached by reporters at the Houston Astros' spring training camp in Kissimmee, Fla.
"Have a nice day, men," Clemens said to a half-dozen reporters as he walked into the clubhouse Thursday before he was scheduled to throw to minor leaguers. "You guys are wasting your time."
Asked Wednesday whether Clemens would comment on Congress' action, his lead lawyer, Rusty Hardin, told The Associated Press: "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."
Astros owner Drayton McLane, meanwhile, might reconsider Clemens' 10-year personal services contract with the team &
which kicks in when the star pitcher officially retires &
in light of Clemens' legal issues.
"That makes it more complex, it sure does," McLane said today.
"We'll just have to look at that and see what transpires. We'll have to evaluate it at the time."
The lawmakers' letter said Clemens' testimony was "directly contradicted" by the sworn statements of McNamee, who said he injected Clemens with steroids and HGH at least 16 times from 1998 to 2001. Waxman and Davis also pointed to the deposition and affidavit of Clemens' good friend and former teammate, Andy Pettitte, who told the committee Clemens "admitted to him in 1999 or 2000 that he had taken human growth hormone."
"The contradictions and conflicts in what Clemens had to say, as compared to what others had to say, raised the issues about him," Waxman told the AP. "I don't think there was an issue about Brian McNamee, but there certainly were issues about Roger Clemens."
Pettitte acknowledged Thursday he's prepared to be interviewed again about Clemens.
"It makes it extremely difficult," Pettitte said at Yankees spring training in Tampa, Fla. "I don't like any of this. I cannot stand it. I told you how I feel about him. I hate it. It's like a part of my family that's going to have to go through this. It's a bad deal."
Waxman's committee felt Clemens' repeated and vigorous denials of McNamee's allegations questioned the legitimacy of the Mitchell Report, prepared by former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell and released in December.
After Clemens and McNamee stuck to their he-said, he-said stories under oath, 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 a possible perjury investigation; the committee decided not to refer McNamee.
"Not everybody can be right, and the preponderance of the evidence in this case points to the fact that Clemens' comments are the most incongruous," Davis told the AP. "We are asking Justice to see what was the truth and what wasn't the truth."
The Justice Department may decide to pursue or ignore Congress' request. Spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said Wednesday the department "is reviewing the letter and has no further comment at this time." If an inquiry is opened, it likely would be by federal investigators in Washington.
Clemens' prominent place in the Mitchell Report already tainted the legacy of a player who ranks eighth in major league history with 354 wins and is considered the greatest pitcher of his generation. That generation's greatest hitter, home run king Barry Bonds, was indicted in November on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice stemming from his 2003 testimony to a grand jury in which he denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs.
IRS Special Agent Jeff Novitzky, a key member of the team prosecuting Bonds, sat in the second row during the Clemens-McNamee hearing.
"Now we are done with the circus of public opinion, and we are moving to the courtroom," Hardin said in a telephone interview. "Thankfully, we are now about to enter an arena where there are rules and people can be held properly accountable for outrageous statements."
Waxman sent committee Democrats an 18-page memo prepared by his staff outlining reasons for the criminal referral. The memo summarizes "seven sets of assertions made by Mr. Clemens in his testimony that appear to be contradicted by other evidence before the committee or implausible."
Those areas involve Clemens' testimony that he has "never taken steroids or HGH;" that McNamee injected him with the painkiller lidocaine; that team trainers gave him pain injections; that he received many vitamin B-12 injections; that he never discussed HGH with McNamee; that he was not at then-teammate Jose Canseco's home from June 8-10, 1998; and that he was "never told" about Mitchell's request to speak to him.
Those same issues were highlighted in the letter to Mukasey, which stated: "We also understand that federal law enforcement officials may have access to additional evidence on these matters." That is a reference to needles, bloodstained gauze and other items McNamee turned over to federal prosecutors in January for DNA testing.
Davis, who was the chairman of the committee when it held its 2005 hearing with Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, said Justice should focus on the core question of whether Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs.
"The material issue here isn't whether Roger was at a party or not, whether he took lidocaine or not," Davis said. "The material issue is whether he took steroids or HGH or not."
The Feb. 13 hearing divided mostly 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,'" McNamee's lead lawyer Earl Ward said. "The decision to send out a referral letter says quite clearly that Brian McNamee told the truth."
Hardin repeated what he has been saying for weeks: He expected the Justice Department to get involved.
"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 &
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.
"In this Clemens issue, we got more involved. ... We have a more complete file to turn over," Waxman said, adding that Wednesday's action ended his committee's role. "Now to get to the end of this matter, we're turning it over to where this properly belongs, to see if they think criminal charges should be brought."
AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum in New York and Sports Writer Chris Duncan in Kissimmee, Fla., contributed to this report.