WASHINGTON — Seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday for allegedly lying to Congress about using steroids and growth hormone. The criminal case writes a new chapter in one of Major League Baseball’s worst scandals, the rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs.
A six-count indictment alleges that Clemens obstructed a congressional inquiry with 15 different statements that he made under oath in 2008, including denials that he had ever used steroids or human growth hormone. The indictment says that he lied and committed perjury regarding the same matters.
The former pitcher and his former trainer, Brian McNamee, testified under oath at a 2008 hearing before a House committee and contradicted each other about whether Clemens had used performance-enhancing drugs.
McNamee has told federal agents, baseball investigator George Mitchell and the committee that he injected Clemens more than a dozen times with steroids and human growth hormone from 1998 to 2001.
Clemens has maintained that McNamee was lying, and said so under oath before the committee. “I couldn’t tell you the first thing about it,” he testified when asked about human growth hormone. “I never used steroids. Never performance-enhancing steroids.”
“As far as we’re concerned, it’s vindication,” Earl Ward, one of McNamee’s attorneys, said of the indictment.
The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, who presided over the perjury and obstruction trial of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby. No date has been set for Clemens’ initial court appearance.
Clemens’ attorney, Rusty Hardin, had no immediate comment.
In his defiant testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Clemens said, “I’ve been accused of something I’m not guilty of. … I have never taken steroids or HGH.”
Longtime Clemens friend and New York Yankees teammate Andy Pettite told congressional investigators that Clemens confided to him that he had used HGH. Clemens said Pettite was wrong.
“I believe Andy has misheard” the conversation, Clemens responded. He said he had simply mentioned to Pettite a TV show about three older men who used HGH to get back their quality of life.
“When a witness, such as Roger Clemens, lies, as I think he did, he should be held accountable,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the House committee’s chairman at the time of the baseball star’s testimony.
Former Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, who was the top Republican on the House panel, called the indictment “a self-inflicted wound” by Clemens.
“Clemens was not under subpoena. He came voluntarily. He wanted to come to the committee and clear his name,” Davis said. “And I sat there in the office with [committee chairman] Henry Waxman and said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t lie.”’
Davis added: “I did not want to refer this to Justice, but we didn’t have any choice.”
The former congressman said Clemens “got caught in a speed trap, basically. He could have just let it go, but he denied it vociferously before Congress. Several times, we gave him the opportunity to back down, and he didn’t.”
During a 23-year career as a starting pitcher, Clemens played for the Boston Red Sox, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Yankees and the Houston Astros, chalking up 354 wins, 4,672 strikeouts and a lifetime earned run average of 3.12.
Clemens, who turned 48 this month, is ninth on the all-time wins list and was an 11-time All-Star.
The Clemens matter was the second referral the congressional committee made to the Justice Department. The other involved Miguel Tejada, who pleaded guilty to making misleading statements to committee investigators in 2005 regarding his knowledge of performance-enhancing drugs.
Other baseball greats, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds among them, have become enmeshed in the steroid scandal of the 1990s.
Bonds is under indictment by a federal grand jury, and has pleaded not guilty to charges that he lied to a grand jury in December 2003 when he testified that he never knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs.
McGwire admitted his use of steroids earlier this year and said: “It was a wrong thing what I did. I totally regret it.”
Clemens was mentioned by name 82 times in the Mitchell Report, Major League Baseball’s official report on the illegal use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, compiled by former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell.
In all, 85 players were mentioned in the report.
In the 409-page Mitchell document that was released on Dec. 13, 2007, Clemens was singled out in nearly nine pages. Much of the information on him came from McNamee, the former Yankees strength and conditioning coach.
Four days after the report was released, Clemens issued a categorical denial.
“I want to state clearly and without qualification: I did not take steroids, human growth hormone or any other banned substances at any time in my baseball career or, in fact, my entire life,” he said.
“Those substances represent a dangerous and destructive shortcut that no athlete should ever take,” Clemens’ statement said.
“I am disappointed that my 25 years in public life have apparently not earned me the benefit of the doubt, but I understand that Senator Mitchell’s report has raised many serious questions. I plan to publicly answer all of those questions at the appropriate time in the appropriate way. I only ask that in the meantime people not rush to judgment.”
AP sports writer Ben Walker in New York contributed to this report.