The trial of baseball legend Roger Clemens is over. The facts have been aired, and the jury has found him not guilty on all counts.
There will, however, be no convincing sportswriters of Roger’s innocence. Angry at being duped by star players, these self-appointed protectors of America’s pastime turned their fury on Roger when he refused to apologize for a sin he denied committing. Congress got swept up in the outrage, forcing Roger to testify before the cameras and referring him to the Justice Department for indictment when he did not say what lawmakers wanted to hear.
I advised Roger and his legal team before, during and after the congressional hearing that was the basis of his prosecution. Here is what I saw:
The most remarkable thing about Roger is his physique. He is huge — his neck, thighs, arms. He is a barrel-chested man. Athletes who use steroids seem to shrink after they stop using; Roger is as big as ever.
Roger works out obsessively. Every day, before or after trips to Capitol Hill or court, Roger would run and go to the gym. He gave fitness tips to the legal team. He even admitted to occasionally watching his wife’s exercise videos. He talked about how, as a young pitcher, he figured out that Nolan Ryan got his power from his legs and became determined to train his way to an even faster fastball.
Behind closed doors, Roger never wavered in asserting his innocence. I have spent my career around politicians and people in trouble, and you can almost always tell when you’re not getting the whole story. We in Washington know how answers are carefully crafted to avoid embarrassing truths. Not with Roger. Never once did Roger try to shade the facts or exhibit uncertainty. During hearing preparation in a room full of attorneys, when asked if he would take a lie-detector test, Roger did not hesitate before answering yes.
Myriad inaccuracies about the case have been reported. For one, Roger never insisted on testifying before Congress. He was threatened with a subpoena and had to testify or risk being smeared by a one-sided presentation. Former teammate Andy Pettitte was always uncertain about the content of his conversations with Roger about human growth hormone. The transcripts of Pettitte’s interview with congressional investigators make clear that Pettitte signed a more definitive affidavit only as a last-ditch effort to avoid testifying.
Roger also had stellar pitching seasons beyond the years that McNamee alleges Roger used steroids, and Roger acknowledged receiving B-12 shots, which are perfectly appropriate and which other ballplayers verified were available in clubhouses.
Roger never tested positive for steroids, and nothing in his medical records indicates steroid use. His massage therapists testified under oath that they witnessed no physical signs of steroid use. The woman who cleaned his apartment testified that she never saw evidence of vials, needles or steroids.
The Justice Department spent millions of dollars, with more than 90 federal agents interviewing 179 individuals and producing 235 interview reports in a futile attempt to find somebody who gave HGH or steroids to Roger Clemens. It found no one. In this era of celebrity tell-alls, that is remarkable.
Congressional committee hearings are ill-suited to function as courts of law. It’s easy to see what happened: The committee rushed toward a media-fueled hearing and panicked when Roger asserted his innocence proactively in the days before the hearing. Lawmakers over-relied on thin witness testimony and referred Roger to the Justice Department to save face. Inexplicably, prosecutors announced their intention to indict Roger before even interviewing the chief accuser.
There was a massive rush to judgment by sports journalists, members of Congress and Justice Department officials. Amid this hysteria, Roger behaved exactly how an innocent person would: He professed his innocence without faltering, testified before a congressional panel determined to break him, refused a plea bargain and spent personal resources to defend himself. He steadfastly refused the easy path — admit fault, apologize to the American people and move on with his life — because he knew he didn’t commit any crime.
What are the consequences of Roger’s trial by media, beyond a prosecution that wasted scarce government resources? Because of the rush to judgment, a man’s reputation has been smeared beyond repair. Roger Clemens’ legacy is tarnished forever, no matter what the jury says.
Patrick Dorton is a managing partner at the communications firm Rational 360.