Clemens to face FBI

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 29, 2008

WASHINGTON — The FBI took up the Roger Clemens case Thursday, told by the Justice Department to investigate whether the star pitcher lied when he testified to Congress he never took performance-enhancing drugs.

The FBI’s involvement was announced one day after the leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee told Attorney General Michael Mukasey they weren’t sure whether Clemens told the truth under oath at a Feb. 5 deposition and Feb. 13 public hearing.

A probe could result in charges against the seven-time Cy Young Award winner for perjury, making false statements or obstruction of justice. Congress did not ask for a similar investigation of Brian McNamee, the former personal trainer who testified under oath that he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone.

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‘‘The request to open an investigation on the congressional testimony of Roger Clemens has been turned over to the FBI and will receive appropriate investigative action by the FBI’s Washington field office,’’ FBI spokeswoman Debra Weierman said.

As with Barry Bonds and Marion Jones, Clemens faces scrutiny from federal authorities more for what he said than what he might have done.

Bonds, baseball’s home run king and a seven-time MVP, was indicted in November on perjury and obstruction of justice charges stemming from 2003 grand jury testimony in which he denied knowingly using illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

Jones, the track and field star who won five medals at the 2000 Olympics, was sentenced in January to six months in prison for lying about using performance enhancers and her role in a check-fraud scam.

Miguel Tejada, the 2002 AL MVP, also is being investigated by the FBI over whether he made false statements to the House committee three years ago. He told congressional investigators he never took performance enhancers and had no knowledge of other players using or talking about steroids.

Clemens testified that he never used steroids or HGH; McNamee testified he injected Clemens with performance-enhancers at least 16 times from 1998-01.

‘‘We’ve always expected they would open an investigation,’’ said Clemens’ lead lawyer, Rusty Hardin. ‘‘They attended the congressional hearing. So what’s new?’’

IRS Special Agent Jeff Novitzky, a key member of the government’s prosecution in the BALCO drug cases, attended the Clemens-McNamee hearing two weeks ago. It was not immediately clear to two law enforcement officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity what role Novitzky or the IRS would play in the FBI inquiry.

Similarly unknown was the role of assistant U.S. attorney Matt Parrella, a federal prosecutor in San Francisco, where the BALCO investigation that ensnared Bonds and Jones is based.

‘‘Separating the investigation of perjury in Congress from everything (federal prosecutors in California) and Novitzky has developed before that would be foolhardy, wasteful and duplicitous,’’ said Richard Emery, one of McNamee’s lawyers. ‘‘Any indictment that does ensue will obviously be lengthy and complicated and should be the product of a cooperative effort.’’

Clemens didn’t answer questions directly Thursday when approached by reporters at the Houston Astros’ spring training camp in Kissimmee, Fla., where he’s been throwing batting practice to minor leaguers.

‘‘I’m going to handle it the right way,’’ Clemens said. ‘‘You guys are wasting your time. We’re going to handle it the right way.

In asking the Justice Department to look into Clemens’ statements to Congress, committee chairman Henry Waxman of California and ranking Republican Tom Davis of Virginia said they weren’t in a position to reach a definitive judgment on Clemens’ truthfulness. They cited McNamee’s testimony and that of former Clemens’ teammate, Andy Pettitte, who told the committee Clemens admitted HGH use to him nearly a decade ago.

Waxman and Davis both declined comment Thursday.

Pettitte acknowledged he’s prepared to be interviewed again about Clemens.

‘‘It makes it extremely difficult,’’ Pettitte said at the Yankees’ spring training camp in Tampa, Fla. ‘‘I don’t like any of this. I cannot stand it. I told you how I feel about him. I hate it. It’s like a part of my family that’s going to have to go through this.’’

Waxman’s committee felt Clemens’ repeated and vigorous denials of McNamee’s allegations questioned the legitimacy of the Mitchell Report, prepared by former Senate majority leader George Mitchell and released in December.

Mitchell, a Boston Red Sox director hired by baseball commissioner Bud Selig to examine drug use in the sport, provided the first public accounting of McNamee’s allegations that he injected Clemens with HGH and steroids.

Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch, another former teammate of Clemens with the Yankees, both acknowledged that McNamee was correct when he said they used performance enhancers.

An 18-page memo Waxman sent committee Democrats sets out ‘‘seven sets of assertions made by Mr. Clemens in his testimony that appear to be contradicted by other evidence before the committee or implausible.’’

Those areas involve Clemens’ testimony that he has ‘‘never taken steroids or HGH’’; that McNamee injected him with the painkiller lidocaine; that team trainers gave him pain injections; that he received many vitamin B-12 injections; that he never discussed HGH with McNamee; that he was not at then-teammate Jose Canseco’s home from June 8-10, 1998; and that he was ‘‘never told’’ about Mitchell’s request to speak to him.

Those same issues were highlighted in the letter to Mukasey, which stated: ‘‘We also understand that federal law enforcement officials may have access to additional evidence on these matters.’’ That is a reference to needles, bloodstained gauze and other items McNamee turned over to federal prosecutors in January.

No DNA evidence involving Clemens had been turned over to the FBI’s lab in Quantico, Va., the two law enforcement officials told the AP. It was not known if the FBI would seek fingerprints or DNA from Clemens as part of its investigation.

Evidence gathered by the FBI, in consultation with Justice Department prosecutors, is presented to grand juries, which meet in secret and consider whether there is sufficient evidence to indict someone on charges of violating a law.

‘‘There appears to be an enormous initiative to determine whether and from where Roger got steroids from 2002 onwards,’’ Emery said. ‘‘That opens the door to an investigation of his home turf, at least.’’


AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.