MLB

Clemens attorneys go after former trainer

Image: Roger Clemens and attorney Rusty Hardin (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)
Roger Clemens and his attorney Rusty Hardin were back in court on Wednesday.
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A.J. Perez

A.J. Perez previously worked at USA Today, AOL and CBSSports.com, covering beats ranging from performance-enhancing drugs to the NHL. He has also been a finalist for an Associated Press Sports Editors award for investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter.

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WASHINGTON

Roger Clemens’ attorneys will attack the former pitcher’s one-time personal trainer. They will attempt to prove that Andy Pettitte might have actually “misremembered” a conversation about performance-enhancing drugs. They will even try to prove the only juicer in the Clemens household was his wife, Debbie, who admitted she used human growth hormone.

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But exactly how did Clemens’ DNA get on needles and cotton balls — items turned over to authorities by Brian McNamee, Clemens’ former strength coach — the government argues were used in the administration of anabolic steroids?

That isn’t as easy to rationalize. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Durham said Wednesday during opening statements of Clemens’ perjury and obstruction trial that the needles were “consistent” with the pitcher’s DNA, while the cotton balls would exclude all others on the planet except Clemens. Two independent labs in California, Durham said, also didn’t find the two substances Clemens said he was injected with: Lidocaine and vitamin B-12.

“What they did find were anabolic steroids,” Durham said.

These items — purportedly used by McNamee to inject Clemens with steroids in 2001 — were kept hidden in McNamee’s house before they were passed along to investigators before Clemens testified in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in February 2008. That testimony eventually led to the six charges Clemens currently faces, which could lead to prison time if he is convicted.

Such physical evidence was lacking in the perjury and obstruction case of all-time home run champ Barry Bonds, who was still convicted of one count of obstruction as the jury deadlocked on three perjury charges in April.

Rusty Hardin, Clemens’ lead attorney, told jurors he’s not going to challenge the validity of the science behind DNA or the fact that labs also found steroids on the items. Instead, he said, this evidence should be disregarded since it came from McNamee.

“We contend he created it in August 2001,” Hardin said. “The one fun part of this trial is the introduction of this evidence. It’s 'CSI' stuff. Here’s evidence that’s supposed to corroborate McNamee. ... The fact he created the evidence is another explanation.”

Exactly how one obtains another person’s blood to complete such a scenario will apparently be explained during the trial.

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McNamee was attacked throughout Hardin’s opening, which was expected since McNamee’s allegations were the basis for Clemens’ inclusion in the Mitchell Report and McNamee anchors much of the prosecution’s case. Hardin claimed McNamee fabricated the allegations against Clemens and Pettitte — the two were teammates with the New York Yankees and Houston Astros — as a way to dodge charges of steroid distribution and, possibly, rape.

“They (investigators) defined the truth as Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens were using steroids,” Hardin said. “As long as you are telling us the truth, you won’t be charged.”

Hardin also pointed out to the jury that McNamee, then a strength coach with the Yankees, was subject to an investigation in Florida in October 2001, although US District Court Judge Reggie Walton previously barred the defense from going into much detail. The jury didn’t hear that McNamee was questioned by police in St. Petersburg, Fla., after a woman claimed she never consented to sex with McNamee. It later came out that she had unknowingly ingested the date rape drug, GHB.

“McNamee is a liar,” Hardin said. “He was a liar before this trial. He has conceded he’s lied (previously) and you have to make the determination if he’s still lying.”

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