After a great deal of hand wringing and political wind testing a powerful Congressional committee has fired the equivalent of a knockdown pitch at a pitcher who made a living intimidating others. It's almost insignificant that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Roger Clemens committed perjury during a sworn deposition and testimony before Congress this month. Odds are the case was headed in that direction anyway.
As anyone with even a remote interest in sport knows, Clemens has repeatedly – and defiantly – claimed that he never used performance-enhancing drugs during his 24-year career. Not once. Ever. Never. All of which stands in stark contrast to sworn testimony by former personal trainer Brian McNamee, who says he injected Clemens with anabolic steroids and human growth hormone at least 16 times between 1998 and 2001; and statements and affidavits provided by ex-Yankee teammate Andy Pettitte who says Clemens admitted using HGH in 1999 or 2000. In something out of the Theatre of the Absurd we also have issues involving testimony from a former nanny, pictures taken at Jose Canseco's house; and, we kid you not, discussions involving breast augmentation (wives not ballplayers).
No telling how this will all play out but one thing is certain: Roger Clemens is now, officially, playing in a different ballpark. He has left the confines of Congress and likely moved into the Northern District of California, home of IRS agent Jeff Novitzky, the lead investigator in the BALCO steroid scandal, and prosecutors from the United States Attorney's branch office in San Jose. You may remember this team. They're the ones responsible for indicting home run king Barry Bonds on four counts of perjury and convicting former Olympic superstar Marion Jones of lying to a federal grand jury. Down the line they'll almost certainly be asked to assist in – if not spearhead – the investigation of Clemens.
A few days ago I asked a high-ranking Justice Department official a rather obvious question: Why waste taxpayer money going after Clemens? What he said was interesting:
"You're right in one sense. We are in a world full of drug dealers and terrorists. But those cases, to some degree, come and go. But cases that defend the integrity of the system are very rare and when they come, you have to run with them. Not so much because they are big-time targets but because they validate what we ask everyday citizens to do."Meaning the government is now sending Roger Clemens the same message it sent Martha Stewart, Scooter Libby, Marion Jones and Barry Bonds...If you decide lie to a federal grand jury, or under oath to Congress...you'd better be prepared to pay for it.