The ‘Truth’ Is Out There…….

By George Vecsey
Updated: January 6, 2008

NEW YORK — Roger Clemens keeps inching closer to Barry Bonds territory. By acknowledging that he took injections from his highly personal trainer, Clemens has lost some of the control he likes to impose on every aspect of his life and image.

The needle has pierced his skin in a public way. Apparently he told Mike Wallace for a “60 Minutes” segment Sunday night that he received injections of vitamin B12 and the painkiller lidocaine from his former trainer Brian McNamee.

But McNamee has told a baseball investigation that the needle contained steroids and human growth hormone. That leaves Clemens in a precarious position. Either he is lying about what he knew was going into his system, or McNamee is lying about what he put in those syringes.

Uncomfortable days are ahead for Clemens. Of course, in any legal sense, he is innocent until proven guilty. But the public is free to believe what it wants about what Clemens was doing in those training sessions with McNamee and Andy Pettitte, who now says he took human growth hormone injections twice from McNamee, knowing that it was against the ethics of his sport. Clemens flatly denies ever taking steroids or HGH.

It is hard to imagine Pettitte, who is something of a follower, doing something more bold than his mentor, Clemens. But Pettitte is not going to be a serious candidate for the Hall of Fame, like the burly man who taught him how to work oh so much harder than anybody else during those offseason sessions in the Clemens home gym in Katy, Texas

Clemens has farther to fall. He does not want to get himself in legal trouble the way Bonds did when investigators more or less stumbled on the initials BLB (presumably for Barry Lamar Bonds) while looking into a seedy lab called the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative.

It is not known whether baseball has evidence that Bonds has cheated, but there is evidence and testimony that Bonds was a BALCO customer. Bonds received injections from his trainer, Greg Anderson, but Bonds – who is at least as intelligent and as controlling as Clemens – insists he thought the material inside was something more benign.

According to CBS, Clemens told Wallace that the lidocaine was for pain and that he still took B12. Clemens told Wallace that it was “ridiculous” to say he ever used banned substances.

“Swear?” Wallace said.

“Swear,” Clemens said.

Swearing is tricky. Clemens does not want to get invited to a congressional hearing this month and plead some baseball version of the Fifth Amendment, the way Mark McGwire did on that pathetic day in March 2005, when he kept mumbling that the past was the past. So Clemens put out the denial on his Web site, and now he has given an interview to Wallace.

Wallace, 89, is one of the grand figures of journalism, admired for his hard-hitting interviews on “60 Minutes.” Wallace has called Clemens a friend because they hit it off in earlier interviews, and Wallace also calls the Yankees’ principal owner, George Steinbrenner, a friend, and has been seen in his private box at Yankee Stadium on occasion.

It is not unusual for journalists to count politicians, musicians, business stars and athletes as friends. But there seems to be a heady buzz from athletes that makes normally hardheaded interviewers (and members of Congress) dance around them in interviews.

After all, McNamee, whom Clemens trusted – and paid many thousands of dollars – has told federal investigators and George J. Mitchell, the former U.S. senator who conducted a 20-month investigation for Major League Baseball, that he injected Clemens with steroids at least four times each in the 1998, 2000 and 2001 seasons, and four to six times with human growth hormone in the 2000 season.

This was before baseball got around to making those drugs officially against the rules. But acknowledging any use of drugs like steroids is potentially dangerous, within the good-of-the-game standards of the sport.

Why would Clemens be using vitamin B12? According to the Web site , “Vitamin B12 is an essential water soluble vitamin that is commonly found in a variety of foods such as fish, shellfish, meats and dairy products.”

The Web site added: “There is some evidence that intramuscular injections of 5 mg of vitamin B12 given twice per week might improve the general well being and happiness of patients complaining of tiredness or fatigue.

However, fatigue has many potential causes. Well-designed clinical trials are needed before a recommendation can be made.”

None of that proves that Clemens used B12 or lidocaine or something much more potent. But as Bonds now must convince a jury that he did not lie to a grand jury, Clemens must persuade the public, as well as baseball officials and voters for the Hall of Fame, that he let his trainer inject him, but that he might not have had a good grip on what was inside that syringe.

Bonds and Clemens, two of the greatest players of their time, are now united by the formidable symbolic shadow of a syringe.