Feds Cry Foul On Roger Clemens; Is His Game Over?

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Roger Clemens struck out 4,672 batters in his career, but mighty Clemens has struck out in the eyes of the federal government. He was indicted this week on charges of lying to Congress when he testified that he had not used performance-enhancing drugs. So, does his future lie in Cooperstown or Leavenworth? Host Scott Simon talks with NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman about the indictment.


Time now for more sports.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: Roger Clemens, the Rocket, struck out 4,672 batters in his career, but mighty Clemens has struck out in the eyes of the federal government. He was indicted this week on charges of lying to Congress when he said that he hadn't used performance-enhancing drugs. Does his future lie in Cooperstown or Leavenworth?

NPR's Tom Goldman joins us.

Morning, Tom.


SIMON: Let me ask you, counselor, to...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: You know, you practically need a law degree to talk about sports these days, dont you, or criminal justice degree to talk - John Jay School of Criminal Justice to talk about this. What's the government's case, as you understand it so far, against the Rocket, and how might a battery of high-priced defense lawyers reply?

GOLDMAN: Yes. Well, with apologies to Nina Totenberg, here it goes.

Prosecutors have the evidence and the testimony from former trainer Brian McNamee - Clemens' former trainer. He testified that he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone, or HGH, and he also presented investigators with syringes and gauze pads he says were used in the drug injections.

Prosecutors have the testimony from Clemens' former New York Yankee's teammate Andy Pettitte. Pettitte told investigators Clemens acknowledged to him that he took HGH. And Pettitte, Scott, reportedly was a key factor leading to Clemens' indictment, because according to a former member of the House committee that held the 2008 hearing in which Clemens allegedly lied, without Pettitte neither McNamee nor Clemens was that articulate or credible.

Now, for the defense, Clemens' lawyers know proving perjury is always a tough thing. Prosecution has to prove a person knowingly lied. And that's not easy.

They'll also attack that McNamee evidence. McNamee says he stored it in a Fed Ex box. The items reportedly had traces of performance-enhancing drugs and Clemens' DNA. The defense attorneys will question the less-than-reliable way it was stored - in a box - and whether the traces of Clemens' DNA and drugs can be linked up.

And then finally, one other one possible defense tactic. A former associate White House general counsel told the New York Times there are questions about why the House committee was investigating Clemens in the first place. According to this person, it's not Congress's job to hold perjury trials.

SIMON: Nevertheless, we're faced with the likelihood of two major trials of two of the biggest stars in baseball history next year.


SIMON: Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. They were also - let me say this carefully - two of the most combative figures with the media, I must say. And now we know now we know why, if they were on steroids. At least that - that's not supposed to help your composure. But, of course, as we have to keep emphasizing, indictment's not the same as conviction.

Would they have a little bit more of a sympathetic profile with the public if they'd been a little warm and fuzzy, fuzzier, during their playing careers?

GOLDMAN: Oh, certainly, public would look upon them more favorably. You know, as you say, they were not the most - they were not pussycats in public. They may have been in private. In the legal arena that doesn't matter that much. It's the truth that matters. And if these guys are lying, recent history shows the best thing to do is admit it, take your medicine - prison time or probation perhaps - and move on to rehab your life and your image.

It worked for Marion Jones, who finally fessed up to lying about doping. In 2007 she did a stint in prison. That's obviously not a fun thing. But now she's playing basketball in the WNBA. Miguel Tejada, who was indicted for lying to government investigators about doping, he fessed up quickly. He got probation. And he recently joined the red-hot San Diego Padres as an important piece in their playoff run.

SIMON: Yeah. Tom, something that I cannot quite get my head around is between Roger Clemens, who won seven Cy Young Awards, Barry Bonds, who is the home run leader of all time, Pete Rose, not drugs but gambling, the all-time hits leader, the possibility that A-Rod will become eventually the all-time home run leader - none of them could wind up in the Hall of Fame.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. Yeah. Well, that gets to the legacy question, doesn't it, Scott? And that's really up to every single fan and baseball chronicler, how these guys are remembered. There's taint, and it'll be a question of how much the taint will be part of their ultimate biographies. For Clemens, Bonds, A-Rod, some of that will depend on how the drug issue plays out over the years.

SIMON: Well, I'm going - you know, we have 10 seconds left. Will this - just enough time for an answer. Will this stuff - will we remember this stuff in 30 years?



(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: I thought you'd qualify it.

NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You bet.

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