WASHINGTON // Roger Clemens was vehement. "Let me be clear. I have never taken steroids or HGH [human growth hormones]," he told a Congressional committee in 2008. Now, instead of the Hall of Fame, baseball's seven-time Cy Young winner could go to prison after being indicted by a federal grand jury on Thursday for allegedly lying to Congress.
The case writes a new chapter in one of baseball's worst scandals, the rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs in the 1990s and early 2000s, and leaves Clemens's legacy in jeopardy. The six-count indictment alleges that Clemens obstructed a congressional inquiry with 15 different statements made under oath, including denials that he had ever used steroids or HGH. Former Representative Tom Davis of Virginia, the top Republican on the House panel at the time of Clemens's testimony, called it "a self-inflicted wound".
Clemens had been prominently mentioned in the Mitchell Report, Major League Baseball's own accounting of the steroid problem, and he went to Capitol Hill on his own to clear his name. After learning of his indictment on Thursday, Clemens still stuck to his story. He insisted he was telling the truth, again denying any wrongdoing on or off the field. "Roger is looking forward to his day in court," Rusty Hardin, his lawyer, told a news conference. "He is happy this has finally happened. We have known for some time this was going to happen. We'll let everything get taken care of in court."
"I never took HGH or steroids. And I did not lie to Congress," Clemens said on Twitter. "I look forward to challenging the government's accusations, and hope people will keep an open mind until trial. I appreciate all the support I have been getting. I am happy to finally have my day in court." Hardin said federal prosecutors made Clemens a plea offer but he rejected it. Hardin declined to comment on details of the proposed plea deal - which ordinarily involves admitting to a crime while avoiding the scenario of a multiple-count indictment as happened in the Clemens case.
Clemens faces a combined maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a US$1.5 million (Dh5.55m) fine if convicted on all charges. However, under US sentencing guidelines, he would probably face no more than 15 to 21 months in prison. Clemens is just the latest player to be ensnared in baseball's steroid scandal. Barry Bonds, the all-time home run king, is scheduled to go on trial in March on charges of lying to a federal grand jury when he said he never knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs. Mark McGwire, the slugger, admitted earlier this year to using steroids.
What once seemed to be a dispute between Clemens and Brian McNamee, his ex-trainer who was once the New York Yankees' strength and conditioning coach, escalated into a federal case. The grand jury heard testimony from McNamee, who gave authorities syringes he said were used to inject Clemens with drugs. Hardin said that although many have argued that Clemens should simply admit he took steroids, "the problem is nobody ever talks about what he should have done if he didn't do it". Hardin said: "And he didn't do it and he's adamant about that and always has been. Today is just another continuing part of that saga."
Clemens, who turned 48 this month, ranks ninth on the career list with 354 victories. * Associated Press