Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Rocket's real fuel

In the wake of his 60 Minutes interview on Sunday, Roger Clemens held a press conference Monday to repeat his denials of steroid use (alleged in George Mitchell's report earlier). The most interesting thing to come out of it was his playing of a (secretly) taped conversation between himself and former trainer Brian McNamee, which he thought would help his cause (aside: who knew that only one party to a conversation had to consent to taping it? Apparently New York and Texas have no problems with people acting like Richard Nixon). As the Globe and Mail's Jeff Blair reports, it actually may have hurt Clemens' case. Clemens shows his outrage at McNamee for telling Mitchell that he used steroids, but never actually accuses McNamee of lying (and McNamee never said he lied on the tape). As Stoeten points out over at Drunk Jays Fans, another interesting moment comes from McNamee's line, "The truth is the truth. It is what it is," which Clemens, not so shockingly, danced around. It's impressive that Clemens comes off second-best in perhaps the most favourable circumstances possible: a secretly recorded conversation with his principal antagonist. As the New York Daily News' Mike Lupica writes, "All that was confirmed is that every time Clemens steps in front of the public these days, he doesn't seem to help himself very much." If Clemens can't even win under these circumstances (or in his own press conference, for that matter), how will he ever survive questioning by Congress? At this rate, he'll convict himself. Blair has another nice post on the Globe's baseball blog detailing just how flawed this conference was.

A good case was made by Glenn Kulkla, a former CFL lineman who admitted to steroid use during his career, who said on TSN's Off The Record today, "Whether he's telling the truth or lying, I don't think he's doing a good job of either." Kulkla went on to say that Clemens' explanation that McNamee's injections contained B12 and lidocaine is flawed: lidocaine shots (a local anesthetic similar to those used by dentists) in the back would likely result in the muscles tearing apart during exercise. Another interesting aspect of this is revealed in Jon Heyman's exclusive interview with McNamee for SI.com while watching Clemens' performance on 60 Minutes. McNamee said that lidocaine and B12 would be administered through the arm rather than the butt. You'd think Clemens would have bothered to check that before crafting his denials.

As Robert MacLeod of the Globe writes, whatever your opinion on where the truth is, this saga makes for great drama. McNamee’s lawyer, Richard Emery, announced “It’s war now,” after Clemens’ conference. It should get even more interesting when Clemens goes before Congress. It looks to me like he's left a pitch hanging up in the zone, as he did so many times this year: here's hoping McNamee, the media and Congress step up to the plate and knock this one out of the park.

Related links:
- Stephen Brunt’s column on Clemens’ 60 Minutes appearance, and how everyone overlooks the NFL’s steroids problem
- Peter Botte in the New York Daily News has more in an interview with McNamee
- ESPN's Patrick Hruby talks to experts on why Clemens' story doesn't make sense
- A hilarious take on this from Jeff Tydeman at Bleacher Report (featuring a line that cracked me up, "Roger Clemens has revealed his strategy in responding to accusations about steroid use: He's going to lie repeatedly and emphatically until hopefully the whole thing goes away.").
- A great collection of cartoons on the Mitchell report and steroids in general (my favorites are here, here, and here).

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