If not for his outright denials – the statements and the YouTube video and the "60 Minutes" appearance and whatever other public-relations salvos remain in Roger Clemens' arsenal – he would not be in the position he now faces.
Tell the truth or face the possibility of going to prison.
Congress on Friday called for Clemens to testify under oath at hearings Jan. 16 regarding former Sen. George Mitchell's report on performance-enhancing drugs, which alleges that a trainer injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone. Clemens responded within hours, saying through his attorney that he would answer questions under oath.
Since the report's release, Clemens has vehemently denied the claims of the trainer, Brian McNamee, who was asked to join him in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee along with former Yankees teammates Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch, and Mitchell's main source, former Mets trainer Kirk Radomski.
"The reason we're having the second hearing is because Mr. Clemens has raised issues about the accuracy of the Mitchell Report," said Phil Schiliro, chief of staff for Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the committee chair. "And the committee wants to learn more about that. The witnesses are all related to that issue."
CLEMENS AND STEROIDS
• Jonathan Littman: McNamee's puny credibility good for Clemens (Feb. 13, 2008)
• Jeff Passan: Clemens, McNamee takes hits in hearing (Feb. 13, 2008)
• Dan Wetzel: Clemens shelled by Congress (Feb. 13, 2008)
• Jeff Passan: Hearings: Untruth or consequences (Feb. 12, 2008)
• Steve Henson: Clemens drama worthy of "Sopranos" (Feb. 11, 2008)
• Dan Wetzel: Innocent or stupid (Feb. 11, 2008)
• Jonathan Littman: Clemens-McNamee duel has BALCO roots (Jan. 8, 2008)
• Tim Brown: Telephone tap dance is unpersuasive (Jan. 7, 2008)
• Tim Brown: Clemens drowns in hopelessness (Jan. 6, 2008)
• Jeff Passan: Clemens to testify under oath (Jan. 4, 2008)
• Tim Brown: Who to believe (Jan. 3, 2008)
• Dan Wetzel: Denials by proxy make Clemens look worse (Dec. 18, 2008)
• Dan Wetzel: Clemens is no different than Bonds (Dec. 13, 2008)
Originally the committee called for one hearing on Jan. 15, at which commissioner Bud Selig, union head Donald Fehr and Mitchell would address the recommendations at the end of the report.
Now that the Clemens controversy has spilled into a he-said, he-said mess – Clemens denying, McNamee threatening a defamation lawsuit and a daily tussle to see whose lawyer can grab the bigger headline – it will draw far more attention than the report from which it sprang.
"I don't know that you can separate the two," said David Marin, spokesman for Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), the committee's ranking minority member.
Accordingly, the committee likely will ask Clemens whether he used steroids and human growth hormone, and ask McNamee whether he injected Clemens with them. Clemens claims in the "60 Minutes" interview with Mike Wallace scheduled to air Sunday that McNamee injected him with vitamin B-12 and lidocaine, his answer to Barry Bonds' flaxseed oil and arthritis balm. McNamee, the Mitchell Report revealed, already was cooperating with the government when he spoke with Mitchell. Complicating Clemens' denials is the fact that Pettitte – Clemens' longtime friend and teammate – has backed McNamee's claim that Pettitte used HGH.
Should their answers remain the same, the committee could push for further investigation – this time with far more resources than Mitchell, with whom Clemens declined to speak.
"Lying to Congress is a crime that could be referred to the justice department for potential prosecution," Marin said.
Bonds awaits trial for perjury charges stemming from the BALCO grand jury. Marion Jones and Chris Webber pleaded out before going to trial for lying to federal investigators. The government enjoys pursuing celebrities to set an example for the vox populi, and had there been hard evidence of Rafael Palmeiro's past usage, the justice department may well have gone after him.
Then again, this isn't March 17, 2005, the day Palmeiro wagged his finger and denied using steroids, the day Sammy Sosa seemed to forget English, the day Mark McGwire wept and declared he wasn't in Washington to talk about the past. Congress' first hearings on steroid use in baseball came on the heels of Jose Canseco's book "Juiced" and, though less than three years ago, steroids have pervaded the public consciousness since.
Between the details about Bonds released in "Game of Shadows" and his indictment, the bust of Jason Grimsley with HGH, the continuous leaks from investigations into Florida anti-aging clinics that provided baseball players with drugs and now the Mitchell Report, baseball's longtime marriage with performance-enhancing drugs is well-documented.
And though MLB claims to have the most stringent testing in American sports, Mitchell's recommendations – from an independent body conducting the testing to placing posters around clubhouses – will play the biggest part on Day One of the hearings.
"We try not to presuppose what a hearing is going to look like, and we're certainly not doing that here," Marin said. "What we have here is a comprehensive report from Sen. Mitchell with concrete findings and recommendations. We now have some players with varying degrees of perspective on that report.
"This is a committee that every day believes sunshine is the best disinfectant. There's no way for us to take a credible look at Sen. Mitchell's report without hearing from people who might say that the report wasn't 100 percent accurate. Those people deserve to be heard."
Their forum is the biggest stage possible: In front of elected officials, broadcast across the country, recorded by newspapers and Web sites, dissected by bloggers and vetted at water coolers everywhere.
Selig will defend his sport, Fehr his players, Mitchell his report, McNamee his character and Clemens his reputation.
"We welcome Chairman Waxman and the Committee's interest in this very serious matter," said Clemens' lawyer, Rusty Hardin, in a statement. "Roger is willing to answer questions, including those posed to him while under oath. We hope to determine shortly if schedules and other commitments can accommodate the committee on that date."
Oh, there is no if.
Clemens will show up in his finest suit, sit in front of the nation's elected officials and speak. He'll purport to tell the truth. And, more than ever, he'll have every reason to do so.
- George Mitchell