In dramatic and at times angry congressional testimony today, legendary pitcher Roger Clemens refuted allegations from his close friend Andy Pettitte that he had ever taken performance enhancing drugs.
Clemens said that Pettitte was mistaken when he swore to Congress that in 1999 or 2000 Clemens had told him he had used Human Growth Hormone.
Clemens called his former teammate a "fine gentleman" but said that Pettitte "misremembers." However, House Oversight and Government Reform committee chairman Henry Waxman, D.Calif., read from Pettitte's sworn deposition to the committee and revealed that Pettitte's wife Laura corroborates his account.
In the testimony Pettite said, "I told my wife, Laura, about the conversation with Roger soon after it happened."
Pettite's testimony has been crucial because it matches allegations made against Clemens by his former personal trainer, Brian McNamee, who joined Clemens today in front of Congress. Sitting awkwardly at the same table the two former friends never made eye contact and told opposite stories.
While McNamee has publicly said that he injected Clemens with banned drugs today Clemens reiterated, "I have been accused of something I'm not guilty of. Let me be clear: I have never taken steroids or HGH."
McNamee, who has provided to federal investigators needles he says he used to inject Clemens, said, "This evidence is 100 percent authentic and DNA analysis should bear this out."
Confused congressmen angrily pointed out inconsistencies in both men's accounts.
"Someone isn't telling the truth," Waxman said at one point. Later, Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., the ranking member of the committee, summed up the confrontation when he said, "Someone is lying in spectacular fashion."
After nearly five hours of testimony, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., told the packed hearing room, "The person I believe most is Mr. Pettitte." Speaking directly to Clemens, Cummings added, "You're one of my heroes, but it's hard to believe."
The hearing turned angry on occasion. At one point both of Clemens' lawyers sprang to their feet and objected to a line of questioning. Clemens later interrupted Waxman's closing remarks, causing the chairman to bang his gavel in protest.
"This is not your time to argue with me," Waxman scolded.
After the hearing, Waxman and Davis said they had not yet decided whether to ask the Justice Department to launch a perjury investigation.
"Our job now is to look to the future," Waxman said, adding that "someone lying is not necessarily committing perjury."
"I will evaluate it," Davis said. "I will think it over."
Davis noted that the committee's recommendation might not matter much anyway.
"We could refer this to Justice for perjury and they could do nothing," he said.
Both Davis and Waxman emphasized that they had given Clemens the chance to avoid today's public hearing.
"The first thing we said to Mr. Clemens was you don't have to go through this," Davis said. "You don't have to go through this hearing and be subject to perjury. If there's any doubt and so on, we could write a report and we could be done with it. He insisted on coming forward to clear his name."
"The only reason we had this hearing today is because Roger Clemens insisted upon it," Waxman said. "We were willing to release the documents and let them speak for themselves, but he wanted his opportunity to testify."
Clemens' attorneys denied these claims.
"Any suggestion whatsoever that this hearing was a result of our request is simply inaccurate," said Lanny Breuer. "I said I'd be delighted for Roger to stand with chairman Waxman and tell the kids of America that there are no shortcuts and he did not take steroids or human growth hormone. And I was turned down flat."
"We said we didn't need this hearing as long as there's a fair report," Breuer added. "But what we couldn't live with was a report that was cut and pasted."
Clemens seemed relieved that his chance to tell his side of the story to Congress and the nation had finally come.
"I'm very thankful and grateful for this day to come," the ballplayer said after the hearing. "I'm glad for the opportunity finally and I hope I get the support to come here to Washington once again under different terms, so just thank y'all very much."
Whereas Clemens only muttered those few words and McNamee said nothing at all after the hearing, their lawyers didn't pass up one more chance to fight their cases in the court of public opinion.
"Roger Clemens certainly did not commit perjury today. He didn't use steroids and he didn't use human growth hormone," Clemens' lawyer Rusty Hardin said.
"The very fact that Roger subjected himself to this possibility and still agreed to swear under oath two different times both in his deposition and here should show you that he believes strongly that he's telling the truth," Hardin added. "No sane man would subject himself to that unless he believed that he was telling the truth."
McNamee's lawyer Richard Emery, who called on the Justice Department to open an investigation, said, "It's absolutely plain that with the corroboration of Andy Pettitte and everything that went on here, the lying that took place here, it's not going to be hard to prove."
Both Emery and fellow McNamee attorney Earl Ward expressed their displeasure that the hearing had deteriorated into what they described as a partisan affair.
"It's a shock to me that it divided along party lines and it's extremely surprising that [Reps.] Issa, Burton, and Foxx behaved in the miserable manner in which they did," Emery said.
"Only Congress could take the Clemens-McNamee controversy and turn it into a partisan issue," Ward said.