Clemens plays tape of conversation with distraught McNamee

Updated: January 8, 2008, 2:58 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Roger Clemens repeatedly denied using steroids during a telephone conversation with Brian McNamee, but the former trainer would not confirm or deny his claims.

On Monday in Houston, Clemens and his lawyer played a tape of a 17-minute conversation between the pitcher and trainer last week as Clemens continues his defense against allegations in the Mitchell report that he used performance-enhancing drugs.

McNamee told the Mitchell Commission that he injected the seven-time Cy Young Award winner with steroids and human growth hormone 16-21 times in 1998, 2000 and 2001. Clemens asserts that the trainer injected him with only the painkiller lidocaine and the vitamin B-12.

"For the life of me I'm trying to figure out why you told guys I did steroids," Clemens said to McNamee on the tape.

"I understand that," McNamee responded.

Over and over, Clemens makes statements like, "I just want the truth out there and like I said, I can't believe what is being said," and, "Just the stuff I'm reading and hearing, so much of it is untrue and it's just tearing everyone apart."

But McNamee never says that he lied to the Mitchell Commission regarding Clemens' alleged steroid use. He does repeatedly ask what he can do for Clemens -- 21 times to be exact.

"I'm telling the truth and I want it out there," Clemens said, and McNamee responded, "Tell me what you want me to do. I'll go to jail. I'll do whatever you want."

At no point in the conversation does McNamee say that he would be willing to say that Clemens did not take steroids, and Clemens does not ask him to.

Asked why Clemens never directly answered the "what do you want me to do" question, his attorney, Rusty Hardin, said:

"The last thing Roger wanted, just as we did, was any suggestion that we were trying to interfere or coerce a federal witness. So, yeah, all he kept saying [was] nothing. Except you hear him throughout saying, 'Tell the truth.'"

McNamee did not know the conversation was being recorded. Under state law in New York and Texas, only one party has to give consent for a phone conversation to be taped.

Richard Emery, one of McNamee's lawyers, told The New York Times on Monday that the tape is authentic, but he also expressed outrage that Clemens had taped the conversation.

"It's war now," he said, according to the newspaper. "This guy will stop at nothing."

McNamee is obviously distraught in the profanity-laced conversation. Saying his son is sick and that he has no money, McNamee added, "it is what it is, and it's not good. And I want it to go away. And I'm with you. I'm in your corner. I don't want this to happen. But I'd also like not to go to jail, too. But it has nothing to do with you."

Emery said Brian McNamee Jr., 10, has celiac disease, which damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food.

"It's outrageous and disgusting for them to for their own cynical purposes, to perpetuate a continuing lie, to use this child and splay his disease and disability all over the press for the world to know," Emery said. "It just shows they'll go to any lengths."

As for his money problems, McNamee said: "I'm not doing a book deal. I got offered seven figures to go on TV. I didn't do it. I didn't take it. I didn't do anything. All I did was what I thought was right -- I never thought it was right, but I thought that I had no other choice, put it that way."

McNamee says a number of times that he would "like to sit down in person with you."

Clemens does not agree to meet, instead saying, "Just give me a little time."

Another of McNamee's lawyers, Earl Ward, told Andrew Marchand of ESPN 1050 radio in New York that "the tape adds absolutely nothing."

He also said that McNamee will not speak again until he testifies Jan. 16 to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

As for his reaction to learning that McNamee had spoken with Clemens, Ward said, "I was surprised. I wasn't pleased."

After the tape was played, Hardin said Clemens was willing to speak to Congress. Clemens and McNamee were invited to Washington to testify.

Clemens' former teammates Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch also have been asked to testify. Pettitte hired Jay Reisinger, the lawyer who represented Sammy Sosa before the committee three years ago.

Kirk Radomski also was asked to appear before the committee. In the Mitchell report, McNamee said he obtained the drugs he used to inject Clemens from the former Mets clubhouse attendant or Clemens supplied them.

"I'm going to Congress and I'm going to tell the truth," Clemens said. "I'm going to tell everything that I know about the situations and steroids and anything else that I have knowledge about, which isn't a lot."

The committee planned to ask Clemens' representatives for the complete recording of the telephone conversation played at the news conference, said Karen Lightfoot, communications director for the panel's chairman, California Democrat Henry Waxman.

Laying out a timeline of events, Hardin said on Monday that they did find out before the release of the Mitchell report that McNamee had made incriminating statements about Clemens. They decided not to respond, Hardin said, because it was not clear if the report would name names.

[+] EnlargeRoger Clemens
AP Photo/David J. PhillipRoger Clemens, left, and his lawyer, Rusty Hardin listen to the tape.

They also had another hope.

"Roger thought that since it was so untrue, perhaps Brian McNamee would change his mind," Hardin said.

The New York Daily News also reported on Monday that days before the scheduled release of the Mitchell report, Clemens' investigators asked McNamee whether he would be willing to recant.

McNamee reportedly called Clemens and Pettitte to warn them that he had spoken to the government. During an interview on "60 Minutes" which aired on Sunday night, Clemens denied knowing that he would be named by Mitchell.

McNamee said during the call to Clemens that in 2004 he warned Jim Murray, who works for Clemens' agents, to be prepared for a link to Radomski to come out.

"Any suggestion by Brian McNamee that he gave the name of Kirk Radomski to anyone at our firm is erroneous," Hendricks Sports Management said in a statement.

Clemens filed a defamation lawsuit against McNamee Sunday night in Harris County District Court in Texas, listing 15 alleged statements McNamee made to Mitchell. Clemens claimed the statements were "untrue and defamatory."

"We are ready to go to Congress and we are ready to countersue," Ward said, adding that they will first try to get Clemens' suit thrown out before they decide for sure if they will sue.

Also Sunday, McNamee told SI.com that Clemens was "in no way an abuser of steroids."

"He took them in late July, August, and never for more than four to six weeks max," he was quoted as saying. "Within the culture of what was going on, he was just a small part of it. A lot of guys did it. You can't take away the work Roger did. You can't take away the fact that he worked out as hard as anybody."

Hardin said he is recommending that Clemens not take a lie-detector test.

"I think he's the one guy who could probably beat the test," McNamee told SI.com. "He might actually believe that he's telling the truth."

Monday was the first time Clemens answered questions from a group of reporters.

His anger at reporters for the way he has been portrayed was clear when he mentioned the Hall of Fame. There has been speculation that the allegations in the Mitchell report would hurt his chances for induction.

"Do you think I played my career because I care about the Hall of Fame? … If you have a vote … you keep your vote," he said and walked off shortly afterward.

Clemens angrily denied taking performance-enhancing drugs on Sunday as well. His appearance came after weeks of criticism that he wasn't publicly denying the allegations.

Hardin said on Monday the legal team told the pitcher to wait.

"We knew that once this came out, there would surely be congressional hearings," Hardin said.

Hardin also wanted to make clear that Clemens and his legal team were not questioning the integrity of former senator George Mitchell.

"We are not making any allegations of misconduct by the government or the Mitchell Commission," he said.

On Monday, Mitchell said the characterization of the interview as a 'Cold War interrogation,' in which McNamee was read a statement and asked to confirm it, was false, according to the New York Daily News.

"At the outset of each of the interviews, the federal law enforcement officials told McNamee that he should just tell the truth and warned him that he faced criminal jeopardy if he made any false statements," Mitchell said, according to the Daily News. "Also at each of the interviews, I told him that all I asked of him was the truth, nothing more and nothing less. He said that he understood and would comply.

"Occasionally, members of my investigative staff or some of the federal law enforcement officials who were present asked questions or sought clarification. There was no 'Cold War era' reading of McNamee's prior statements by any federal official, as alleged," Mitchell said, according to the Daily News.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.