Rocket to face the music

KEN FIDLIN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:16 AM ET

Mr. Clemens goes to Washington tomorrow.

Now we know that most of you out there are confused and weary of the constant pulling on the threads of the Mitchell Report to see what will fall out next.

But this is a biggie.

Ever since the Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball came out, with Roger Clemens prominently fingered as a multiple offender by his former trainer, Brian McNamee, the Rocket has been fighting a public relations battle to clear his name and save his reputation.

To this point, it's been strictly a he-said/she-said scenario. For a month and a half, Clemens has been arguing his case in the media, professing total innocence.

But tomorrow the stakes will be ratcheted up as he puts his testimony on the record in a deposition for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee of the United States Congress, in preparation for hearings next week.

Former Yankees teammate Chuck Knoblauch was deposed on Friday. And Clemens' teammate and workout partner, Andy Pettitte, is expected to talk with committee lawyers today. McNamee, is scheduled to be deposed on Thursday. This is all to provide background information for Feb. 13, when the congressmen will grill those four witnesses, and possibly former Mets' clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski, who is said to have provided the drugs.

Neither Knoblauch nor Pettitte has disputed claims by McNamee that he injected them with human growth hormone, leaving only Clemens to deny McNamee's testimony.

There is a huge distinction between staring into the CBS cameras and declaring his innocence to Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes and speaking under oath to investigators for the federal government. See, there isn't anything the government hates more than being lied to.

The Oversight Committee is Congress' most powerful investigative tool.

Right now, McNamee is providing the only testimony implicating Clemens, so it comes down to one man's word against the other.

However, if some undeniable proof of Clemens' guilt or innocence comes into the government's hand, whether now or in the future, either Clemens or McNamee could be charged with perjury.

This is the dilemma now facing Barry Bonds. Several years ago, in his deposition before a grand jury investigating the BALCO scandal in San Francisco, Bonds declared that he had never knowingly used steroids. Now the government has charged Bonds with perjury because it believes it has indisputable evidence that Bonds did, in fact, knowingly use those drugs.

If convicted, he could go to jail for as long as 30 years. Once riled, the government can be a ruthless foe: The feds are also rumoured to be looking at Bonds for income tax evasion.

To this point, Bonds and Clemens figure to be two of the biggest baseball stories of the year. Bonds, for his fight to stay out of jail, and Clemens for his fight to clear his name.

But one false step by Clemens in this legal minefield could put him into the same quicksand Bonds finds himself in.

These Congressional hearings are a continuation of a set of steroid hearings staged in 2005. During that first set of hearings, slugger Miguel Tejada was one of the players who testified and he declared, on the public record, that he had never used any performance-enhancing drugs and had no knowledge of other players using them.

Three years later, as a result of evidence compiled in the Mitchell Report implicating Tejada in the steroid scandal, the Oversight Committee has asked the Justice Department to investigate Tejada for possible perjury in his statements in 2005.

Over the past month or so, Clemens' vigorous defence of his reputation has gained some traction. He has planted some seeds of doubt. It's doubtful, however, if he can ever get it all back, under any circumstances. People are going to believe what they want to believe.

After this week, his denials are going to be officially part of the Congressional record, his words archived in the hope of exoneration, but there also with the potential to be plunged like a dagger right between his own shoulder blades.

If his conscience is clear, then he has nothing to worry about. If ...


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