Prosecutors said on Wednesday that needles and cotton balls former Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens’ ex-trainer says he used to inject the pitcher at the height of his career tested positive for Clemens’ DNA and anabolic steroids.
Assistant US Attorney Steven Durham revealed the results during opening arguments in Clemens’ trial on charges of lying to Congress about using performance--enhancing drugs. Clemens’ attorney has accused the pitcher’s former trainer, Brian McNamee, of fabricating the evidence in case he needed to blackmail the baseball star into continuing to employ him.
Clemens has said that the only things McNamee ever injected him with were the common local anesthetic lidocaine for his joints and vitamin B-12. However, Durham said neither substance was found on the needles or cotton swabbed with his blood stains.
Clemens attorney Rusty Hardin told the jury that the government is “horribly wrong” in charging his client with perjury, false statements and obstruction of Congress. Clad in a dark suit, Clemens watched silently from the defense table with a clenched jaw.
“There was rush to judgment on Roger that has made it -impossible for him to be fairly heard until he got here,” Hardin said in the federal courthouse just a couple blocks from the congressional hearing room where he testified three years ago.
“It’s a fact of life that sometimes when people reach the mountain, there is an unwillingness to give them equal consideration when people come down on them,” Hardin said. “And that’s what happened with Roger.”
Durham said that about 45 witnesses, including several of Clemens’ former teammates, would help make the case that Clemens used anabolic steroids and human growth hormone.
When Clemens denied the use under oath, Durham said: “It was false and he knew it was false.”
Clemens continues to maintain he didn’t use drugs during a 24-season career that set several pitching records.
In preliminary discussions before the jury of 10 women and two men arrived, US District Judge Reggie Walton reacted sharply when Hardin appeared to refer to the proceedings as a “circus.”
“This is not a circus,” Walton said, jabbing his pointer finger down on his desk.
Hardin quickly assured the judge he was talking more broadly about the congressional hearings at the heart of the case, as well as the prosecution.
“Do I look suicidal?” Hardin asked.
Later when addressing the jury, Hardin tried to fight the perception that Clemens arrogantly insisted on testifying before Congress and put himself in this criminal position. He was not subpoenaed and Hardin says it was “technically true that he voluntarily appeared,” but he said it was under tremendous pressure.
“Roger Clemens, unless he was comatose, always knew the danger of him testifying,” Hardin said.
He showed a photo of the crush of photographers around the witness table as he came into the hearing room and called it a “scene.” Then he showed video of Clemens telling lawmakers that he thinks steroids are wrong and detrimental, but “no matter what we discuss here today, I’m never going to have my named restored.”
Hardin objected during Durham’s opening argument when the prosecutor told jurors that Clemens teammates Andy Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch and Mike Stanton would testify they used performance-enhancing drugs to recover from injuries and because the pressure to perform was so high in Major League Baseball. Walton has expressed concern in pretrial hearings that kind of testimony could lead jurors to consider Clemens guilty by association, and the judge told jurors to disregard Durham’s comments about other players.
Durham showed a photo of the yellowing cotton balls, needles and vials turned over by McNamee, who the prosecutor described as “a man that was hand chosen by Mr Clemens to train him.”
He said the evidence was tested by two California labs — one that found Clemens’ DNA on the needle and cotton and another that tested them for drugs.
“They found absolutely no B-12, and they found absolutely no lidocaine,” Durham said. “What they did find was anabolic steroids.”
Durham said McNamee saved the material — the photo showed the Miller Lite can that McNamee kept it in for more than six years — because he was always skeptical he could trust his star client if steroid allegations ever surfaced and that he would be “thrown under the bus.”
Durham said McNamee did not initially tell federal agents about it, but only did so after Clemens went on CBS’ 60 Minutes and smeared his name.
“Then Mr McNamee considered the bridge completely burned and he knew where he stood,” Durham said.
He acknowledged that the jury would hear many “negative things” about McNamee, but said they would not ask them to rely on evidence from any one person.
“Everything Mr McNamee says we intend to corroborate with independent evidence,” he said.
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