Disgraced Icon Roger Clemens Down to Last Strike
But ever since Roger Clemens 2 1/2 years ago denied before Congress with a national television audience watching that he ever used performance-enhancing drugs, while at the same time his one-time friend and trainer Brian McNamee handed over syringes, gauze pads and empty vials of drugs he claimed belonged to Clemens, Clemens was vying to supplant Bonds place as the face of baseball's biggest cheating scandal.
On Thursday, Clemens completed his coup. He became the poster boy for baseball's drug-cheating generation.
It wasn't just that Clemens on Thursday was indicted on six counts of lying under oath in February 2008 to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, including one charge for obstruction of Congress, three charges for making false statements and two charges for perjury. It was that the indictment came as a result of his performance in a public forum no less than the pitcher's mound he starred on all those years. We all saw it unfold. We all heard it. We all read about it.
We all witnessed members of the committee react stunningly to what Clemens testified juxtaposed to what they collected in evidence and statements from others, like Clemens' longtime teammate and friend Andy Pettitte, who stated that Clemens told him all about cutting corners with illegally obtained banned substances. Clemens explained that Pettitte "misremembered."
The committee began the investigation that resulted in Thursday's indictment almost immediately after Clemens' testimony.
After all, baseball's steroids era isn't just about cheating the game. It is also about cover-up, lying and duplicity, and Clemens the past couple of years looked to be more desirous than all others at doing so. At least Bonds admitted to taking something. He just strained credulity as a highly tuned athlete who led us to believe he was a health-store nut by claiming he didn't know anything he was taking was a steroid or human growth hormone.
Bonds was, no doubt, aided by having a trainer named Greg Anderson be a better friend to him than Clemens' trainer McNamee was a friend to Clemens. Anderson opted for a year in jail rather than tell all he knew about his most famous client. Bonds was finally indicted earlier this month on charges of lying to a federal grand jury in California, but the prosecution won't have as much ammunition to blow holes in Bonds' story as the prosecution taking aim at Clemens.
"In my opinion, the case against Clemens is far stronger than the case against ... Bonds," Victor Conte, the convicted head of the BALCO lab in California said to have provided performance-enhancing substances to Bonds and others, wrote in an e-mail to media outlets on Thursday. "McNamee is an eyewitness who will testify against Clemens and there appears to be strong physical evidence against him as well. The government simply does not have this type of evidence against Bonds."
Clemens wound up filing a defamation suit against McNamee just before the two met before that Congressional committee. It didn't help Clemens. It only made him look less credible. A federal court in Houston tossed out the suit and just this month the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit reaffirmed that decision. The suit only made Clemens look like a habitual liar because it led to revelations in The New York Daily News that Clemens, an avowed family man, was no stranger to extra-marital relationships with several women over the years, including country singer Mindy McCready.
Daily News reporters later wrote a book, "American Icon," detailing the government's investigation into Clemens' claims and all of Clemens' denials. Last year, Clemens came out of hiding and joined ESPN's "Mike and Mike" show to discuss the book. He denounced it as more poppycock.
With Thursday's announcement, we begin the wait for Clemens' next dismissal of the lies for which he's been accused, or, finally, his plea for mercy. If convicted of everything, Clemens faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in jail.
Despite the least talked-about disturbing nature of sports' drug cheats, which is that they siphon much-needed drugs from those who need them not to sustain athletic careers but live painful lives more comfortably, I don't wish prison time for Clemens, Bonds or any of the others. I don't know if anyone feels any better that a woman, one-time track star Marion Jones, thus far has been the lone admitted or uncovered steroids' cheat to get thrown behind bars, while another woman, cyclist Tammy Thomas, was ordered confined to her home for lying about performance-enhancing drug use.
But I don't think Clemens should continue to be afforded a dose of sympathy that almost never dripped on Bonds. Nolan Ryan said not long ago that he felt bad for Clemens. There was speculation at one point that former President Bush, No. 43, the former Rangers' managing partner, would grant Clemens clemency. That opportunity came and went.
So on Thursday Clemens found himself in a jam tighter than any he experienced in his 709 big-league games. He's facing jail time, though precedent suggests it is unlikely. It is too late for him to pull an A-Rod or even a Mark McGwire and fess up to what the overwhelming evidence suggests.
Even Congress was sympathetic at one point to Clemens' potential predicament. It offered him an opportunity before his hearing in early 2008 to tell it behind doors everything he knew and it would issue merely a report and spare him if he was, as it suspected, another in what was a growing line of baseball cheaters.
Clemens waved off that suggestion. There is no relief in sight, including, now, the truth. He can pin this impending life-lasting loss squarely on himself.