“The Rocket” Acquitted

After a trial that lasted 10 weeks, and 10 more hours of jury deliberations, “The Rocket” Roger Clemens was acquitted Monday on all charges that he obstructed and lied to Congress when he denied using performance-enhancing drugs to extend his long and illustrious career. Does this mean that Clemens never used steroids or HGH? No, it just means that there was not sufficient evidence to convict him in a legal court of perjury related to his testimony during the 2008 Mitchell Report hearings.

Highly paid entertainers being in hot water legally over allegations of steroids, human growth hormone, and other performance enhancing drugs is unfortunately nothing new to this generation of athletes and the people who follow them. In the case of Major League Baseball the “steroid era” got serious in 2006 when a controversial book entitled Game of Shadows was published by two San Francisco Chronicle reporters, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, chronicling alleged extensive use of performance enhancing drugs by several ballplayers….including most notably Barry Bonds. Amid the time of controversy over Bonds, who was on track to become the MLB all-time career home run leader and did so on September 23, 2006, the Commissioner of Baseball Mr. Bud Selig appointed former Senate Majority Leader, federal prosecutor, and ex-chairman of the Walt Disney Company, Mr. George Mitchell to investigate the use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional baseball.

Into Mitchell’s investigation entered a personal trainer named Brian McNamee, a former New York City police officer, personal trainer, and strength and conditioning coach. The Mitchell Report alleged that McNamee helped acquire performance-enhancing drugs including anabolic steroids, amphetamines, and human growth hormone for many of the players he personally trained, including Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch. McNamee told the Mitchell Commission (the people in charge of George Mitchell’s investigation) that he began injecting Clemens with steroids in 1998 and continued to provide these steroids through the 2001 season.

Brian McNamee leaves federal court during this Clemens trial. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Needless to say, Roger Clemens was none too happy with his former trainer “snitching” on him. As is the case with all illegal activity, there is a “code of silence” involved between the parties involved and Roger Clemens felt mistreated by the allegations by McNamee, whether the allegations were true or even more so if they were fictitious.  Clemens, whose name appeared 82 times in the Mitchell Report, decided to fight the allegations in the public forum, appearing on the television program 60 Minutes while also staging multiple press conferences and having his agent release documentation that would attempt to prove his innocence. Clemens also filed a lawsuit against McNamee for defamation of character. On February 13, 2008, Clemens along with Brian McNamee appeared before a Congressional committee and swore under oath that he never took steroids, that he did not discuss HGH with McNamee, that he was not at a part at Jose Canseco’s house where steroids were the topic of conversation, that he was only injected with B-12 and lidocaine, and that he never told Andy Pettitte that he had taken HGH. Those are very specific allegations if you ask me, and Clemens denied any and all wrong-doing as it pertains to performance enhancing substances.

This Clemens trial was all about whether or not he was telling the truth at those Congressional hearings. This was the second time that Clemens had been tried on charges of making false statements to Congress about his use of performance enhancing drugs. He was charged with one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of making false statements, and two counts of perjury in connection with his February 2008 testimony. His first trial lasted just two days in July 2011, after the judge in the case declared a mistrial after the prosecutors showed the jury evidence that they had not been told to show.

The trial restarted this year, and yesterday the verdict came down in the Clemens case. “The Rocket” was found not guilty on all six counts of lying to Congress in 2008 and after the case he said “I put a lot of hard work into that career…It’s been a hard five years.” Protecting his “good name” has always been on the forefront of Clemens mind and was the entire point of fighting these allegations in the first place. But was he successful?

Clemens may have been found not guilty in federal court, but in the court of public opinion the burden of proof is much lower and Clemens reputation may have taken a dive that it will never recover from. For a pitcher who many consider to the best that this generation has ever seen (354-184 record, 3.12 ERA, 4,672 strikeouts, an 11-time All-Star, 7-time Cy Young Award winner, 2-time World Series Champion and the 1986 American League MVP) he may not be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer as a result of the Mitchell Report. Many people who follow baseball for a living do believe that Clemens will eventually be invited to join the Hall-of-Fame in Cooperstown, New York, but since this year’s class is the first to include many alleged performance enhancing drug users we really do not know what the impact of these allegations will be. For what it’s worth, in my personal opinion I do believe that Clemens is Hall-of-Fame worthy, even though after he left Boston in 1996 the Red Sox organization thought he was done and he went on to have some of most productive seasons at the tail-end of his career. Do I feel that performance enhancing drugs played a role in that, of course I do, but that’s not for me to judge. It shouldn’t have been the place for Congress and the United States government to judge either, so now today they can finally get back to more important issues like trying to help a struggling economy and leave the fun and games to people like me. For that we can all be thankful.

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