Whoever said steroids can be harmful just might have had Brian McNamee in mind. The word "steroids" alone has done immeasurable, maybe irreparable, harm to McNamee.
If you don't recognize his name, well, that's OK. Few do. He's known mostly to baseball insiders.
McNamee is a no-nonsense, no-frills fellow who works in baseball as a trainer and who has whipped a few pitching stars into shape, including Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. He is well-known in the industry as the one who helped coax the last four Cy Young awards out of Clemens and kept Pettitte throwing when a sizable gap in his pitching elbow should have felled him by now. He is a work from sunrise-to-sunset kind of guy who spent two years as an undercover police officer, says he has a BS in Athletic Administration from St. John's and a masters in Sports Medicine from Long Island University. But these days the workaholic is getting a little less work, though not by choice. His name recently appeared in a blockbuster steroids story and things just haven't been the same since.
In a report that "shocked" him, McNamee read an L.A. Times story on the Internet that said his name supposedly appeared in the search-warrant affidavit of IRS agent Jeff Novitzky. The affidavit, which had previously become public with the names redacted, included this passage about reliever Jason Grimsley:
"Grimsley stated that [redacted], a former employee of the [redacted] and personal fitness trainer to several Major League Baseball players, once referred him to an amphetamine source. Grimsley stated that after this referral he secured amphetamines, anabolic steroids, and human grown hormone from [redacted's] referred source.
According to the Internet report, which preceded a print version in the Oct. 1 Los Angeles Times, McNamee is the fitness trainer in question. Moreover, the story -- based on an unnamed source who supposedly allowed a reporter to view the unredacted affidavit -- alleged that five other baseball people, including McNamee's two biggest clients, were also in the affidavit.
The story was deemed major news and it was rerun or repeated in about every major media venue in the country. Later, when the report was criticized as containing "significant inaccuracies" by Kevin Ryan, the U.S. Attorney heading the case, smaller stories ran much less prominently in sports sections across the nation. Luke Macaulay, a spokesman for Ryan's office, told SI.com the inaccuracies "do regard names." Macaulay didn't say which names were incorrect, but did say there were "plural" inaccuracies involving names. He did not say whether McNamee was one of the incorrect names.
McNamee breaks his silence
McNamee had remained silent in the wake of the Times report, even as his name became dirt in the very circles in which he was previously admired as one of the best trainers going. But he said that with jobs being lost, opportunities drying up and a reputation built on years of hard work sinking like one of Clemens' split-fingered fastball, he decided to speak out. In two exclusive interviews recently with SI.com, McNamee stated several times that he is not involved in steroids, that he has not spoken with anyone from the U.S. attorney's office and that he was stunned to be in the report since he had very little interaction with Grimsley, who is under federal investigation for the use and possession of performance-enhancing drugs and is now out of baseball.
"No one's concerned about Brian McNamee or how it affects my life," he said. "They just want to use me to get to them [Clemens and Pettitte]. And I'm the one getting hit by the bus. I got hit, and I'm still standing there. And the bus has kept going."
Clemens and Pettitte issued denials the day after the Times story ran and then got on with their charmed lives. They are now considering whether to play next season, and if they do, they will make eight-figure salaries, just as they have for the preceding several years. Their current team, the Astros, stood by them, as you'd expect in a case of one report relying on an anonymous source. The Orioles also stood behind their three mentioned players -- Miguel Tejada, Brian Roberts and Jay Gibbons.
But McNamee hasn't been as fortunate. He says Clemens and Pettitte pay him an average working wage and expenses, but not so much that he didn't have to do several other jobs to support a wife and three kids, one with diabetes. Now some of those jobs are disappearing, he says. His professorship at St. John's University, has been suspended and some of the deals he was working on with fitness facilities and nutritional companies dried up. A couple clients even backed away. "I get a lot of 'don't call us, we'll call you,'" McNamee said.
Before the damning report, McNamee was strictly a behind-the-scenes sort of guy. He's not like some trainers you'd see in major-league clubhouses who are there to play catch with their superstar client, gab it up with reporters in an effort to win publicity for themselves, are themselves out of shape and carry a satchel full of who-knows-what. McNamee shunned the spotlight. He kept to himself. He didn't try to make friends with players he wasn't training. He didn't curry favor with the bosses, and he rubbed a few people the wrong way with his intentionally brusque, no-nonsense manner. He just did his work and went home.