Clemens vs Congress: The Scouting Report

On Feb. 13, seven-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Roger Clemens and four other witnesses will testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on steroid use in baseball.

When Clemens and others step up to the plate, they will be staring down a formidable dais of lawmakers gunning for answers in the wake of former Sen. George Mitchell's bombshell report on doping in Major League Baseball. In the spirit of this historic showdown between legislators and ballplayers, has prepped a detailed scouting report on Congress' lineup.

The Starting Rotation

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.: The staff ace, Waxman is the committee chairman. A gritty performer, Waxman has been willing to throw a hard high one when he presides over the action on his home field of Rayburn 2154. "His honesty and commitment to seeking out the truth is critical for someone in his position, and he is able to pursue the issues that need to be addressed in a reasonable manner while working with both Democratic and Republican members," said fellow committee member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. As the panel's leader, Waxman will kick off the hearing with an opening statement that will set the tone for what's to come. And rest assured, the California Democrat is guaranteed to go after Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch, Brian McNamee and Kirk Radomski as soon as they are sworn in.

If the witnesses needed any proof of Waxman's bullish mentality, look no further than former MVP Miguel Tejada, who now finds himself the subject of an FBI investigation into whether he lied to committee staff during a 2005 interview related to the Rafael Palmeiro steroid case.

On Jan. 15, when the committee heard from Mitchell, author of a scathing December report on steroid use in baseball, MLB commissioner Bud Selig and players association chief Donald Fehr, Waxman requested that Attorney General Michael Mukasey launch an investigation into Tejada.

"Tejada told the committee that he never used illegal performance-enhancing drugs and that he had no knowledge of other players using or even talking about steroids. The Mitchell Report, however, directly contradicts key elements of Tejada's testimony. The conflict is stark and fundamental to the committee's 2005 investigation, Waxman said at the hearing. Days later, the FBI stepped in. A word to the wise, witness: watch out for Waxman.

Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va.: The No. 1 Republican on the committee, ranking member Davis recently announced his intention to leave Congress at the end of his current term. "After much soul-searching and discussion with those closest to me, I have decided the time is right to take a sabbatical from public life," said the former committee chairman. Before he relinquishes his post on the Hill, Davis will play a lead role in the hearing.

On March 17, 2005, when his committee heard from Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Jose Canseco and Curt Schilling, Davis warned baseball that the committee would continue to pay close attention to the sport's problems.

"Today's hearing will not be the end of our inquiry. Far from it," Davis said. "Nor will Major League Baseball be our sole or even primary focus. We're in the first inning of what could be an extra-inning ball game." After the release of the Mitchell Report in December, Davis co-authored a statement with Waxman, saying that it was "a sad day for Major League Baseball but a good day for integrity in sports." Davis will do all he can to ensure that Feb. 13 is another good day for integrity in sports.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.: Witnesses should watch out for this hard-nosed Maryland Democrat. Just ask Selig and Fehr, who got an earful from Cummings during the January hearing. "This scandal happened under your watch," he told the two witnesses. "It did. I want that to sink in."

Cummings' combination of an arsenal full of probing questions and a flair for the dramatic is a potent force for even the most composed and competent witness to contend with. "We will not tolerate athletes — who are making millions upon millions of dollars to play baseball and practice — disobeying the law, violating baseball policy, and cheating," warned Cummings. "Otherwise, we will be sending a message to our young people that this sort of behavior is acceptable, when it is not."

An intimidating force on the dais, Cummings always throws close to the chin, just as he did in March 2005. At the time, Cummings urged baseball to adopt a stricter approach to steroid use. "Baseball's policy needs to be one of zero tolerance," said Cummings, "and it needs to have teeth." It was Cummings who directly asked McGwire whether he was going to plead the fifth, which the slugger did, in one of the defining moments of that hearing and baseball's steroid era. However, Cummings denies that the Feb. 13 hearing is part of a witch hunt.

"I plan on asking players their opinion on where we go from here. Importantly, I also want to ask players their opinions on how best to educate our young people that steroids are bad — both for their mental and physical well-being and for the integrity of the game," said Cummings. "We need to engage these players — and not just baseball players, but all athletes — to become part of the solution, and this will be a futile effort as long as they feel that they are being victimized or that they are part of some kind of witch hunt. This hearing is not about cornering these athletes."

Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind.: The Indiana congressman has been one of the more outspoken panel members on the "historic and ongoing abuse of steroids in baseball." For six years, he led the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources and, along with Cummings, he currently is co-chairman of the Congressional Drug Policy Caucus. In December, the lifelong Chicago White Sox fan said that baseball's efforts to combat this problem "have failed" and threatened that "Congress will mandate the reforms" if owners and players don't act "in a responsible way". He then followed up on that criticism by pointedly telling Selig and Fehr in January that "the leadership part is missing — it tends to be waiting until potentially the law is coming and then trying to fend the law off."

The players should expect to face similarly tough questioning when they come to the Hill. "Athletes in America are modeled by youth and adults alike," Souder said last month. "Voluntarily lead now or you will be required to behave as leaders should," he demanded. Witnesses should heed these warnings or expect to face the wrath of Souder.

Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass.: At the January hearing, the Massachusetts Democrat focused on the rising number of therapeutic use exemptions given to ballplayers taking amphetaminelike substances such as Ritalin or Adderall, commonly prescribed for attention deficit or hyperactivity disorders. These drugs are deemed "performance-enhancing" by Major League Baseball, but exemptions are granted.

Tierney, rattling off statistics about a sport that loves its stats so dearly, pressed Selig and Fehr about the fact that the number of those exemptions is skyrocketing. "In 2006 the total number of players that were subjected to testing was 1,356, and there were 35 therapeutic use exemptions granted. Of those, 28 were for ADD or ADHD medications. In 2007, that number jumped significantly. Of the 1,354 players tested, therapeutic use exemptions granted were 111, of which 103 were for ADD or ADHD medications. Now, that would make that almost eight times the normal adult usage in our population amongst baseball players."

In response, both Selig and Fehr defended the current policy whereby players must apply to an independent program administrator for these exemptions by presenting documents from a physician. Whatever line of questioning Tierney chooses, witnesses would be smart to pay close attention when Tierney addresses them this month.


Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn.: Never one to back down from any confrontation in a hearing, Shays already proved that he is a force to be reckoned with during the January hearing, going after baseball's three-strikes-you're-out policy. "I don't know how you have collective bargaining for cheating," he told Selig and Fehr last month. "So tell me why a player should be allowed to cheat three times."

Although he was outspoken, that hearing was more important than the upcoming one, noting his opinion that the players shouldn't come to Capitol Hill at all, Shays can still be counted on to be a vocal presence during the hearing. After the more senior members have had their say, it's Shays who can enter the game in the late innings and play a vital role in the course of the hearing. And seeing as the 2005 hearing lasted 11 hours, Shays could be a force to be reckoned with if this hearing heads to extra innings.

More Big Guns in the Bullpen

Rep. Eleanor Holmes-Norton, D-D.C.: A local made good, expect the D.C. representative to take special interest in the back-and-forth between Roger Clemens and his former trainer Brian McNamee. After all, it was Norton who questioned Mitchell in January on the credibility of McNamee's allegations about Clemens' steroid use.

"Since the report was issued, Andy Pettitte has said that Mr. McNamee's statements about him were true, so they confirmed the testimony," Mitchell responded. Now Norton will get her chance to hear from both Clemens and McNamee in person.

Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind.: A long-serving Republican from Indiana, Burton is a seasoned veteran who chaired this committee from 1996 to 2002. The Hoosier state representative voiced his opinion in January that he would prefer to see lawmakers dealing with other issues rather than steroids in sports. "I don't like to see Congress doing this. This doesn't seem to be something that I think Congress should be doing. Nevertheless, I think it is useful, especially if it gets the message out to all sports figures and high profile figures, that they should not be involved in this," Burton said. Look for Burton to try to get that message across when he speaks to the witnesses.

Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill.: Davis had harsh words for baseball's leaders last month. "It is my feeling that Major League Baseball has failed miserably in policing itself relative to the use of illegal drugs and the proliferation of performance-enhancing substances by Major League Baseball players," Davis said. Expect Davis to have more harsh words for baseball's players this month.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.: A vocal conservative, the Californian is always opinionated and always aggressive. Take his stance on the steroids hearings: "The first Congressional hearings forced baseball to come to grips with the problem it had with steroids," Issa said. "Democrats in Congress, however, have lately engaged in a made-for-media parade of past bad behaviors. The committee should return to focusing on problems with the federal bureaucracy."

The hearing hasn't even begun, but already the partisan back-and-forth has. Counters a Democratic congressional aide, "It disappoints me to learn that Republicans would make such accusations, particularly when looking back on the critical hearings addressing issues that were neglected under GOP leadership. This hearing is about following up on what was started under the Republican-led Congress in 2005: keeping our children safe. This is not a partisan issue, and I regret that anyone would try to portray it as such."

Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y.: The Empire State Democrat repeatedly asked Selig and Fehr about a "code of silence" that Mitchell said he faced in trying to get answers for his report. Towns, on his 12th term in the House of Representatives, will undoubtedly attempt to break that code when the witnesses take their turns at the witness stand.