January 06, 2008

Perhaps no one was watching Mike Wallace's interview of Roger Clemens on 60 Minutes on Sunday night more intently than Richard Emery, the attorney for Brian McNamee. McNamee is the personal trainer who told former senator George Mitchell and federal investigators that he had injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone.

Last Thursday, Emery made it known that McNamee would bring a defamation lawsuit against Clemens if the seven-time Cy Young winner continued the attack on McNamee's reputation that began on Dec. 13, as soon as the Mitchell Report became public. That day, Clemens' lawyer Rusty Hardin characterized McNamee as a "troubled man." Following the 60 Minutes interview broadcast, Emery told SI.com that Clemens had indeed defamed McNamee by painting him as a liar, but that it was unlikely that damages significant enough to warrant a lawsuit would result, because "most people will continue to believe McNamee."

Answering questions for the first time since the Mitchell Report was released, Clemens expressed bewilderment at McNamee's accusations. "Never happened," he told Wallace of McNamee's contention that the personal trainer injected him with steroids. He called the idea that he used performance-enhancing drugs "hogwash" and "ridiculous."

With his blatant denials of McNamee's statements to Mitchell, Clemens "defamed Brian," Emery said. "Clemens pretty much flat out contradicted [McNamee] in ways that are potentially damaging to [McNamee's reputation]."

Still, Emery said, the 60 Minutes segment alone will probably not lead to legal action, because the interview will not result in damages to McNamee's ability to make a living or his social standing. "I don't think Roger convinced anybody with this interview," Emery said, "so the question of whether it requires a lawsuit to redress the harm to McNamee's reputation is still an open issue."

Clemens did agree with his former personal trainer on one thing: that McNamee had given him injections. But Clemens insisted that they were only of the pain killer lidocaine and vitamin B12. "It's for my joints," Clemens said, "and B12 I still take today." Clemens' claims that the injections were only a pain killer and a vitamin were revealed by CBS on Thursday, and quickly drew skepticism.

Lidocaine is a local anesthetic used to numb an area of the body for surgery or as a pain killer. The utility of lidocaine as a pain remedy for athletes, however, is limited. According to Dr. John R. Green, chief of sports medicine in the Department of Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at the University of Washington, lidocaine, being a local anesthetic, only soothes pain in the area of injection, and causes numbness that could inhibit performance.

"You would not inject lidocaine into the knee joint, for example, before any kind of competition," Green says, "because then you would not be able to feel the knee joint. That's an important thing, to be able to feel. You need that feedback to be able to balance." He did add, though, that lidocaine could be injected into the bursa, or fluid sac in a joint, if it was inflamed, to relieve some pain without inhibiting performance. But "lidocaine, I believe," Green says, "is a prescription drug. I don't know of any personal trainers who inject it [regularly for pain relief]."

Green added that it's not unusual for athletes and non-athletes alike to take vitamin B12, but that the impact is probably minimal. "I don't know whether Roger's a vegetarian or a vegan," Green says, "but a vegan is who you might think of not getting enough B12. It's pretty uncommon for a young, healthy person to have a B12 deficiency, but some people take it anyway."

Following his impassioned self-defense, Clemens told Wallace that he's so tired of scrutiny that he'd sooner retire than submit to an endless line of questions. "That's why I will not ever play again," Clemens said. But Wallace promises to be just the first of his inquisitors. On Monday, Clemens will face the mass of reporters who show up at his press conference in Houston, and, last Friday, the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform asked Clemens to testify at a hearing on steroids in baseball on Jan. 16.

"I'm interested to see how he handles the press conference and a hearing," says Emery, who noted that a defamation lawsuit is still an option should Clemens attack McNamee in either of those forums.

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