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Making the call

How much did Clemens' tape recording help his case?

Posted: Monday January 7, 2008 8:01PM; Updated: Monday January 7, 2008 8:01PM
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Roger Clemens (left) confers with his attorney, Rusty Hardin, during Clemens' first appearance before reporters since Brian McNamee's steroid accusations were made public Dec. 13.
Roger Clemens (left) confers with his attorney, Rusty Hardin, during Clemens' first appearance before reporters since Brian McNamee's steroid accusations were made public Dec. 13.
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On Monday, Roger Clemens held a news conference in which he played a tape of his Friday telephone conversation with the man who has accused him of using steroids, his former trainer, Brian McNamee. SI.com's Michael McCann tackles legal questions raised by the news conference, including Clemens' options in his possible appearance before Congress.

1) What were your overall impressions from today's news conference?

Roger Clemens' news conference revealed several key points.

First, his attorney, Rusty Hardin, took the blame for not encouraging his client to speak with former Senator George Mitchell's team or to speak with the media immediately after the issuance of the Mitchell Report, claiming that he needed more time to research the claims against Clemens. His explanation was plausible, but it is still odd that Clemens took so much time to respond.

Hardin also stated he would not advise his client to use a polygraph test, reasoning that he "would never want a client's reputation to hinge on [a polygraph]." There are certainly doubts about polygraph exams, but given the predicament Clemens finds himself in, the decision to not take a polygraph can be questioned.

Hardin also pledged that Clemens would be willing to testify before Congress on Jan. 16 and to answer "every question." His comment implies that Clemens will not plead the Fifth Amendment. Hardin's promise was later supported by Clemens himself, who told a reporter that he would tell Congress "the truth" and would be happy to answer any questions about himself.

Clemens also declined to characterize players who used steroids as "cheaters," and doubted the playing benefit of using steroids, positing instead that steroids help to make players look stronger in their three-piece suits. I found that response curious, since it is well-established that steroids benefit players.

2) Did Clemens benefit by airing his alleged phone call with Brian McNamee?

I'm not sure it produced its intended effect. During the conversation, Brian McNamee repeatedly asked Clemens, "Tell me what you want me to do?" and yet while Clemens said he wanted "the truth," he never directly asked McNamee to contradict what he told federal investigators. Similarly odd, he never asked McNamee, "Why did you lie to the government" or something to that effect.

Instead, Clemens asked McNamee, "Why would you tell guys that I used steroids?" Eventually, in response, McNamee said he would be "willing to go to jail." That reply does not necessarily mean he was originally lying to investigators, however. It could mean that he would now be willing to take the fall for Clemens by contradicting what he earlier told the government.

I was also struck by McNamee saying he "thought he did what was right." He did not sound like a person admitting that he lied to prosecutors. In fact, to be honest, it sounds like someone who was very sad, even regretful, about ratting on one of his old friends and someone who treated him so well.

As a final point, keep in mind that unlike McNamee, Clemens was aware the phone call was being tapped, which may have guided some of his steadfast denials to using steroids.

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