Clemens Verdict Says Little About Performance-Enhancing Drugs In Baseball

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Late Monday afternoon, the jury which had been hearing testimony in the trial of former Major League pitcher Roger Clemens for the past two months declared Clemens not guilty on all counts. Clemens had been charged with perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with his testimony before a congressional committee, during which he contended that he had not used performance-enhancing substances during his career.

The chief witness against Clemens was his former trainer, Brian McNamee, who said he had saved some of the detritus in a beer can in his basement -- cotton swabs, needles, things of that nature — from the times he injected Clemens. That might sound like pretty fascinating if thoroughly yucky stuff, but apparently the two month trial was not consistently compelling. At least two of the jurors fell asleep and were relieved of their duties, which was probably a relief, indeed for them.

It's probably a bad idea to probe the verdict for meaning beyond the recognition of the obvious: As far as the jury was concerned, the defense did a satisfactory job of portraying McNamee as a liar.

The defense was apparently successful in convincing the jurors who remained conscious that McNamee was not a trustworthy fellow. This must have caused Clemens's wife Debbie some embarrassment, since she apparently considered Mr. McNamee trustworthy enough to inject her with one of the substances her husband said nobody had ever injected into him. Roger Clemens apparently knew nothing about that injection, which may be so, since there is no evidence that it added anything to his wife's fastball.

I don't mean to sound flip, but, gee, we're talking about a trainer who saved medical waste in a beer can. Before that we were talking about a celebrity athlete who wandered up and down the halls of Congress signing autographs, since, what the heck, he was in Washington to testify anyway, and some of those congressmen had grandchildren. Even in the moments before the verdict became public, goofiness prevailed. Alleged reporters on television intoned solemnly about how if Clemens was found guilty, he might spend many years in prison. Not likely.

It's probably a bad idea to probe the verdict for meaning beyond the recognition of the obvious: As far as the jury was concerned, the defense did a satisfactory job of portraying Brian McNamee as a liar. Apparently this was not difficult. Beyond storing what he maintained was evidence in a beer can in his basement, McNamee admitted other past mistakes, poor memory and lies. Why Roger Clemens should have remained closely associated with such a fellow over a number of years while playing for a couple of different baseball teams remains a mystery, as does why his wife should have trusted such a fellow to inject her with human grown hormone.

What this all says about the use of performance-enhancing substances by men employed in the national pastime is nothing much. Some players used them and have acknowledged doing so. Others did and haven't.

Millions of dollars have been spent trying to characterize Roger Clemens as a perjurer. The jury wasn't sufficiently convinced that the label fit.

I wonder if those two jurors who were dismissed for falling asleep didn't have the right idea.

This program aired on June 19, 2012.

Headshot of Bill Littlefield

Bill Littlefield Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.



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