Clemens, McNamee face congressional hearing Wednesday; steroid allegations in question

By Ronald Blum

WASHINGTON – Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee will be the focus of Wednesday’s congressional hearing about the Mitchell Report, with Andy Pettitte spared having to deliver public testimony that could damage his former teammate.

“I guess it’s showtime, isn’t it?” said Clemens’ lead lawyer, Rusty Hardin.

Pettitte, former Clemens teammate Chuck Knoblauch and convicted steroids distributor Kirk Radomski were taken off the list of those testifying. One new witness was added Monday: a lawyer who worked with former Senate majority leader George Mitchell to produce December’s report on drugs in baseball.

But everyone surely will be focusing on Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, and McNamee, his former personal trainer. McNamee said in the Mitchell Report that he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone at least 16 times in 1998, 2000 and 2001. Clemens’ denials of those allegations drew the attention of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

McNamee also accused Pettitte of using HGH – and Pettitte acknowledged he did for two days in 2002 to deal with an elbow injury. Before Pettitte spoke to committee lawyers under oath last week, one of McNamee’s lawyers, Earl Ward, said he thought Pettitte would tell Congress he discussed HGH with Clemens between the 2001 and 2002 seasons.

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    While Pettitte was excused from testifying publicly, portions of his sworn deposition may be read aloud at the hearing. The committee’s ranking Republican, Tom Davis of Virginia, said in an interview with Newsday that Pettitte’s account matches McNamee’s in most details and that because of the deposition, Pettitte’s presence wasn’t necessary.

    “I don’t think it makes any difference,” Davis was quoted as saying.

    Radomski – sentenced Friday to five years’ probation after pleading guilty in April to distributing steroids and money laundering – has said he had no direct contact with Clemens. Knoblauch’s knowledge appeared to be peripheral.

    Pettitte gave his deposition Feb. 4, followed the next day by Clemens, and McNamee later in the week. Knoblauch, a four-time All-Star who played on the Yankees with Clemens and Pettitte and, like them, was named in the Mitchell Report, was interviewed by committee staff last month. Radomski had been scheduled for a pre-hearing interview with committee staff Tuesday.

    “Mr. Knoblauch and Mr. Pettitte answered all the committee’s questions and their testimony at the hearing is not needed,” Davis and committee chairman Henry Waxman said in a statement. “Mr. Clemens and Mr. McNamee have also cooperated with the committee in its investigation.”

    Following Pettitte’s deposition, his lawyers asked the committee to excuse him from the hearing, a person familiar with the talks said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the negotiations weren’t made public.

    Pettitte’s attorney, Jay Reisinger, declined to comment after the announcement. Pettitte’s request to be excused was first reported by The New York Times on its Web site.

    A lawyer for Radomski did not immediately return a phone message left at his office Monday night.

    “I’m not disappointed,” said Knoblauch’s attorney, Diana Marshall. “I know Chuck is not disappointed.”

    Clemens – who ranks eighth in major league history with 354 wins – was to resume his face-to-face lobbying efforts of committee members Tuesday, after the panel’s planned hearing entitled, “Myths and Facts about Human Growth Hormone, B12, and Other Substances.”

    The 45-year-old pitcher spoke with nearly half of the lawmakers on the committee during a two-day tour last week.

    Wednesday’s new witness is Charles Scheeler, a partner with Mitchell’s law firm, DLA Piper. According to the firm’s Web site, Scheeler mainly works in commercial litigation and white collar criminal defense.

    Asked about Scheeler’s addition, Hardin said: “I look forward to hearing what he has to say.”

    Clemens’ camp disputes several elements of the Mitchell Report’s sections about him. Clemens said he repeated under oath during his closed-door deposition what he previously had said in various settings publicly: “I’ve never used steroids or growth hormone.”

    If the committee believes Clemens or McNamee made false statements under oath, it could ask the Justice Department to open an investigation. This is the same House panel that – after the Mitchell Report came out – asked Justice to look into whether 2002 AL MVP Miguel Tejada lied when he told committee investigators in 2005 that he never took performance enhancers and had no knowledge of other players using or talking about steroids. The FBI’s field office in Washington is handling that inquiry.

    “We’ve always known that one of the potential possibilities, one of the possible results of Roger testifying differently than the Mitchell Report, could be a criminal referral,” Hardin said. “That’s an option the committee’s always had.”

    Blum reported from New York. Fendrich reported from Washington.