Much has been said and written this week about the indictment of Roger Clemens on perjury charges.
Why has he been so vocal and insistent in proclaiming his innocence?
Is this a sign that he is being truthful?
The majority of sports fans appear to believe that Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs and then lied about it when he appeared before Congress.
Many can’t understand why Clemens has been so defiant in his defense.
Why hasn’t he just admitted that he did it and move on?
I think I know why.
First of all, I believe Roger is lying.
I don’t like it.
I understand that in a court of law, you are innocent until proven guilty. But we aren’t in a court of law. We are in the court of public opinion and all logic points to guilt.
You can say whatever you want about the character of his accuser Brian McNamee, but it’s hard not to view him as more credible than Roger Clemens.
McNamee named Andy Pettitte. He said Pettitte used human growth hormone.
Pettitte admitted McNamee was right.
If McNamee told the truth about Andy Pettitte, why would he lie about Roger Clemens?
Is there evidence that McNamee has it in for Roger?
“No”, quite the contrary. He initially lied to protect Roger until Federal investigators squeezed him. McNamee was told he would be free from prosecution only if he told the truth.
Only then did he reveal his information.
So where is the motive for McNamee to lie?
If he told the truth about Pettitte, we are to believe he is lying about Clemens?
It defies logic.
Then we have Andy Pettitte’s statement to the federal authorities and to Congress.
Pettitte said Roger told him that he had used human growth hormone. Pettitte idolized Clemens. Had a poster of him on his wall. The two were teammates and close friends.
So, are we to believe that Pettitte lied?
Clemens claims Pettitte “misremembered” the conversation.
Does that sound reasonable?
Would Andy Pettite really misinterpret or misunderstand such an important admission, as suggested by Clemens?
Who has a motive to lie?
So, let’s start from that point.
Let’s assume for a moment that Roger Clemens is lying.
The next question is, Why?
He could cut a deal right now and avoid a jail sentence. With so much to lose, why is Roger Clemens sticking to his story?
I believe the answer lies in his make-up, which mirrors that of Barry Bonds.
Both players exhibited a strong work ethic and a remarkable level of devotion to improving their abilities. Their workout regimens were almost legendary. They both wanted greatness and were willing to do the work it took to be the best.
That is no small feat.
There are countless athletes who have loads of natural ability but are unwilling to push themselves to their peak level of performance. They aren’t willing to spend the extra hours, day after day, in the weight room, in the bullpen, or in the batting cage, to become great.
Rogers Clemens and Barry Bonds did. Both were workout fiends and prided themselves on out-working others.
I believe it is for that reason, that neither one will admit to using performance-enhancing drugs. They think that such an admission would invalidate their career in the eyes of others — that their hard work would no longer be viewed as the reason for their success.
As hard as Roger and Barry have worked to achieve greatness, they can not accept others thinking they might not have been great without the help of performance-enhancing drugs.
Look at how Mark McGwire reacted to questions about how PED helped him.
He would only say he used them to recover from injury and stay on the field. He refused to admit even the possibility that PED might have helped him achieve higher home run totals.
That’s pride and ego — both necessary ingredients to being great, but also potential negative influences in decision-making.
It took Pete Rose 15-years of continuous denials before he admitted to gambling on baseball.
All Roger Clemens has to do is admit he lied and he will avoid jail time. But he is too proud to do it.
Proving perjury is difficult. Especially when it involves a celebrity. Perhaps Clemens will avoid a conviction in federal court.
But he won’t win the hearts and minds of most baseball fans. They have seen too much lying and too much failure by athletes to take responsibility for their actions.
Here is what I believe.
Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds were the best students in the class, but they cheated to get even higher grades. I believe they knew that what they were doing was wrong, but did it anyway and then lied about it — somehow justifying it in their own minds, convincing themselves that what they were doing really wasn’t all that bad.
No one knows how much they benefited from cheating — we never will.
But it has forever changed the way we view them.
And the fact that a lot of other kids cheated on the exam doesn’t change that.
It’s all just very sad — for them and for us.
Founder & Executive Director
Chuck Wilson is an award-winning host, interviewer, and commentator. He was an original host on ESPN Radio and was with the network for close to 17-years. In 2007, Wilson was named one of the 100 Most Influential Sports Educators in America by the Institute for International Sport. He is the founder of Even Field.