David Epstein: Inside the Clemens news conference - Sports Illustrated

Questions, Answers

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HOUSTON -- RogerClemens' Monday news conference -- his first since the Mitchell Report revealed former trainer BrianMcNamee's allegations that Clemens used steroids -- left reporters with as many questions as answers. Let's look at them.

Much of the pre-news conference chatter among reporters focused on the defamation lawsuit that Clemens filed Sunday night against McNamee. In the suit, McNamee is quoted at length talking about his interview with federal investigators. McNamee says federal investigators told him he had "three strikes to go to jail" and they demanded information specifically regarding Clemens' use of steroids.

Clemens' suit uses the quote to suggest that McNamee was pressured by federal investigators to make untrue statements about Clemens, and goes on to say McNamee was pressured to reiterate the statements to former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell for his report on steroids in baseball.

McNamee's attorney, Earl Ward, was present during his interviews with federal investigators and has said McNamee was not pressured or bullied.

Question Raised: Where did McNamee's long quote in the lawsuit come from?

Answer: Clemens' attorney, Rusty Hardin, said that McNamee talked at length to two private investigators -- both former Houston police officers -- hired by his firm. McNamee told them about his interview with federal investigators and Mitchell and said that assistant U.S. attorney Matthew Parrella, who is working on the BALCO case, told him "we know [more] about you than you know about yourself. You're going to jail. Let's go back to when you first met Clemens in '98."

Question Raised: Why would McNamee talk to private investigators?

Answer: According to Hardin, eight days before the Mitchell Report was released, McNamee called Hendricks Sports Management, the baseball agency that represents Clemens and Andy Pettitte, looking to get in touch with the pitcher. According to Hardin, McNamee told a Hendricks representative that he had told Mitchell's investigators that Clemens used steroids and human growth hormone. "He said that he wanted to apologize to Roger and Andy," Hardin said. On the day before the Mitchell Report was released, McNamee agreed to talk with two private investigators from Hardin's office. According to Hardin, McNamee spoke with them cooperatively for hours, telling them about his interviews with federal and Mitchell Commission investigators.

Question Raised: Roger Clemens told Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes that he was caught by surprise when his name appeared in the Mitchell Report and that had he known the allegations that would be made against him in the report he would have gone to Mitchell to refute them. If Clemens' legal team dispatched investigators to talk with McNamee before the report came out, doesn't that mean Clemens did know that he would be accused of using steroids and human growth hormone?

Answer: According to Hardin, it was not until the day before the report was released that Clemens learned what McNamee had told Mitchell, and there was no time to give Mitchell a reply. Hardin added that Clemens still did not know whether McNamee's statements would be included in the report until it came out.

Question Raised: But why didn't Clemens come out with a denial as soon as the report was made public?

Answer: Hardin said that he advised Clemens not to make public statements until his legal team could adequately acquaint itself both with Clemens himself, who was a new client, and with the Mitchell Report. "I didn't know Roger from Adam before this," Hardin said, "I didn't know if he was telling the truth ... after spending three weeks with him, I believe he's telling the truth."

Question Raised: What do McNamee's lawyers make of the fact that he spoke with Hardin's investigators?

Answer: "It was incredibly foolhardy of Brian to have spoken to them," said Richard D. Emery, one of McNamee's attorneys. The quote is "taken out of context. Brian is trying to be conciliatory to Clemens." As far as the conduct of prosecutors in their interviews with McNamee, Emery reiterated that Earl Ward was a witness to the interviews, and said that prosecutors "acted completely professionally throughout."

The most unexpected development in the news conference came when Clemens' team played a 17-minute tape of a phone conversation between Clemens and McNamee that occurred last Friday. On the tape, Clemens expresses his displeasure with the scrutiny he is undergoing, and tells McNamee that "I just don't know why you did it." McNamee, whose voice is breaking at times, repeatedly implores Clemens to "tell me what you want me to do ... you treated me better than anybody."

Question Raised: Where did this tape come from?

Answer: Clemens was with his legal team during the phone call, and they recorded the conversation.

Question Raised: Why were McNamee and Clemens talking on the phone Friday?

Answer: Lawyers for Clemens and McNamee agree that McNamee sought the audience. McNamee's 10-year-old son, Brian Jr., who idolizes Clemens, is sick, and McNamee e-mailed Clemens hoping that Clemens would talk to Brian Jr. and perhaps soothe some of his distress over the maelstrom that has engulfed his father and favorite player.

Question Raised: What did the tape show?

Answer: Not surprisingly, that depends which side you ask. Hardin characterized the conversation as bizarre behavior for someone who claims to have told the truth. "The guy makes allegations against someone," Hardin said incredulously, "and then calls and asks for his help and asks what he wants him to do." Hardin said he wanted to play the tape to give people who had not already condemned Clemens more information with which to consider McNamee's credibility. On the other side, Emery was disgusted by the use of the tape. "Here's Clemens getting on the phone with his former friend whose son [is both seriously ill and upset] ... and in a cynical and calculated way he sat on the phone with his lawyers trying to lure Brian to say something that Brian didn't say."

Question Raised: What did Brian say?

Answer: Mostly that he was sorry and upset for all the pain that had been caused, and that Clemens had "treated me like family." He did not, however, directly address the veracity of his statements about Clemens' use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Question Raised: If Clemens knew McNamee was lying, why didn't he push him more in the conversation to admit it?

Answer: Hardin said he advised Clemens to be very careful about baiting McNamee. McNamee "is a federal witness now," Hardin said, adding that Clemens had to be careful not to appear to persuade a federal witness or to offer McNamee anything in return for him saying he had lied. Both Clemens and McNamee largely steered clear of any direct discussion of McNamee's allegations. At one point, Clemens said, "I just know I didn't do it." But McNamee responds only with "tell me what you want me to do," as he had several times earlier, including when he offered to attend the Monday news conference.

Question Raised: If McNamee offered to attend the news conference, why wasn't he there?

Answer: Clemens got off the phone with McNamee saying he would get back to McNamee. Hardin says Clemens then sent McNamee an e-mail saying he was no longer comfortable talking unless McNamee's lawyers approved it. (Emery says he had no knowledge of that e-mail.) Hardin claims that McNamee had not responded by the time Newsday reported on Sunday that a conversation had taken place between Clemens and McNamee. At that point, says Hardin, "We said, 'OK, he leaked it to the media instead of getting back to us,'" and they decided to go forward with playing the tape.

Emery said the defamation lawsuit that Clemens' lawyers filed and the news conference Monday have not yet persuaded him to file a defamation lawsuit on behalf of McNamee.

Emery had previously suggested that Clemens' defamation suit could be an attempt to avoid testifying before Congress on Jan. 16. According to Clemens on Monday, he will testify before Congress, and, said Hardin, "he will not hide behind the Fifth Amendment."

So, it appears likely that Clemens will testify under oath later this month and then perhaps again in a defamation lawsuit, if not in two defamation lawsuits. (McNamee's lawyers will continue to consider filing a defamation suit).

In what has became a crazy game of "he said/he said," it appears that both men will soon have put themselves on the line with statements (McNamee to federal investigators and Clemens to Congress) that, if false, could lead to criminal prosecution.