- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Roger Clemens failed to list one key figure as a defendant in the defamation suit he filed Sunday against his former trainer, Brian McNamee.

Make no mistake about it: George Mitchell is a defendant as well — despite the disclaimers of Clemens’ attorney Rusty Hardin at a press conference yesterday.

Three reputations are on trial in the court of public opinion right now, those of Clemens, McNamee and Mitchell.

Mitchell’s name is on the report that determined McNamee’s charges of steroid use among baseball players were credible enough to serve as the linchpin of the investigation of performance-enhancing substances in the game.

And who has the most to lose among the three? George Mitchell.

Clemens claims in the suit that McNamee made his allegations to federal authorities only after being threatened with criminal prosecution if he declined to implicate Clemens.

He also claims McNamee said he was pressured by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Parrella and IRS Special Agent Jeff Novitzky — both men were part of the BALCO case — to implicate Clemens.

The only reason McNamee spoke to Mitchell investigators, according to the suit, was because of the threat of prosecution by federal authorities.

The suit also claims McNamee said the interview was conducted like a “Cold War-era interrogation in which a federal agent merely read to the Mitchell investigators McNamee’s previously obtained statement and then asked McNamee to confirm what he previously stated.”

The Cold War reference, of course, is meant to invoke images of the McCarthy era, a way to slip in the proverbial “witch hunt” defense often heard from sycophants who treat these steroid abusers as victims. Do you really think McNamee even used the phrase “Cold War-era interrogation?”

Witches should sue for defamation — if there were any. You see, the key difference between a witch hunt and the steroid probes is that there weren’t any witches. The former is used to describe persecution of the innocent. The first innocent man has yet to show himself in this investigation.

Clemens certainly is mounting a campaign to make everyone believe he is that man, appearing on “60 Minutes” on Sunday night, filing the defamation lawsuit, then holding a press conference.

He told Mike Wallace he never used steroids.

“My body never changed. If [McNamee is] putting that stuff in my body — [that’s] what he’s saying, which is totally false — if he’s doing that I should have a third ear coming out of my forehead. I should be pulling tractors with my teeth.”

Or maybe he should be overpowering hitters with 90-plus mph fastballs at the age of 45. Or maybe he should have the lowest ERA of his career at the age of 42 or win 156 games after he turns 34.

If somehow Clemens does clear his name, he does make the case that he truly is a wronged man, the damage is far greater to Mitchell than McNamee, who no one had heard of before the Mitchell Report.

George Mitchell’s credibility and reputation to date have been beyond reproach.

Mitchell is a former U.S. attorney and federal judge. He was a two-term U.S. senator from Maine who served for six years as Senate majority leader. After he left the Senate, Mitchell helped broker a peace in Northern Ireland as a special envoy. He is a senior fellow and senior research scholar at the Columbia University Center for International Conflict Resolution.

Last year Mitchell was named a visiting professor at Leeds Metropolitan University’s School of Applied Global Ethics, and the school is starting a Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution with Mitchell’s name attached to it.

So determining who is credible and who isn’t goes beyond the word of only two men, Clemens and McNamee.

The reputation of Mitchell is at stake as well. If the information about Clemens contained in the report proves false, the entire report is discredited — a huge embarrassment for baseball and Mitchell.

Clemens in his suit described the investigators’ approach to McNamee thusly: “A federal agent merely read to the Mitchell investigators McNamee’s previously obtained statement and then asked McNamee to confirm what he previously stated.”

In order to believe Clemens, then, we have to believe this former federal prosecutor, judge and U.S. senator would be so sloppy at the very least or so calculating at the very worst to allow the most important part of this report be shown suspect.

So when you are asking yourself who you believe, make sure to include George Mitchell as well.

Myself? I would sooner believe Clemens quietly had a third ear removed from his forehead than believe Mitchell would stake his entire steroids investigation on such slipshod procedures when it comes to one of the biggest stars in the game.

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