Former Major League Baseball star Roger Clemens was acquitted on Monday on charges of perjury, making false statements and obstructing the US Congress for denying that he took performance-enhancing drugs.
Clemens was found not guilty by a federal jury on three charges of making a false statement under oath, two charges of perjury and one count of obstruction of Congress during a 2008 US Congressional hearing on doping in baseball.
If convicted, Clemens could have faced 30 years in prison and a fine of US$1.5 million.
Clemens had steadfastly denied any wrongdoing even as his former trainer, Brian McNamee, told jurors — as he had told US lawmakers in 2008 — that he had injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormones.
“I put a lot of hard work into that career,” Clemens said outside the courthouse after the verdicts were announced.
“It’s kind of uncomfortable to sit there and hear people talk about you, good or bad. I want to thank the people who came in on my behalf. I appreciate my teammates who came in [and made] all the e-mails and phone calls,” he said.
Asked how he felt after the verdict offered a measure of vindication, Clemens said: “Just very thankful and appreciative. I just want to thank these guys [his lawyers], who from day one listened to what I had to say.”
“It has been a hard five years,” Clemens added.
Clemens, 49, thanked his family for support and paused, choked with emotion, before exclaiming in a sigh of relief: “Whew.”
In the courtroom, Clemens exchanged hugs with his family after the verdicts were read on each charge, his wife Debbie drying the tears from his eyes with a tissue at one point.
Rusty Hardin, Clemens’ main attorney, said that they were surprised to be told there was a verdict, because when they had departed the courthouse hours earlier they were told that a verdict was unlikely for two or three more days.
The verdict came after nearly 10 hours of deliberation by the jury, ending a 10-week trial that proved to be the deepest investigation yet into whether or not a Major League Baseball star had taken performance-enhancing drugs.
Clemens won 354 games in a 24-year career that saw him win seven Cy Young Awards as the top pitcher in his league. Nicknamed “Rocket,” he is one of only four pitchers to have recorded more than 4,000 strikeouts in his career.
Clemens won the World Series twice with the New York Yankees, in 1999 and 2000. He also played for the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros.
Doping allegations against Clemens stemmed from the Mitchell Report, a probe conducted by former US Senator George Mitchell at the request of Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig in the wake of allegations against US baseball home run king Barry Bonds, retired slugger Mark McGwire and others.
Mitchell’s findings were published in December 2007 and Clemens was the most shocking name on the list of those named as dope cheats, prompting Clemens to push for the US Congress hearing into the issue in hopes of clearing his name.
A key test facing Clemens will be next year, when a media panel receives its first chance to decide whether he should be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.