Hearing day is here: Clemens 'IS here to talk about the past'
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By JOSEPH WHITE
AP Sports Writers
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Whatever Roger Clemens and his accuser have to say for themselves before Congress on Wednesday, one thing seems certain: Clemens will be no Mark McGwire.
"He IS here to talk about the past," Clemens' lead lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said Tuesday as he accompanied the seven-time Cy Young Award winner through the hallways of Capitol Hill office buildings.
Clemens was making the rounds one last time, wearing a gray pinstriped suit and squeezing face-to-face meetings into the busy schedules of the members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He met with five Congressmen over a four-hour span Tuesday, on top of the 19 he saw on Thursday and Friday.
"I enjoyed talking with him," said Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif., who said the discussion included baseball stories and personal accounts about the Sept. 11 attacks. "It's always good to meet the person who is in the spotlight. ... I told him, 'This is not a trial."'
But it might very well feel like one when Clemens and his former personal trainer, Brian McNamee, sit at the witness table, and -- under oath -- offer what will surely be contradictory versions as to whether Clemens has used steroids and human growth hormone during his storied career.
"I couldn't tell you who's telling the truth," Watson said.
Clemens got some help in his public relations push from an old teammate Tuesday, when The Associated Press obtained a sworn affidavit in which Jose Canseco said he has never seen Clemens "use, possess or ask for steroids or human growth hormone."
The affidavit, dated Jan. 22, is part of the evidence gathered by the committee holding Wednesday's hearing.
"I have never had a conversation with Clemens in which he expressed any interest in using steroids or human growth hormone," Canseco said in the affidavit. "Clemens has never asked me to give him steroids or human growth hormone, and I have never seen Clemens use, possess or ask for steroids or human growth hormone."
The anticipation of the hearing rivals -- if not surpasses -- that of the hubbub before March 17, 2005, when McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro testified before the same committee in the same wood-paneled House hearing room. McGwire avoided answering questions about steroid use that day by repeatedly saying "I'm not here to talk about the past" -- and his reputation has shown no signs of recovery.
"I think Roger's fully prepared to testify fully and truthfully," Hardin said. "And one thing we were trying to make clear in all these meetings was that it wasn't going to be a repeat of 2005. He wasn't going to sort of parse his words and be careful about what he said. He'd answer any question they had."
In comparison to Clemens' personal meetings with lawmakers, McNamee has kept a low profile in the buildup to the hearing. He gave a closed-door deposition under oath last week, two days after Clemens did, and has been waiting until the hearing itself to retell his story.
It's a story that first publicly surfaced in George Mitchell's report on drugs in baseball in December. McNamee said in the report that he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone at least 16 times in 1998, 2000 and 2001. Clemens vigorously denied the claims in an aggressive media blitz that included an appearance on "60 Minutes."
Clemens didn't have much to say Tuesday as he walked the hallways from appointment to appointment. He said he was getting a chance to meet some "interesting people," and he waved appreciatively when two bystanders yelled: "We love you, Rocket!"
While some congressmen have emphasized that the hearing is not solely about Clemens or even baseball -- concern about steroids and substance abuse among young people is the oft-stated mission -- the focus on the 45-year-old pitcher became more apparent after several other witnesses were scratched. Former Clemens teammates Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch and convicted steroids distributor Kirk Radomski were removed Monday night from the list of those testifying.
The only scheduled witness besides Clemens and McNamee is Charles Scheeler, a lawyer who helped produce the Mitchell Report.
But committee staff already had taken depositions from Pettitte, who has acknowledged he did try HGH, and Knoblauch. They also have the affidavit from Canseco, who disputes several details of McNamee's account, including a lunch party at Canseco's house in 1998.
According to McNamee, Clemens first raised the subject of steroids not long after McNamee saw Canseco and Clemens at the party. At the time, Canseco and Clemens were teammates on the Toronto Blue Jays, and McNamee was working for the team. Canseco says in his affidavit that Clemens was not at that party.
The first mention of Clemens' name in the Mitchell Report is on page 167. On the very next page comes McNamee's account of "a lunch party that Canseco hosted at his home in Miami."
"McNamee stated that, during this luncheon, he observed Clemens, Canseco, and another person he did not know meeting inside Canseco's house, although McNamee did not personally attend that meeting," the Mitchell Report says.
In his affidavit, Canseco said, "I specifically recall that Clemens did not come to the bar-b-que. I remember this because I was disappointed that he did not attend. I later learned that he had a golfing commitment that day and could not attend the party."
Canseco's book about steroids in baseball, "Juiced," drew Congress' attention in 2005, leading to that year's hearing. He and Clemens were teammates on the 1996 Boston Red Sox and 2000 New York Yankees, in addition to the '98 Blue Jays.
In his affidavit, the existence of which was first reported by the AP on Saturday, Canseco also disputes other statements of McNamee's in the Mitchell Report. The affidavit also says "neither Senator Mitchell nor anyone working with him" contacted Canseco to attempt to corroborate things McNamee said.
Two of McNamee's lawyers did not immediately return calls for comment Tuesday. But on Saturday, McNamee lawyer Earl Ward said he did not think Canseco's affidavit would be meaningful.
Reached Tuesday by the AP, Canseco said: "I've been told not to say anything."
His lawyer said Canseco would not attend Wednesday's hearing.