Exclusive: McNamee stands by story
Clemens' ex-trainer reacts to 60 Minutes interview
Posted: Monday January 7, 2008 6:57PM; Updated: Tuesday January 8, 2008 8:37AM
Brian McNamee sits mostly stone-faced as Roger Clemens, his onetime client, brings the heat. "Ridiculous," "hogwash" -- terms used by the seven-time Cy Young Award winner to discredit McNamee's bombshell testimony in the Mitchell Report, in which the longtime personal trainer told investigators that he had injected Clemens with HGH and anabolic steroids -- fail to break McNamee's calm.
Sitting on the couch of his bungalow by a Long Island beach, in an exclusive interview with Sports Illustrated, his first public words since the release of the Mitchell Report on Dec. 13, McNamee occasionally interjects as Mike Wallace interviews Clemens on 60 Minutes. At times he is even complimentary of his client-turned-combatant.
His mood darkens, however, when Wallace asks Clemens, "What did McNamee gain by lying?"
"Evidently not going to jail," the pitcher replies.
"Jail time for what?" Wallace asks.
"Well, I think he's been buying and movin' steroids."
"I'd rather be called a liar than a drug pusher," McNamee says, his voice rising.
He gathers himself, then continues. "The feds look at bank accounts, and there's no money unaccounted for. I don't launder money. I don't have anything in my mattress. If I was pushing drugs, what did I do with the money?"
As suddenly as the storm arrived, it passes. His eyes maneuver between his 23-inch television and a computer monitor that is providing minute-by-minute reviews of Clemens' interview. The trainer reads aloud from e-mails that are supportive of him. He stops to hear Clemens acknowledge that McNamee did, in fact, inject him -- only with the anesthetic lidocaine and B-12 vitamins rather than with HGH and anabolic steroids. "That's news to me," McNamee says. But the edge is gone now. He explains that such shots are administered through the arm and not the butt and implores Wallace to ask the pitcher where he got such prescription drugs. Wallace does not.
When Clemens claims to have no knowledge that Andy Pettitte -- Clemens' close friend and training partner, and another former client of McNamee -- had twice taken HGH, thus corroborating McNamee's testimony in the Mitchell Report, the trainer interjects, "I believe that."
As the 60 Minutes interview draws to a close, Clemens, who will repeat his denials in a news conference the next day, discusses the possibility of taking a lie detector test. "I think he's the one guy who could probably beat the test," McNamee opines. "He might actually believe that he's telling the truth."
McNamee apparently still admires Clemens very much, so much that he insists that the 45-year-old right-hander belongs in the Hall of Fame. And though his lawyers have threatened a defamation lawsuit against Clemens, McNamee says he hopes it doesn't come to a courtroom. "I'd like it all to just fade away,'' he says. (Word would come late on Sunday night that Clemens had filed a defamation suit of his own.)
But to testify truthfully, McNamee explains, was the only way to avoid prosecution. "I shouldn't have done it,'' he says of his steroid involvement. "I made a mistake. And I stopped it.''
What McNamee says he did back then was to educate players in what he recognized to be a steroid epidemic. He says he didn't push players to performance-enhancing drugs, but only helped steer them to safer drugs if they were already so inclined. "I made a mistake [out of] loyalty to others,'' is how he puts it.
Safer performance-enhancing drugs, McNamee explains, is what drew him to Kirk Radomski, the former New York Mets' clubhouse attendant who has pleaded guilty to distributing steroids and money laundering. McNamee, then a Yankees strength and conditioning coach, became acquainted with Radomski, whom he learned through a mutual acquaintance might be able to get him a deal on a Lexus. Soon McNamee started buying steroids from Radomski, whom he saw as a trusted source of quality performance-enhancing drugs. McNamee sees himself as someone who only did what his big-name clients requested, faithfully carrying out orders.
Clemens and McNamee had hit it off almost immediately in Toronto in the late 1990s, when Clemens was a four-time Cy Young Award winner thought to be near the end of a Hall of Fame career. Defying the odds, Clemens won three more Cy Youngs, aided in part, according to the Mitchell Report, by performance-enhancing drugs procured by McNamee. The Mitchell Report states that McNamee shot up Clemens between 16 and 21 times with as many as three different steroids and HGH over the 1998, 2000 and 2001 seasons. On numerous occasions, including an SI.com interview in 2006, McNamee had denied any involvement with steroids. "I looked at them like white lies,'' McNamee says. "I was doing clinics and getting mail from high school coaches, and the topic would always come up. Why did they need to hear the truth and take away from my program of smart training, eating well and working hard? There really were no shortcuts.''
McNamee says no one ever outworked Clemens, but McNamee said under oath that Clemens had artificial help. He saw noted West Coast trainer Greg Anderson go to prison rather than testify about his star client, Barry Bonds. But McNamee has three young children and wouldn't think of choosing Clemens over them. (Though in a taped phone call from last Friday played at Clemens' press conference on Monday afternoon, McNamee would offer to go to jail on Clemens' behalf.)
"Faced with the situation I was faced with, I had no choice,'' McNamee says. "I didn't want to do it. I have a 10-year-old and a 7-year-old and I don't want them taking steroids. I'm embarrassed. I wish I had nothing to do with it.''
McNamee still holds Clemens in high regard, in part because he admires the pitcher's tireless work ethic, and also because he believes that Clemens was only one of many players using performance enhancers. "It's sad,'' McNamee says. "He was a mentor to me. Roger is an unbelievable family man. I learned how to treat my kids from Roger. And Roger was in no way an abuser of steroids. He never took them through our tough winter workouts. And he never took them in spring training, when the days are longest. He took them in late July, August, and never for more than four to six weeks max ... it wasn't that frequent.'
"Within the culture of what was going on, he was just a small part of it. A lot of guys did it. You can't take away the work Roger did. You can't take away the fact that he worked out as hard as anybody.'' When McNamee, also a former strength and conditioning coach with the Blue Jays from 1998 through 2000, is asked to estimate how many major leaguers were involved with steroids during that period, he answers without hesitation. "More than half,'' he says.
McNamee speaks fondly about his successful pairing with Clemens; apparently, he hasn't quite let go. There are signs that he'd like their old relationship back. Clemens revealed on 60 Minutes that McNamee emailed him for fishing tips days before Mitchell's findings were divulged without hinting what was to come, an assertion that McNamee didn't deny.
McNamee explains that he was prohibited from revealing to anyone what he had told Mitchell. "It was killing me," he says. "I got sick. I could not talk about it. It was a federal investigation.'' McNamee also explains that at the time he was still reasonably hopeful that none of the names Mitchell learned from him or anyone else would be made public. "Why would I tell Roger or Andy something they might not even find out about?'' he says.
McNamee received the first call from the feds way back in May. "I was pretty compelled to tell the truth,'' is the way McNamee put it. "It made me sick,'' he says. 'I was hospitalized for the stress.''
Three months later, in August, he was called before Mitchell, and asked to nod to what he told the feds the month before. When he was done nodding, he says Mitchell hugged him. But he claims he took no pride in it.
"I made a mistake. And obviously, I paid for it tenfold,'' McNamee says.
McNamee says Clemens paid him fairly -- "he paid me a decent wage, nothing more, nothing less; I helped make him millions.'' He talks often about his kids, and a neat but tall stack of diapers on the dining room table suggests that he's heavily involved in their lives. His training business also is far from hurting. There are weights in a small front room of the bungalow, and he appears to have a full training schedule -- though, of course none of the clients are of Clemens' ilk.
While his rented house is rather small, it is located in a desirable community only blocks from the beach. It isn't close to Clemens' palace, but it is homey. Considering all that's gone on, he also appears to have more peace of mind than you'd think despite the stress. "I'll land on my feet,'' he says. "I'll get by.''