The government’s pursuit of celebrity athletes can best be characterized as a witch-hunt in most cases. A notable exception is the case of Roger Clemens. Whereas the government seemingly tried to set up athletes such as Barry Bonds in order to pursue them on perjury charges for lying about their own steroid use, federal agents did not need to resort to these tactics with Roger Clemens. Professor Peter Keane thinks Roger Clemens gave federal prosecutors no choice but to indict him on perjury charges.
“Clemens has really been the instrument of his own self-destruction here,” says Professor Keane. “Barry Bonds didn’t want to be anywhere near that grand jury. They sort of laid a trap and he walked right into it. Clemens didn’t have to appear before Congress at all and by his attitude and total denials of things that there’s a fair amount of evidence that existed, Congress had no other choice” but to push for perjury charges, he adds.
The self-destructive Roger Clemens was not required to testify before Congress in 2008. However, he practically begged lawmakers to allow him to testify about his alleged innocence. He categorically denied the use of anabolic steroids or any other banned performance-enhancing drugs. All other athletes prosecuted on steroid perjury charges were forced (subpoenaed) to testify under oath about their use of PEDs. Clemens volunteered to testify even after several Congressman made it clear to him that he was not required to do so.
The federal government did not have an airtight case proving that Barry Bonds lied about steroids under oath. Consequently, a jury failed to find Bonds guilty of perjury; prosecutors had to settle for an obstruction of justice conviction (which may not ultimately stand).
The case against Clemens is much stronger. The Bonds case did not have strong physical evidence. The Clemens case has the 2008 Congressional testimony where Clemens dismissed allegations against him in the $20 million Mitchell Report.
Written by respected former Sen. George Mitchell of Maine, the report provides the most facts and in-depth analysis of major league sports doping to date. “Let me be clear,” Clemens testified. “I have never taken steroids or HGH [human growth hormone].”
The Bonds case didn’t have many credible witnesses; a spurned ex-mistress and an ex-employer accused of theft don’t make the best witnesses. The Clemens case will have the testimony of the well-liked Andy Pettitte who does not have any sort of vendetta against Clemens.
Finally, and most importantly, the personal trainer (Greg Anderson) who provided Barry Bonds with PEDs chose to sit in jail rather than testify against Bonds. Clemens’ personal trainer (Brian McNamee) has been a very cooperative government witness who appears more than willing to testify against Clemens especially after Clemens sued him for defamation.
The case against Roger Clemens is much stronger than the case against Barry Bonds. It seems unlikely that Clemens can escape conviction.
Photo credit: Keith Allison