WAS ROGER'S HEARING JUST POLITICS
ON STEROIDS?

The Hartford Courant
Feb. 15, 2008

WASHINGTON -- The hearing was long over, and
no visible sign remained of Roger Clemens'
tumultuous Wednesday visit, but the denizens of
Capitol Hill still hadn't stopped talking about their
Scandal. Drugs. Lies. Television cameras. It had
everything - including a strong partisan undertone.
How did the question of steroids in baseball
become something that revolved around party
affiliation?
"I didn't know so many Republicans were Yankees
fans," Chris Murphy said Thursday, laughing. The
5th District Democrat was one of two Connecticut
congressmen who had front row seats Wednesday
as members of the House Oversight and
Government Reform Committee. The other was
Rep. Chris Shays, R-4th District.
"I thought the partisan breakdown was bizarre,"
Murphy said. "At times, it seemed that the
Republicans were acting as defense attorneys for
Clemens and the Democrats were prosecutors. I
had no interest in getting in the middle of it."
Meanwhile, Shays was catching attention
Thursday for things he'd said about Clemens'
former trainer, and his challenging of what he
termed an unnecessary congressional spectacle.
This was the fairly consistent breakdown, with
many Republicans seeming to defend Clemens
while the most vocal Democrats seemed to side
with the trainer.
Also Thursday, Richard Emery, a lawyer for
trainer Brian McNamee, accused Republicans of
treating his client harshly because of the pitcher's
friendship with the Bush family. Emery said: "It
would be the easiest thing in the world for George
W. Bush, given the corrupt proclivities of his
administration, to say Roger Clemens is an
American hero, Roger Clemens helped children. It's
my belief they have some reason to believe they
can get a pardon." (The response from Tony
Fratto, a White House spokesman, was, "I'm not
aware of Mr. Clemens having been charged with
anything.")
At the hearing on Wednesday, McNamee
maintained, as expected, that he injected steroids
and human growth hormone into Clemens. In
response, Clemens testified, as expected, that he's
never taken illegal enhancers. Both were under
oath, so one of them lied to Congress - a criminal
offense. But nothing was resolved at Wednesday's
hearing.
Murphy asked about Clemens' feelings about the
players' union involvement in this controversy, to
which Clemens - longtime Red Sox pitcher and
more recent New York Yankee - issued the
diplomatic response: "I think everybody's working
in the right direction to clean up our sport."
But Shays' words Wednesday and Thursday were
stronger. Back in the routine of the House floor on
Thursday, Shays again referred to McNamee as a
"drug pusher" and said he should just admit he was
a drug dealer. Shays said he had originally gotten
more interested in the case when the players' union
questioned Congress' authority to call players to
testify. "That was the height of arrogance. We're
talking about the use of illegal substances." He
called the player representatives "obnoxious."
But he said his ire this week was drawn when
Clemens was singled out to be dragged from the
mound to the Hill, although the recent Senate
investigation had concluded that 89 players had
used illegal performance enhancers. "Why Roger
Clemens? Is it because he's an icon?"
"We didn't resolve anything yesterday," Shays
said. "There was no way we could."
His part in the high-profile debate didn't go
unnoticed. Regional sports radio - specifically
WFAN's "Mike and the Mad Dog" - raged against
Shays and what seemed the general Republican
defense of Clemens. (Murphy said the station
called him for an interview Thursday, but he
"politely declined.") Shays didn't back down
Thursday, but his wasn't a defense of Clemens as
much as an argument against picking on one player.
"In the end, I don't think Roger looked particularly
good, and certainly his accuser didn't."
Shays thinks Congress has a role to push Major
League Baseball to deal with "the outrage of steroid
abuse." But this wasn't the way to do it, he said.
Murphy agrees that Congress has a role, mostly in
pressuring the players' union toward stricter
standards. "If we can do that, we can stay out of it
legislatively."
"None of this is good for baseball," said the
die-hard Red Sox fan. He called the hearing "a mock
trial."
Murphy said that because the hearing was called
by a Democrat - Rep. Henry Waxman of California
- "My only explanation is that the Republicans'
natural reaction was to defend the person that was
being accused by their Democratic counterpart."
Even professional political observers like Stewart
Rothenberg, who publishes the nonpartisan
Rothenberg Political Report, were struck by the
oddity. "It was as if this was like an impeachment
trial or something," he said. "I'm a baseball fan. It
just had never occurred to me that it was a partisan
issue."
He said, "It got more coverage than some Supreme
Court justice nominations."
Shays' explanation: "They just were so aggressive
with Roger, then you feel like you have to balance
it out."
For the record, Shays said he used to be a serious
Yankees fan. But now he prefers hockey.
.