- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Of course Roger Clemens lied to Congress. All the performance-enhancing drug users lied to Congress. At least that would be the prevailing view of the public.

News that a federal grand jury is contemplating whether to indict Clemens on charges of lying under oath hardly comes as a surprise. Clemens became the bookend to Barry Bonds nearly a year ago when he went to Capitol Hill and professed to be as pure as a newborn.

This contradicted the sworn testimony of his former personal trainer Brian McNamee, who had no reason to lie, only the compelling reason to tell the truth and not risk a prison sentence. That always has been the gaping hole in Clemens’ attempt to obfuscate and weave these fanciful scenarios of absolution.

What was in it for McNamee to turn on a person he clearly admired? And it did not help Clemens that good buddy Andy Pettitte corroborated some of McNamee’s claims in a sworn statement to Congress.

Bonds and Clemens. The former was the premier hitter of his time, the latter the premier pitcher. Neither needed synthetic help to reach the Hall of Fame. Both merely felt an urge to join the steroid-fueled party because of the plaudits going to others.

That is the shame in all this. Bonds and Clemens fashioned Hall of Fame careers long before their careers skyrocketed dramatically at an improbable age. Bonds goes to trial in March on charges that he lied to a federal grand jury about his use of steroids. He could be facing the fate of Marion Jones - one more date with condemnation and a short stay in a federal bed and breakfast.

If so, like Jones, he undoubtedly will stick with the head-in-the-sand defense. Darn if he knew what his ex-trainer was putting onto his body. He thought it was a vitamin B-12 application. Or maybe it was sunscreen. Or moisturizer.

The same with Clemens.

They all stick to their dubious claims of innocence. Or as Mark McGwire famously said on Capitol Hill, “I’m not here to discuss the past.”

McGwire did not lie. He merely refused to address the relevant questions and experiences the public relations fallout to this day. Although he has the eighth-most home runs in MLB history, McGwire has been unable to connect with Hall of Fame voters. He actually lost support in the latest Hall of Fame vote, appearing on only 118 ballots in his third year of eligibility.

That is the reality before Bonds and Clemens after they become eligible for the Hall of Fame in four years. They will not find a forgiving audience. They will find a slew of voters who cannot get beyond the lying and cheating.

For Bonds and Clemens now, it really all comes down to staying out of prison and swaying 75 percent of the Hall of Fame voters in the years ahead. Otherwise, their numbers are tainted, their reputations tarnished. Time won’t change that, not in four years, not in 20 years.

Bonds and Clemens are the faces of baseball’s steroids scandal, a period in the sport that made a mockery of the numbers the game’s guardians so lovingly embrace. Clemens deserves to be indicted, to answer the unresolved questions. He deserves to squirm before a federal grand jury. And he deserves to do time if convicted.

Think what you will of Jose Canseco, but at least he did not try to run from the obvious. He may have profited from naming names, but at least he did not adopt the flaxseed oil defense. At least he did not appear with Oprah as Jones did and pretend to be a victim of the doping underground. At least he did not insult the public’s intelligence.

By the low standards of the steroids age, Canseco is the one wearing the white hat, hard as that may be to stomach.

The rest, starting with Bonds and Clemens, are an indelible stain on the game.

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