Secret drug relationship outlined at Clemens trial
WASHINGTON Brian McNamee described for jurors a relationship with Roger Clemens that had the hallmarks of an illicit affair — except their secret was steroids.
“Roger would ask me, ‘What are you doing? Are you available tonight?’ I knew exactly what he was talking about,” McNamee said today, in the first day of his testimony against his former client and friend.
Back then, in 1998, Clemens was pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays, and McNamee was the team’s strength and conditioning coach. According to McNamee, the two men went to Clemens’ apartment in the Jays’ SkyDome stadium.
“Roger pulled down his pants, exposing his right buttocks cheek to me,” McNamee said. A few seconds later, Clemens said he was ready. McNamee said he then “plunged the fluid in, into his buttocks.”
“That,” McNamee said, “was the first time I injected Roger Clemens.”
McNamee said he didn’t feel good about the moment, but he got the sense that Clemens “wasn’t good at doing the ‘booty shot.’”
That year was the beginning of a decade-long relationship that soured when McNamee, facing legal trouble, told investigators he had injected the seven-time Cy Young Award winner with steroids and HGH. Clemens’ denial of those allegations at a 2008 congressional hearing landed him in court, where he faces charges that he lied to Congress.
Before McNamee returned to the stand this morning, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton dismissed a second juror for sleeping through part of the proceedings. The juror, a woman who works as a supermarket cashier, said during jury selection she had never heard of Clemens, and that, “If he did indulge, I believe he should be penalized.”
Her departure leaves 14 jurors, including two alternates. The case started with 16 jurors, including four alternates. A young man was dismissed from the jury last week for falling asleep.
It took a month for prosecutors to get to their key witness: McNamee is the only person who will claim firsthand knowledge of Clemens using performance-enhancing drugs.
McNamee also detailed a rushed shot he gave Clemens in a utility closet in the Tampa Bay clubhouse in 1998.
“I was hurrying because we had to get out of there,” he recalled. “I closed the door and injected him real quick and we left. I kept one foot on the door as I was injecting,” to keep anyone from coming in on them.
And when McNamee was asked where Clemens had gotten the drugs, he responded: “Don’t ask, don’t tell. I didn’t want to know.”
Later that season, McNamee claimed, Clemens came to his locker, threw a bag of steroids into it, and said: “Get rid of it. I’m done with it.” That was after Clemens had developed an abscess on his buttocks.
The two men had developed such a bond — either because of drugs, as the prosecution says, or because of workouts, as the defense maintains — that Clemens asked his new team, the New York Yankees, to bring McNamee on board at the beginning of the 1999 season. New York declined, but when Clemens made another plea near the end of the season, the Yankees created a new position for McNamee — assistant strength and conditioning coach.
The salary was only $30,000, McNamee said, but Clemens supplemented that with $50,000 or $60,000. In 1998, Clemens had tipped him $1,000 at the end of spring training, McNamee said.
McNamee said he didn’t want to be with the Yankees, having already worked for the team as a bullpen catcher and batting practice pitcher in the mid-1990s.
“I just wanted to be Roger Clemens’ trainer,” he said.
The bespectacled McNamee, speaking softly in a thick New York accent, often made eye contact with jurors, who paid close attention to him. Clemens, sitting about 20 feet across the courtroom, did as well. McNamee returns to the witness stand today.
The former pitcher took several pages of notes on a white legal pad. He looked up quickly when McNamee talked about their alleged conversations about performance-enhancing drugs, licking his lips and holding his pen in the air, as if interrupted in the middle of writing something down. Other times, he would tap five fingers on his desk.
At the beginning of his testimony, McNamee seemed a bit sad about how things had turned.
A prosecutor asked what it was like to work with such an icon.
“Just give me a minute,” McNamee said in a subdued tone, after a long pause. Then, his pitch shifting up, he said, “It was great working with the best.”
The two sides spent the morning arguing over which parts of McNamee’s personal life may be revealed in front of the jury. Judge Walton quashed a Clemens subpoena for McNamee’s divorce records. Walton said it was a “fishing expedition” to look for information to disparage McNamee.
The judge did rule that Clemens’ team could bring up evidence of McNamee’s alleged alcohol problems, including two convictions for driving under the influence. Walton also said that if the defense had evidence that McNamee had obtained prescription drugs online without a prescription, that too could be mentioned.
But the judge said again that defense lawyers may not mention that McNamee was investigated for an alleged sexual assault over a 2001 incident at a St. Petersburg, Fla., hotel involving a woman who was found to have a date-rape drug in her system. Walton said the defense could refer to it only as a “serious criminal investigation.”
The defense will be able to say that McNamee lied to investigators during that investigation. Charges were never filed in the case.