WASHINGTON Feb. 27, 2008— -- Two weeks after Roger Clemens insisted on a Congressional hearing so he could deny ever using performance enhancing drugs, a House committee formally asked the FBI to investigate whether Clemens lied to them under oath.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and ranking member Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., have sent a letter to the Department of Justice asking that they determine whether Clemens "committed perjury and made knowingly false statements."
"Our only conclusion is that significant questions have been raised about Mr. Clemens' truthfulness and that further investigation by the Department of Justice is warranted," the letter states.
During the Feb. 13 hearing Clemens, considered one of the premier pitchers of baseball, repeatedly rejected claims by his former trainer Brian NcNamee that he had been injected with human growth hormone to gain an illegal edge on the competition.
"I never took steroids or human growth hormone," Clemens defiantly stated.
"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," Waxman and Davis wrote to the Department of Justice.
"Mr. Clemens's testimony is also contradicted by the sworn deposition testimony and affidavit submitted to the committee by Andrew Pettitte, a former teammate of Mr. Clemens, whose testimony and affidavit reported that Mr. Clemens had admitted to him in 1999 or 2000 that he had taken human growth hormone," the letter states.
Sitting at the same table during that hearing was McNamee, who swore under oath that he injected Clemens with the drugs several times.
"Make no mistake," McNamee testified, "I injected those drugs into the body of Roger Clemens at his direction." McNamee has been cooperating with federal investigators looking into the use of steroids in professional sports.
Davis summed up the confrontation that day when he said, "Someone is lying in spectacular fashion."
Clemens attorney Lanny Breuer vowed Wednesday to continue to fight to defend his client now that the Department of Justice is considering an investigation.
"He has simply said that what Brian McNamee said about him isn't true, he said that from the beginning, he's resolute in that and he will continue to maintain in whatever forum he's in," Breuer told ABC News.
There had been some speculation that Congress might refer both Clemens and McNamee to the Department of Justice for investigation, but Clemens was the only name sent up.
The Department of Justice is not obligated to act on the Congressional referral, nor does it need a referral to begin an investigation on its own.
In a signal that federal agents were interested in Clemens' testimony, Jeff Novitsky, the government's lead investigator into the use of steroids in professional sports, attended the hearing sitting silently in the second row.
The referral to DOJ is the latest blow to Clemens' credibility. 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.
McNamee's lawyer said the Congressional referral was the right thing to do.
"It's what we expected, but Brian is not joyful about this. No one is celebrating," said attorney Earl Ward. "We think it's 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."
Clemens has been vigorously fighting to clear his name since the release late last year of The Mitchell Report, commissioned by Major League Baseball and written by former Sen. George Mitchell and his staff, detailing allegations of illegal use of steroids and human growth hormone in professional baseball. The Mitchell report accuses Clemens of using the performance enhancing drugs.
Clemens has challenged the legitimacy of the report, saying in his opening statement, "I take great issue with the report's allegation that I used these substances."
Clemens attorney Rusty Hardin said in a statement Wednesday that his client knew from the start of the investigation that 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," he concluded.
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 for lying 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 was forced to repeatedly tell the hearing that his pal Pettitte had "misremembered" their conversation.