Clemens' early invitation

House panel summons pitcher for pre-testimony steroid chat

January 11, 2008|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,Sun Reporter

WASHINGTON -- A House committee, employing a seldom-used legislative tool, is summoning pitcher Roger Clemens as soon as next week for a private question-and-answer session four weeks before he is scheduled to testify publicly about steroids, according to committee staff.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hopes that questioning Clemens and other witnesses beforehand will allow it to unsort a tangle of conflicting statements before the Feb. 13 hearing, enabling members to better focus their questions.

The committee expects Clemens and the other witnesses to appear, and aides told The Sun it's unlikely that any would be offered immunity.

Brian McNamee, Clemens' former personal trainer, told investigators for former Sen. George Mitchell that he repeatedly injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone between 1998 and 2001. Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, has denied the allegations and countered with a defamation lawsuit.

Pressed for time, the committee didn't have the advantage of advance interviews in March 2005, when it subpoenaed such current and former players as Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and then-Orioles Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa to testify about steroids and human growth hormone. The committee did speak with Canseco and McGwire before the hearing but not in a formal or detailed way.

McGwire's repeated refusal to address questions at the hearing about past behavior frustrated committee members.

Conducting pre-interviews could tip off the committee this time to witnesses who might not fully cooperate, aides said.

Originally scheduled for next Wednesday, the Clemens-McNamee hearing was postponed this week until Feb. 13. The committee said it wanted to work with the Justice Department by delaying the hearing until former New York Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski was sentenced Feb. 8 on steroid distribution charges.

"The Justice Department request to slow down presents us the opportunity to do advance interviews this time around," said David Marin, the committee's minority staff director. "Things moved more quickly last time [in 2005], in large part because the season was upon us."

The 2005 hearing was initiated by Henry Waxman, then the committee's ranking Democrat and now its chairman, after Canseco's book alleged widespread steroid use in baseball.

Also called to testify next month are Radomski, who was allegedly a steroid supplier, and Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch, Clemens' former teammates. The committee also is conducting a steroids-related hearing Tuesday featuring Mitchell, baseball commissioner Bud Selig and players union leader Donald Fehr.

Advance interviews are typically conducted in special committee investigations.

Last month, a House committee received approval to privately question officials about nine deaths at a Utah mine. Allowing advance questioning, the committee wrote in a report, enables the later hearing "to be more focused and illuminating."

Clemens and the other witnesses will likely be questioned by a staff attorney designated by Waxman.

Clemens is to be deposed as soon as the middle of next week, according to committee staff members who spoke on condition of anonymity because the sessions are private.

Clemens' representatives said yesterday that they were working with the committee on the details of his appearances.

McNamee's attorneys did not immediately reply to calls and e-mails.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

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