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Book released; Clemens won't let it go

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / May 13, 2009
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There's no waffling. No dent in the audacity of the denial.

Roger Clemens has a story and he's sticking to it.

Either Clemens is somehow telling the truth - and that would be as surprising as him pitching a third 20-strikeout game, and fanning the last 20 batters he faced to do it - or he's telling the truth as he believes it in his world.

Given how far he has stretched this out, what lengths he has taken to deny what appears to be airtight evidence that he did performance-enhancing drugs, if he's found to be guilty, then this is a much sadder story, because he would come off as a delusional individual caught up in his own web of lies. Many in the sports world already believe that.

Eventually, you give in, don't you? Eventually, you say, "OK, you got me. It's over." Yesterday, Clemens continued his denials on ESPN's "Mike and Mike in the Morning" on the same day the New York Daily News released its book, "American Icon: The Fall of Roger Clemens and the Rise of Steroids in America's Pastime," a compelling and detailed look at Clemens's steroid use and personal foibles.

Clemens, of course, is under federal investigation for possibly lying to Congress when he told a committee he never used performance-enhancing drugs. The denials continued to flow from him yesterday.

Clemens said he wasn't worried about his DNA being on the syringes that were saved by his former friend and trainer, Brian McNamee. McNamee has handed over those syringes to the authorities, but Clemens is sure his DNA isn't on them. He also said yesterday he has given a DNA sample and has completely cooperated in all investigations.

"Impossible," he said when asked whether he has to worry about DNA on McNamee's syringes. "Because he's never given me any. It's as simple as that. He's never given me HGH or any kind of performance-enhancing drug, so it's impossible.

"He's never injected me with HGH or steroids. You know guys, let me just add to it. Common sense . . . our family has a history of heart conditions. My brother had a heart attack in his late 40s. My stepdad died of a heart attack" - OK, he slipped up there - "I mean it would be suicidal for me to even think about taking any of these dangerous drugs."

These are pretty emphatic denials. Clemens even brought a defamation suit against McNamee. Other players suspected of steroid use haven't done anything like that. Most of that suit has been thrown out of court, but it showed the lengths Clemens is willing to go to assert his innocence.

Is there any reason to believe he is telling the truth? One could be that the accuser, McNamee, is not exactly the salt of the Earth. In exchange for staying out of prison, McNamee admitted that he illegally injected players with HGH and steroids.

Another reason is Jose Canseco. The "Father of Steroids" has been right on the money on this topic. He has been able to pick out the guys who used performance enhancers, including Manny Ramírez, who Canseco said was likely on the list of 104 names that tested positive in 2003. Less than a month after Canseco made that comment, Ramírez tested positive for a banned substance.

But Canseco has held back on Clemens, even going so far as to say that Clemens never cheated on his wife, perhaps because they are old golf buddies.

Canseco's defense of Clemens is certainly suspect, but it leaves room for doubt about the pitcher's guilt.

"Alls I can do is speak the truth, and from my heart to them, that's all I can do," Clemens said yesterday. "I know what your polls say. I've been getting great responses everywhere I've gone in the cities that I've been to and travel to.

"Steroids are bad for kids. You don't want to have anything to do with them, the way they tear your body down and things they do to you. But again, I can't defend a negative. When you've got somebody out there that is really just crawling up your back to make a buck, this is what this is."

Clemens has been working with a new PR firm, Levick Strategic Communications, and PR man Gene Grabowski, who said Clemens is going to vigorously defend himself against what he perceives as lies in the book.

One of the book's four authors, Teri Thompson, took issue with Clemens saying there was nothing new in the book, because if that was the case, "Why did he choose to respond?"

Characterizing his retort to the book, she said, "I think he did today what he did before Congress."

Still, there are some who believe Clemens. Former Red Sox catcher Rich Gedman has stood by him in public comments.

"I have no reason to believe he's guilty until it's ever proven that he is or that he lied," said Gedman. "I have the right to disagree with the rest of the world on this and I do because he's my friend.

"Why should I believe them? Maybe I'm naive. If it turns out he is guilty, I won't think any less of him, either.

"I was around him for a long time. I saw the way he went about his work and the great things he did on the baseball field. I saw the way he treated his teammates - the stars, the 25th man on the team - and he treated people so well.

"I know this. He's taken the heat for a lot other people."

Clemens said he has not yet been asked to appear before a grand jury. He said he's out and about, talking to kids about not doing steroids.

Grabowski said those talks have come in informal settings, such as the times he visits his son Koby and watches him play minor league baseball. Clemens said the response to him has been favorable. He said he's not hiding from anyone.

And he said he'll continue to defend himself, doing whatever it takes.

If his DNA is on those syringes, it's going to be difficult for anyone to believe him. It'll be interesting to see what his reality will be if and when those results become public.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com.

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