Among the many baseball players named in last month’s Mitchell Report as steroid users, one name stood out in particular: Roger Clemens. According to the report, sports trainer Brian McNamee first injected Clemens with Winstrol in 1998, and later injected him with testosterone, human growth hormone (HGH), and either Sustanon or Deca-Durabolin in 2000 and 2001. In Clemens’ career, these seasons stand out statistically. After the alleged 1998 injections, Clemens won his next fourteen decisions, blossoming from a middling 6-6 record to a 20-6 Cy Young Award-winning finish. Meanwhile, during the 2001 season, Clemens won 20 of his first 21 decisions, becoming the first pitcher in baseball history to do so and locking up another Cy Young Award at the ripe-for-professional-sports age of 39.
Following the release of the Mitchell Report, Clemens played the denial game on multiple fronts, releasing statements through his lawyer and on YouTube; sitting for an interview with 60 Minutes; and holding a special press conference in Texas this afternoon. In a country that prizes an innocent-until-proven-guilty mentality, these unremarkable denials were sufficient for the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association, which moved to retain Clemens as the keynote speaker for its upcoming convention; Clemens will discuss—of all topics—physical fitness. “Unless there is some concrete evidence he is guilty or if the media circus would keep him from coming . . . it would be unfair of us not to let him come,” said Association President Jim Long.
Short of a leaking syringe, it’s hard to imagine any evidence against Clemens being more “concrete” that the details contained in the Mitchell Report; these include the type of steroids Clemens used, the time frame in which they were used, the means through which they were acquired, and the means through which they were injected. Moreover, Clemens’ alibi reeks: Clemens claims that McNamee injected him with vitamin B-12 and painkillers, not steroids—an assertion that sounds awfully similar to Barry Bonds’ claim that his own trainer gave him flaxseed oil, not “the cream.” Finally, Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte—Clemens’ workout buddy whom McNamee also named in the Mitchell Report—conceded that McNamee injected him with HGH, thus boosting McNamee’s credibility.
The true urgency of the steroids issue in baseball arises from youngsters’ propensity to idolize star athletes by wearing their heroes’ uniform numbers, mimicking their pitching motions, and aspiring to their physiques. For this reason, it is unconscionable that Texas’ high school baseball coaches would continue heralding Roger Clemens in light of the Mitchell Report’s findings. Perhaps recognizing the dangerous message this sends to young baseball players, Congress’ House Oversight Committee wisely intervened on Friday, inviting Clemens, Pettitte, and McNamee to testify under oath on January 16th. Before Texas coaches relay Clemens’ keynote address on fitness to their players, let’s hope they gather their team to watch Clemens squirm on C-Span. When he sits before Congress, Clemens’ status as a baseball god will likely die. These coaches must ensure that Clemens’ rapid fall from grace is purposeful.