Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Does anyone believe Roger Clemens is telling the truth?

Roger Clemens followed his Sunday night appearance on 60 Minutes Monday delivering a pair of high and hard inside fastballs to his former trainer Brian McNamee. Late Sunday (first reported by The Houston Chronicle Monday morning) Clemens filed a defamation suit against McNamee. Late Monday afternoon an angry Clemens met with the media – seemingly attacking the media by the time Clemens hour long press conference ended. What Clemens managed to accomplish Monday – the seven time Cy Young Award winner made it clear “he’s telling the truth and damm anyone who doesn’t believe in Roger Clemens.”

The news that Clemens had filed a lawsuit against McNamee in a Houston Court may have come as a surprise to many – especially Brian McNamee. Last week McNamee’s legal team suggested in no uncertain terms McNamee would file a lawsuit against Clemens if Clemens trashed McNamee.

Clemens turned the tables on McNamee's legal team, filing his own defamation lawsuit against his former trainer for making "false and defamatory" claims in Senator George Mitchell's report on performance-enhancing-drug use in Major League Baseball.
"All of McNamee's accusations are false and defamatory per se because they are not true, and they injured Clemens' reputation and exposed him to public hatred, contempt, ridicule, and financial injury," the lawsuit states. "McNamee made the allegations with actual malice, knowing they were false.

"The law presumes that McNamee's false; defamatory per se statements injured Clemens. Moreover, as a proximate result of the publication and republication of McNamee's false accusations, Clemens' good reputation has been severely injured. Finally, McNamee's false allegations have also caused Clemens to suffer mental anguish, shame, public humiliation and embarrassment. Clemens seeks damages for these injuries from McNamee in an amount to be determined by a jury."

The lawsuit according to a MLB.com report also implies that McNamee was pressured into identifying Clemens specifically.

"According to McNamee, he originally made his allegations to federal authorities after being threatened with criminal prosecution if he did not implicate Clemens," the lawsuit states. "McNamee has stated that he later affirmed his allegations to the Mitchell Commission, again only after being expressly threatened with criminal prosecution."

The lawsuit according to a MLB.com report directly links IRS Special Agent Jeff Novitzky to the alleged information McNamee shared Novitzky and a strong suggestion unless McNamee played ‘ball’ he (McNamee) might be forced to deal with some serious issues.

"Listen Brian -- this is [Assistant United States Attorney Matthew] Parrella -- he goes, 'You have three strikes to go to jail.' He goes -- he goes, 'You know, you're a cop.' He goes, 'You picked up steroids and you delivered steroids. That's a federal crime.' He goes, 'And if you lie to a federal agent, you go to jail.' He goes, 'I'm going to tell you' -- my attorney just sat there. He goes, 'Yesterday, you took two steps back' -- no. 'You have two strikes against you to go to jail. You have one more strike.' All right. So, then, they recapped what we talked about that day and then -- the day before. And, then, right away, 'So what about Clemens?' 'Well, what do you mean?' [IRS Special Agent] Novitzky went on this big tirade because it was the biggest embarrassing thing I've ever heard from anybody. He's trying to tell me that I -- that how can I tell him that I don't know anything about steroids and Clemens with, first of all, what they know and then also I must not be good at what I do because I stretch him and I train him; so if I put my hands on his body, how can I not know that his body's changing by taking steroids.

"And then, he threw a piece of paper at me and he goes, 'Do you know how many people we've talked to?' Parrella jumped in. He goes, 'We know about [sic] more about you than you know about yourself.' He goes, 'You're going to jail.' My attorney just sat there. And they said, 'Let's get back to when you first met Clemens in '98.'"

This isn’t the first time IRS Special Agent Jeff Novitzky’s name has been linked to allegations against a Major League Baseball player and the alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs.

In 2004 long before the release of “Game of Shadows” the New York Times best selling look at Barry Bonds and other athletes’ alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs,
Jonathan Littman, a San Francisco based writer wrote “Gunning for the Big Guy” for Playboy. Littman’s piece investigated Jeff Novitzky’s pursuit of Barry Bonds.

According to Littman, Novitzky, a former college basketball player who blew out his knee while playing college basketball, had what appears to be an intense dislike of Barry Bonds. Which has served as the catalyst for his preoccupation with Barry Bonds. Novitzky who has built his reputation digging through the garbage of those he was investigating, (one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure must be part of Novitzky’s belief system), saw Victor Conte’s garbage as his ticket to bring down Barry Bonds.

Novitzky has never spoken with Littman or any member of the media about the BALCO/Bonds investigation. However, at least three members of Novitzky’s team did speak with Littman including Iran White (real name Ronnie Gerald Allen). White was the member of the investigation team that went undercover to assist Novitzky in his investigation of Bonds.

According to Littman, for reasons that aren’t clear, Novitzky “seemed to have an unusual interest in the ballplayer.”

Novitzky, the former college basketball player (6’7 and an athletic scholarship at San Jose State, Novitzky blew out his knee ending his career), was a member of Bay Area Fitness. Bay Area Fitness is same training facility Bonds former trainer Greg Anderson ‘hung out’ at. Novitzky seemed bothered by Bonds’ size and likely his success as an athlete. Working on his own initially, Novitzky discovered enough evidence against BALCO that agents from California's Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement became interested enough to assist Novitzky in his efforts.

According to Littman, White, agreed to go undercover in hopes of helping build a case against Barry Bonds. White, who has since gone under cover and nearly died from a stroke a direct result from the investigation, recalled to Littman the details of a conversation he had with Novitzky regarding Barry Bonds and how Jeff Novitzky felt about Barry Bonds.

"That Bonds. He's a great athlete," White says Novitzky told him. "You think he's on steroids?"

White took a moment before replying, in his bourbon-and-cotton voice, "I think they're all on steroids. All of our top major leaguers."

Novitzky seemed to care only about Bonds. "He's such an asshole to the press," he said. "I'd sure like to prove it."

In no what does that suggest Jeff Novitzky ever acted improperly – but that said Jeff Novitzky remains focused on athletes and their alleged abuse of performance-enhancement drugs.

Monday afternoon Clemens erased any doubts how he feels about Brian McNamee. In a move Clemens attorney suggested was perfectly legal in the state of Texas, Clemens played a taped phone call he and McNamee exchanged Friday night. Clemens lawyer made it clear according to both Texas and New York state laws any telephone conversation can be recorded between two people as long as one of two people consents to the recording.

Throughout the phone call a desperate sounding McNamee keeps on pleading with Clemens about his current financial picture, saying more than once he (McNamee was living in squalor in a low rent motel and currently could only find work training high school athletes. McNamee never asked Clemens for money directly but kept on hammering Clemens regarding not only is financial plight but asked Clemens what he wanted Clemens to do. Clemens for his part wasn’t very clear what he wanted McNamee to do.

Throughout the press conference Clemens was on the attack – focusing much of his anger not only at what he believes are false charges but how he has been treated by the media.

Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy spared nothing in his review of Clemens 60 Minutes appearance: “Roger Clemens's long-awaited appearance on "60 Minutes" aired last night and viewers will draw their own conclusions. These are mine:

1. Clemens looks dirty. Given lack of a positive test (for steroids or human growth hormone), no paper trail, and the testimony of a single witness most of us have never met, it's an unfair conclusion, but that's what I came away with. The alternative simply makes no sense and history tells us that those alleged to be using performance enhancers almost always wind up being cheaters.

2. The must-see TV event will come Jan. 16 when (if) Clemens and his former personal trainer, Brian McNamee, sit side-by-side answering questions before Congress. Putting out a statement through your lawyer and talking to "60 Minutes" is one thing, speaking under oath to Congress is far different.

3. Mike Wallace is clearly in the twilight of his great career (the CBS legend will be 90 in May). Wallace is a Friend of Roger, was handpicked by the Rocket for the interview, and several times let Clemens off the hook when he could have swooped in for the killer question.”

Just a few thoughts on Shaughnessy’s column. If next week’s Congressional Hearings follow previous hearings that have featured athletes neither Clemens nor McNamee will be sworn in. They will be offering their views to a Congressional Committee. That said – Clemens and McNamnee are telling two very different tales – is it possible the two men will arrive on Capital Hill next Wednesday and they’ll both be telling what they believe is there version of the truth?

One of McNamee's lawyers, Earl Ward, told Andrew Marchand of ESPN 1050 radio in New York that "the tape adds absolutely nothing."

He also said that McNamee will not speak again until he testifies Jan. 16 to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

As for his reaction to learning that McNamee had spoken with Clemens, Ward said, "I was surprised. I wasn't pleased."

As angry as Clemens is towards the media, the full frontal assault on Clemens continues seemingly unabated. The New York Times in Tuesday’s edition spoke with Janine Driver, a body-language consultant who trains law enforcement officers in truth detection.

“There’s more to the story. There are several probing points that lead me to believe that he’s not going to be completely truthful.”

The 60 Minutes feature took two and a half hours to film – something the media failed to point out in critiquing Clemens appearance.

According to a New York Times report: in the “60 Minutes” interview, for example, the analysts noticed that Clemens swallowed hard, looked down, and licked and pursed his lips when answering questions — all signs, they said, that he might not have been telling the truth.

“That’s indicative of deception, that’s indicative of stress,” said Joe Navarro, a retired F.B.I. agent who trains intelligence officers and employees for banks and insurance companies. Navarro has also written a book about how to tell whether someone is bluffing in poker.

The media as has been so often the case seem to believe they are the self anointed guardians of morality. Clearly the media doesn’t believe there is any possibility Roger Clemens is telling the truth. It isn’t quite the same way the media treated Barry Bonds but it’s very similar. Two very high profile athletes, two athletes who have excelled at their profession and two athletes who throughout their Hall of Fame careers have each earned in excess of $150 million.

It has been said before in the pages of Sports Business News and it will said again – either Roger Clemens is telling the truth of Brian McNamee is telling the truth. They’re telling two completely different stories.

One issue everyone seems to have forgotten – the risk Roger Clemens is taking and standing up for what he believes is the truth. Americans by their very nature are a very forgiving people. Make a mistake, admit you’re wrong and we’ll all move forward. Would Roger Clemens risk the legacy, risk his reputation, bring embarrassment and shame to his family if he wasn’t telling the truth. Is Roger Clemens no more of a man than Pete Rose? At least for today – Roger Clemens is much more of a man than Pete Rose ever was. If Brian McNamee is telling the truth it would have been so easy for Roger Clemens to do what Andy Pettit did – admit he had made a mistake and ask for forgiveness.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: The Boston Globe, ESPN and The New York Times

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