- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2008

House members yesterday said they are closing their investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, an inquiry capped by a 4½-hour hearing that featured star pitcher Roger Clemens, trainer Brian McNamee and a flurry of denials and accusations.

“We started this investigation with baseball to try and break that link with steroids,” said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican and ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “We don’t want to look at the past any longer, and in fact we didn’t even really want this hearing.”

The hearing they got was tense and testy.

Clemens had been accused by Mr. McNamee of using performance-enhancing drugs, a charge Clemens steadfastly denied and one that figured prominently in a report filed by former Sen. George J. Mitchell that outlined the pervasive use of steroids and human growth hormone (HGH) in baseball.

In the report, Mr. McNamee claimed he had injected Clemens with human growth hormone on several occasions.

Clemens and Mr. McNamee, one-time friends and once employer and employee, yesterday sat a few feet apart at the same table, rarely looking at each other. Clemens at times became visibly angry.

“I have been accused of something I am not guilty of,” Clemens said, his voice rising. “Let me be clear: I have never taken steroids or HGH.”

Mr. McNamee was equally adamant.

“Make no mistake: When I told Senator Mitchell that I injected Roger Clemens with performance-enhancing drugs, I told the truth,” he said.

Committee members revealed that Andy Pettitte, a former teammate of Clemens also named in the Mitchell report, told congressional investigators that Clemens told him he used HGH in 1998. The committee also revealed that another former teammate, Chuck Knoblauch, admitted to using HGH in a deposition before the committee last week.

When asked about his conversation with Pettitte, Clemens nervously replied that Pettitte may have “misremembered” the talk.

Clemens and Mr. McNamee offered conflicting accounts throughout the hearing, and support for the two key players generally fell along party lines: Democrats backed Mr. McNamee and Republicans supported Clemens.

“I’ll tell you the person I believe the most is Mr. Pettitte,” said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat. “There’s a number of things that move his testimony and his affidavit over to Mr. McNamee.”

Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, read several newspaper interviews in which Mr. McNamee denied having knowledge of steroids and human growth hormone.

“Is that a lie?” Mr. Burton asked after reading one passage.

“Yes,” Mr. McNamee replied.

“I’m not going to read any more of this,” Mr. Burton said. “You’re here under oath. You’re here to tell the truth. And yet we hear lie after lie after lie. … Roger Clemens is a titan in baseball. All these lies, if they’re not true, destroy his reputation.”

Testy exchanges came at nearly every turn.

Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, Massachusetts Democrat, read from a physicians report analyzing medical records that focused on an abscess on Clemens’ buttocks. Several doctors who reviewed the records said the abscess was consistent with an injection of the steroid Winstrol.

One of Clemens’ attorneys stood to comment but was told by committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, that he was not permitted to testify.

Clemens began to respond on his own, saying he was not familiar with the report in question. Mr. Davis interjected, calling the line of questioning improper.

“This is literally a new definition of lynching, asking him to comment on a report he hasn’t seen,” Mr. Davis said. “None of these doctors physically looked at you.”

Several lines of questioning focused on whether Clemens was present at a party in 1998 at the home of Toronto Blue Jays teammate Jose Canseco, an admitted steroid user. Mr. McNamee testified that he saw Clemens there, but the pitcher has denied being present.

In an interview with committee members, a former nanny for Clemens said she recalls seeing the pitcher at the party. During discussion of the nanny’s testimony, Mr. Waxman questioned why Clemens’ attorneys spoke with her prior to the committee’s interview.

“The right way to handle this would be to give the committee information immediately, not interview her beforehand,” Mr. Waxman said. “You chose the worst approach. You called her to your home. You asked her specifically about the party at Mr. Canseco’s house, and then you called the committee.”

Lanny Breuer, one of Clemens’ attorneys, rose to complain about the line of questioning but was shot down quickly by Mr. Waxman.

McNamee attorney Richard Emery said the act of interviewing the nanny in advance “was as close to witness tampering as you can get.”

In the end, no one was certain of whose version of events to believe.

“I haven’t reached any conclusions at this point,” Mr. Waxman said.

Said Mr. Davis: “Both can’t be telling the truth.”

Most committee members said the hearing marked the end to the role of Congress in investigating the steroid issue, though one lawmaker left open the prospect of more hearings.

Rep. Mark Souder, Indiana Republican, said he might propose further hearings to address the team owners’ culpability in the steroids problem, particularly after Mr. McNamee testified that he was told by team officials to stay quiet about the issue.

“I think that the staff needs to look at this,” he said. “It gets at the core question about whether we can trust baseball. If it’s true that the owners wanted to cover up, that’s a very serious allegation.”

Said Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican: “This was good work that led to a good conclusion. This brings to a close the House’s investigation into steroid use in baseball. This was the culmination of months of work.”

Barring more hearings, the issue of baseball and steroids will continue in other theaters.

Congress first held a hearing on the steroid issue in 2005, summoning Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig and several players to testify about accusations in a book by Canseco. That hearing is credited with pressuring baseball to toughen its anti-steroid policy.

Federal investigators are examining syringes and gauze pads that Mr. McNamee said he used to inject Clemens with HGH.

House members said they have not discussed referring either Clemens or Mr. McNamee to the Justice Department, but there is precedent for a perjury indictment tied to testimony about steroids.

Former track star Marion Jones last month was sentenced to six months in prison after committing perjury during an investigation into her ties to steroid use.

Barry Bonds, baseball’s all-time home run leader, is facing charges of perjury related to his testimony before a grand jury investigation into steroids in sports.

Jeff Novitzky, the Internal Revenue Service special agent in charge of a federal investigation into steroids in sports, attended yesterday’s hearing.

After the hearing ended, Clemens exited the room through a back door and later spoke to reporters.

“I’m very thankful and very grateful for this day to come. I’m glad for the opportunity finally,” he said. “And, you know, I hope I get — and I know I will have — the opportunity to come here to Washington again under different terms.”

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