by Gary Gaffney, MD, Steroid Nation
Last year about this time, Roger Clemens stood on the mountain top as one of the best major league baseball pitchers of all time. He commanded huge attention and huge money from the top of the MLB pecking order, picking the time he wanted to pitch, the money he wanted, the training he needed, and even how often he showed up at the ballpark. Because Clemens was so good at hurling the leather to the plate he felt entitled to a life of supported luxury and a season of cherry-picked situations. My, how that all came unraveled in a few short months in winter 2007 and in 2008.
Clemens was worshipped for his ageless pitching efficiency, almost defying gravity and defying the physiology of aging: the hurler remade himself in his mid-30s at and age when the majority of MLB pitchers lost their grasp on the ball. Clemens put together 4 good -- but less than Clemens-like -- years for the Boston Red Sox in the mid-90s. He left Boston, traveling to Toronto where he resurrected his career in a major way, pitching perhaps the greatest second half in recent MLB history (1998, 11-0, 1.71). Word was that a great trainer, Brian McNamee, in part reinforced the Rocket's fuel tanks although such an incredible comeback at a relatively advanced age later drew suspicions of steroid use.
With the publication of the infamous Mitchell Report on steroid use in baseball in late 2007, Clemens's secrets started surfacing to the public. It appears that Clemens's trajectory coincided with one Jose Canseco, and a nice program of steroid and HGH use (and who knows what drugs have not been revealed). Evidence that Clemens buoyed his conditioning with performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) leaked out at first, that later became a deluge of morbid stories on the Secret Life of the Rocket. Clemens's defense fell like so many weak batters in the middle innings to be over-powered.
The Rocket tried intimidating witnesses to his juicing, hiring a wild cowboy lawyer in Rusty Hardin . Rusty performed down to his name as he came up blunted time and time again in Clemens's defense. Is there a Rocket defense left these days? Not much of Clemens on '60 Minutes' anymore.
Clemens threw his wife under the bus, as he revealed she used HGH for their over-the-top Sports Illustrated photo shoot. Clemens attempted to run the bus over his once-trusted trainer Brian McNamee who fessed up to feeding the Rocket some 'roided rocket fuel. The controversy even reached the halls of Congress, as a somber Clemens sat mere seats away from his specks-wearing accuser McNamee in early '08. The best legal hired guns Clemens could summon went deep into the bullpen to defend their client; imagine the proceeding's if they occurred today considering the revelations that were pitched about Clemens lifestyle the past year.
Clemens best bud, and McNamee training partner, Andy Pettitte appeared to ground the Rocket's honesty in his Congressional testimony; however Pettitte has revised his own PED story several times too.
When the Clemens story broke, investigative reporting went into extra innings. Surprisingly, (or not) Clemens turns out to be quite the fast baller, as affair after affair fell out of his locker. A country-western diva - Mindy McCready -- from Florida admitted to a Rocket affair, even as she was barely (or not) legal. More women came out of the dugout to accuse Clemens of switch hitting on them.
Meanwhile McNamee, the ex-Clemens trainer, said he saved some bloody syringes and gauze pads to prove he injected the Rocket's booster buttocks. Maybe McNamee meant to needle the Rocket, however the Feds took notice of the tainted evidence. Even Metboy Kirk Radomski got in on the bloody mess, claiming Clemens as a dope cleint.
'Juiced' author and ex-MLB slugger Jose Canseco came to Clemen's defense...what a relief about that, huh? Canseoc's prodigious memory seemed to come up short too, as a contested party where juicing was on the menu attracted attention. Most stories in 2008 went against the now rapidly defusing Rocket.
Where does Clemens sit today, as the end of a trying 2008 draws to a close? Clemens legal case appears to be running out of steam, The Federal agents will be running DNA tests on the bloody remnants of McNamee's Clemens's steroid memorabilia. The trainer admitted the Feds leaned on him to give up Clemens...probably not for altruistic reasons. Congressmen who once ran to the Rocket's defense, now have backed off.
One of Clemens's mistresses -- Mindy McCready -- tried to OD and slit her wrists last week after a tough night of drinking in Nashville.
Reports suggest Clemens used Viagra, maybe for his performance on the field, and maybe for his performance off the field. Is he still up for that today?
Clemens's buddy Jose Canseco sits somewhere as a ruined man, following his apprehension in San Diego running drugs to replace his steroid-depleted testosterone. Clemens's former trainer McNamee suffers through trying times too.
Clemens now appears on 'most hated athlete lists' -- although the propriety of these negative lists is questionable; this attests to the Rocket's disintegration as American Sports Icon. Worse yet, the FBI, among other federal agencies, have drawn a bead on Clemens's curve balls.
Will 2009 witness a continuation of Roger Clemens decline and fall? Or will someone somewhere bail Clemens out, like a failed financial institution? Stay tuned.
by Gary Gaffney, MD, Steroid Nation