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No end of the inglorious ordeal

Clemens' rep takes a big hit, but saga is far from over

Posted: Wednesday February 13, 2008 4:22PM; Updated: Thursday February 14, 2008 5:00PM
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Roger Clemens
Roger Clemens' reputation took a beating, but his ordeal isn't over yet.
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Today is no different than Dec. 13, the day the Mitchell Report was released. Two months later and even after nearly five hours of testimony Wednesday in front of Congress, the issue of whether or not Roger Clemens used steroids is left in a suspended state of dilemma: it's Clemens' word vs. Brian McNamee's word. Still.

What's clear is that for even a chance of resolution, the matter will have to pass into the hands of the Department of Justice, which could launch an investigation that could take years, and be far dirtier and exhaustive than the surface-scratching we saw in the Rayburn Building. Congress, like a deadlocked jury, could also choose to throw its hands up and not refer the case to the DOJ, leaving the issue in a perpetual unresolved state.

You would think the DOJ, given the faith federal investigators have put in McNamee and given the way Clemens' attorneys keep poking the feds in the eye, would love to take control of the ball right now.

Congressional members are clearly split on the issue (most of which broke according to party lines), which was evident in their line of questioning, some of which led you to believe several had chosen sides before they even walked into the room. Some were so out of line that chairman Henry Waxman felt obligated to issue an apology to McNamee. And did you catch Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) at the conclusion of the hearing? One minute she's asking questions, the next she's holding the arm of Clemens and then giving Debbie Clemens a hug. Ugh.

Clemens took some major hits, most especially the word of Andy Pettitte, which he never did properly reconcile. McNamee took some hits, too, but nearly all of them involved his prior lies, not the issues particular to this case. (And with the dirty issue of steroids, boys and girls, you cannot expect choirboys to be singing chapter and verse to the feds.) It's his general credibility that got hammered, not so much his story. Of course, Clemens' camp will tell you those issues cannot be separated.

The bottom line is that perhaps neither person's story is provable beyond a reasonable doubt. That's important as far as the law is concerned. The tie goes to Clemens in the court of law.

But for Clemens, a public figure, a pitcher of great renown and reputation, the collateral damage is irrevocable, the pitcher himself even alluded the hit to his reputation was beyond repair.

If only he had talked to Mitchell in the first place...

Finally, the hearing, while it reached no conclusion, did hit a crescendo. While Waxman was making his closing remarks and referred to a gap in Clemens' story as it relates to Pettitte, the pitcher interrupted the representative. It was highly unusual, rude even, but it was an indication that Clemens will play this your-word-vs.-my-word game with McNamee for as long and loud as he must. The pitcher couldn't help himself, wanted to defend himself one last time, so he blurted out something while Waxman was mid-sentence. The chairman gaveled him, smashing his gavel down and basically telling Clemens his time was up.

"Excuse me," he told Clemens. "This is not your time to argue with me."

Clemens was silenced, but only for the time being. The fight goes on, with the end still not in view.