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McNamee looked back at Clemens. "Yeah," the trainer said. "I think I can handle that."
"All right," Clemens said. "I'll let you know."
ONE OF the perks of playing for Toronto was living in the luxury hotel attached to the stadium. Only five minutes after a hard game, an exhausted player could crash in one of the 70 rooms beyond the outfield. When the team was at home, Clemens lived in a SkyDome apartment with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on the diamond.
Shortly after their clubhouse conversation that day in June, Clemens summoned McNamee to the apartment, and by the time the trainer arrived, the pitcher had already laid out some clear glass vials containing a cloudy white liquid. The labels identified the substance as Winstrol, an anabolic steroid. There were some large needles, too, and sterilizing alcohol.
There was one problem. McNamee had experience only with the small-bore subcutaneous needles he used to inject his son. He was now looking at wide-bore needles meant to puncture dense muscle and inject a thick fluid deep into tissue. His mind began racing. He had no authority to give injections to players, let alone to the face of the franchise. But Clemens had asked, and McNamee had agreed. There was no turning back. Anyway, McNamee figured, Clemens was more prone to hurt himself if he stuck needles into his own ass.
The pitcher bent over. McNamee dabbed Clemens's skin with alcohol so as not to cause an infection. Then he stuck the needle into the pitcher's buttocks and depressed the plunger of the syringe. Now they were accomplices.
From that moment McNamee and Clemens had the kind of relationship that can create the tightest bonds of loyalty—and pave the way for a painful falling out. When they had first met, at that season's spring training in Dunedin, Fla., Clemens still felt remnants of the bitterness that had consumed him after his dismissal from the Boston Red Sox following the 1996 season. He'd poured his guts into that team for 13 years, only to be sent off with what he perceived as an insult: Boston general manager Dan Duquette said Clemens had reached "the twilight of his career." After signing a three-year, $24.75 million contract to play for the Blue Jays in 1997, Clemens shot back, "I could pitch till I'm 45 because of the conditioning I do, especially with my legs."
Police work was the McNamee family business, and Brian had had his share of big moments during his three years and four months on the force. Working undercover, he had patrolled Manhattan in a Yellow Cab; he locked up 77 people and won numerous commendations. One day in 1991, while on foot patrol, he got a call to head to a five-story walk-up near Lexington Avenue. What he found there would remain vivid in his memory: the body of four-year-old Conor Clapton embedded in the tar on the roof. The boy, the son of rock star Eric Clapton and Italian actress Lori del Santo, had fallen from a window in the high-rise apartment building next door.
Now McNamee's gig with the Blue Jays was his foothold in the glamorous world of professional sports. He was 31 and not getting paid much, but he was close to fame and glory. He'd played baseball for Archbishop Molloy High in Queens and had been a good enough catcher to play for St. John's University, helping his team upset defending national champion Stanford in the 1988 NCAA tournament. After college McNamee had played a little semipro ball in the New York area, and after leaving the police department in 1993 he had worked briefly as a bullpen catcher for the Yankees.
Despite their differences in accent and income, Clemens, the swaggering jock from Texas, and McNamee, the sardonic ex-cop from New York, shared a passion for baseball. Clemens was determined to prove he wasn't fading, and McNamee, having just arrived at the Show, was committed to staying there. So there would be other injections, but with the first one the two men crossed a stark line into territory they would never escape: Clemens became a cheater, and McNamee became his enabler.