Archive for Sunday, January 6, 2008

Commentary: Clemens’ account difficult to believe

January 6, 2008


I don't know a whole lot about law, but if I'm a member of Roger Clemens' legal team, I tell him the B-12 vitamin defense is not one I would personally mount if I were being hounded by accusations of steroid use and had been invited to testify before a congressional committee.

Rafael Palmeiro tried the same defense a few years back, and look what it got him: a heaping helping of disgrace. You might recall Palmeiro insisted in front of a committee in 2005 that he never took steroids. He also subsequently tested positive for 'roids and then blamed it on a tainted vial of B-12 that Orioles teammate Miguel Tejada supplied.

Since the laughter died down, Palmeiro hardly has been heard from.

The same can't be said of Clemens, who will appear on "60 Minutes" tonight to make the case that he didn't boost his career in his 30s and 40s with a quiver of syringes filled with steroids and human growth hormone.

Some of the taped interview with CBS' Mike Wallace has been released, and the highlights include Clemens saying that, yes, his former trainer Brian McNamee did inject him, but with vitamin B-12 and lidocaine, not steroids and HGH. Lidocaine often is used by dentists and for minor surgeries.

McNamee's attorney countered his client has a master's degree in sports medicine, so he would know what he injected into Clemens' body.

If you're Roger Clemens and you appear on "60 Minutes" to plead your case, it's because you're trying to sway public opinion. There's no other point to going on national television.

So when he uses that huge forum to tell us he's a dedicated B-12 fan, it does not paint the picture of a man wronged. It paints the picture of a man who needs to come up with a better excuse.

(If you're a dedicated B-12 user, please do not e-mail me with accounts of the miraculous properties of the vitamin. I'm sure it does all sorts of wonders and that Clemens' shiny hair, nice smile and sunny disposition can be tied directly to B-12.)

Clemens might have his reasons for B-12 injections. Perhaps he has pernicious anemia. Or maybe he's a closet vegetarian. It's hard to find the vitamin in vegetables, after all.

But what would you prefer: An injection of B-12 or the vitamin in pill form?

Yeah, me too.

We used to laugh when Sammy Sosa jokingly attributed his power to Flintstones vitamins. Now, thanks to Clemens, we know he was telling the truth.

Clemens better get his story straight soon. He has been "invited" to testify before a congressional committee Jan. 16. Whether you have been invited or subpoenaed, it's always a good idea to show up with some honesty.

Asked in the "60 Minutes" interview if he would swear he never took steroids, Clemens said, "Swear." A bulldog reporter would have followed with, "On a stack of Bibles?"

What Clemens seems to be doing is mounting the always-popular I-never-knowingly-took-steroids defense - emphasis, of course, on "knowingly." This is the Barry Bonds defense, which hasn't done a whole lot for the indicted home-run king. It's like a mobster saying he never knowingly left a dead body in the trunk of a car. He might have heaved a bulky bag into the trunk of the car, but, no, your honor, he never knowingly put a dead body in a car.

The legal defense of unwittingly doing something wrong isn't far removed from Bill Clinton's insistence that, although he did smoke marijuana, he never inhaled.


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