2007-12-28 / Columnists

Speaking About Sports

Commentary by Howard Schwach

Tis a puzzlement.

Roger Clemens, one of the premier pitchers of his era, says that he never used steroids. Never, ever!

He told his side of the story on his YouTube site, sort of a funny place to do it, but that's Clemens.

"I'm almost numb to some of the suggestions that I would even use steroids," the seven-time Cy Young Award winner said. "Let me be clear. The answer is 'No.' I did not use steroids or human growth hormone and I've never done so."

You have to wonder if making his disclaimer on YouTube rather than in the daily papers or to some officials diminishes its importance - and its credibility.

To believe Clemens, I would have to disbelieve what Rockaway resident Brian McNamee said officially and what was reported by the Mitchell Commission after a long investigation and testimony from several of those involved in major league baseball and its steroid problems.

In February of 1996, Clemens appeared headed for the baseball scrap-heap. He had slumped badly in his past three seasons with Boston and was overweight and bloated. In that year, he went 10-13 and Boston was looking to shift him somewhere else.

They let him walk away as a free agent without even making him an offer. He signed with the Toronto Blue Jays and surprised everybody by winning his first 11 games.

Mark Starr, a writer for Newsweek Magazine, said that he went up to Boston to see what was going on. "The Clemens I encountered was almost unrecognizable. He was Stallone buff and he once again possessed a 97-mile-an-hour fastball," Starr wrote in the December 24 edition of the magazine. Clemens went on from there to the Yankees and became a sure hall-of-famer.

McNamee told investigators for the commission that he went from the Yankees to the Blue Jays as an assistant trainer in 1998. There, he met Clemens, who lived in the same complex in Toronto.

Another player for the Blue Jays at the time was Jose Canseco, who has since written a book about steroid use in major league baseball, including his own.

While at an away game in Florida, both McNamee and Clemens were invited to a party at Canseco's Miami home. According to the commission report, McNamee saw Clemens and Canseco, along with another, unidentified man, inside the home. Shortly thereafter, McNamee says, Clemens came to him to talk about using performance-enhancing chemicals. The commission report says that Clemens said that he could not inject himself, and he asked Mc- Namee to assist him in taking the drugs.

McNamee said that he did inject Clemens during that road trip and several times thereafter, using drugs that Clemens supplied. McNamee said that Clemens told him that the steroid "had a pretty good effect."

In 1999, Clemens was traded to the New York Yankees. In 2000, the Yankees rehired McNamee as an assistant trainer. McNamee said that the Yankees rehired him because of Clemens' insistence.

He became both the team's assistant trainer and a personal trainer for Clemens. Both the team and the player paid him in his duo role, the report says.

According to McNamee, Clemens approached him in 2000 and told him that he wanted to continue tak- ing the performance-enhancing drugs. During the latter part of that season, McNamee testified under oath, that he injected Clemens in the buttocks four to six times with testosterone that Mc- Namee obtained from Kirk Rodomski, an admitted dealer in performanceenhancing drugs and a clubhouse worker for the Mets.

The same program was completed in 2001, according to McNamee. Usually, he said, the injections were given at Clemens' New York City apartment.

McNamee was fired by the Yankees after the 2001 season, and he says that he gave Clemens no further injections.

Rodomski provided copies of the cancelled checks that were paid to him by McNamee to corroborate both his testimony and that of McNamee.

During his interviews with the commission, McNamee was warned by federal law enforcement officials, who were sitting in on the questioning, that he faced criminal prosecution if he were not truthful with the commission's investigators.

Of course, Andy Pettitte was also involved in taking human growth hormone, according to McNamee. Pettitte admitted that he used HGH on one occasion with a former team to help him heal from an arm injury.

McNamee's attorney, Earl Ward, says that McNamee was telling the truth about Clemens.

"The bottom line is that he did not want to implicate a friend and a baseball icon," Ward said. "He was asked to tell the truth and he has. That's always been his position since day one."

To believe Clemens, you have to believe that both Rodomski and Mc- Namee were lying through their teeth and that the cancelled checks were for something more benign that performance enhancing drugs.

For me, the bottom line is photographic evidence. Look at Clemens when he was winning at Boston. Look at Bonds ten years ago. They are not the same people.

I believe McNamee. I believe that Clemens needs to do more than put his disclaimer on YouTube and to speak with the television show "60 Minutes," as he plans to do in the near future.

He has to go to Congress and speak under oath. He has to sell his side to the Yankee fans.

Right now, I think many of those fans have written him off.

I told one young fan of the commission report the afternoon it came out.

The eight-year-old, who had Clemens on his fantasy team last summer, said.

"That's it. I'm dropping him. I don't want cheaters on my team."

For me, that says it all.

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