The FBI has opened an investigation into whether Roger Clemens lied to Congress under oath about his use of performance enhancing drugs, just one day after lawmakers requested the probe.
"The request to open an investigation into the congressional testimony of Roger Clemens has been turned over to the FBI and will receive appropriate investigative action by the FBI's Washington Field Office," a spokesman for the bureau said Thursday.
Clemens has repeatedly denied using the drugs, shooting down claims that his former trainer, Brian McNamee, injected him with human growth hormone.
"I never took steroids or human growth hormone," Clemens defiantly said at a Feb. 13 hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which the star pitcher had requested.
But the chairman of the panel, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and ranking Republican Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., wrote in a letter to the Justice Department Wednesday, "That testimony is directly contradicted by the sworn testimony of Brian McNamee, who testified that he personally injected Mr. Clemens with anabolic steroids and human growth hormone."
The lawmakers sent the letter, asking the department to determine whether Clemens "committed perjury and made knowingly false statements."
"It comes as no surprise," Clemens' attorney, Rusty Hardin, said Thursday of the FBI inquiry. "We've always expected they would open an investigation. They attended the congressional hearing. So, what's new?"
The government signaled its interest in Clemens' testimony when its lead investigator into the use of steroids in professional sports, Jeff Novitsky, attended the hearing, silently sitting in the second row.
The investigation is the latest in a series of strikes against Clemens' credibility.
Late last year, the Mitchell Report, commissioned by Major League Baseball and written by former Sen. George Mitchell and his staff, detailed allegations of illegal use of steroids and human growth hormone in professional baseball. The report named Clemens as one of the accused.
Clemens challenged the legitimacy of the report right off the bat at the Feb. 13 hearing, saying, "I take great issue with the report's allegation that I used these substances."
Additionally, a key element of Clemens' testimony is that he initially denied he was ever at the party at the home of Jose Canseco. Clemens changed his testimony when he learned that pictures had emerged that might place him at the party.
After news of the referral to the Justice Department on Wednesday, McNamee's lawyer Earl Ward called it a "sad and unfortunate situation that one of baseball's greatest pitchers now has the potential of being a defendant in a criminal case."
"Although we think it's the right decision, no one here is celebrating," Ward said.
Hardin, Clemens' attorney, said in a statement Wednesday that his client knew from the start of the investigation that given his choice to speak publicly on the matter and dispute the Mitchell Report, the decision to move the matter forward to a criminal case was inevitable.
"The fact that he chose to testify twice under oath while knowing the short-term consequences is clear proof of how strongly he believes he has done nothing wrong," Hardin's statement asserted.
"Roger will continue to fight these false allegations with every ounce of strength he has."
Legal analysts have questioned Clemens' strategy of choosing to testify in front of Congress to clear his name, wondering if such testimony could expose him to legal jeopardy if he lied to Congress about the alleged drug use as well as exposing himself to perjury allegations for testimony about events surrounding the allegations.
Congressional investigators confronted Clemens with a sworn affidavit from his close friend and former teammate Andy Pettitte, who says that in 1999 or 2000 Clemens had told him about using HGH. Pettitte's wife also submitted an affidavit corroborating her husband's account.
In his opening statement Clemens acknowledged, "I am subjecting myself to possible criminal prosecution" by choosing to testify, and he was forced to repeatedly tell the hearing that his pal Pettitte had "misremembered" their conversation.