- Mark Fainaru-Wada
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In the week leading up to the release of the Mitchell report, Brian McNamee scrambled to warn Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte they would soon be outed as drug cheats -- while at the same time portraying himself as a man who gave up the two Yankees greats only after federal investigators pressured him to cooperate with baseball's steroids probe.
Transcripts of two conversations between McNamee and representatives for Clemens and Pettitte provide new context to the strange and contentious saga that has erupted since Clemens was named in the Mitchell report on Dec. 13.
The transcripts show McNamee painting a picture of himself as a friend trying to help Clemens despite warnings from government officials and former Sen. George Mitchell's investigators not to talk to anyone before the steroids report is released
They also demonstrate that Team Clemens became aware of McNamee's claims that he had cooperated with Mitchell a full week before the report's issue. And the transcripts show Clemens' representatives probing McNamee for the extent of the evidence that exists to tie the pitcher to performance-enhancing drugs -- asking about documents, cash payments and others who might be able to corroborate McNamee's story.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released the transcripts of the two conversations, along with 31 other exhibits, as part of its hearing to get to the bottom of Clemens' vehement denials that he used performance-enhancing drugs.
In a Dec. 5 phone conversation between McNamee and Jim Murray, an employee of the agents who represent Clemens and Pettitte, McNamee begins by saying, "Well, I just wanted to tell you that I'm sick to my stomach. I'm just trying to alert Roger and Andy that they're going to be in the Mitchell report."
Murray, who taped the conversation, asks how McNamee knows this, and the personal trainer tells an abbreviated version of how he is tied to the steroid scandal, beginning with his association with former Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski. Radomski recently pleaded guilty to steroid distribution charges and was sentenced to five years probation.
During Wednesday's hearing, Clemens testified that he was not aware he would be named in the Mitchell report until it actually was issued Dec. 13 -- one week after McNamee and Murray spoke by phone. Clemens attorney Rusty Hardin said Thursday that Clemens was aware of what McNamee had told Murray and even listened to the recording on Dec. 9, but that there was no way to know if Mitchell was going to actually use the information in his report.
Asked why Team Clemens didn't contact Mitchell after hearing about McNamee's allegations, Hardin said: "The whole thing was so adversarial at that time, it never occurred to us that Mitchell would have talked to me. Never occurred to me at the time to talk to George Mitchell and try to figure out what was in the report."
In the conversation with Murray, McNamee describes being confronted by government officials tracking the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative case, including lead investigator Jeff Novitzky of the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigations unit and Matt Parrella, the assistant U.S. Attorney who has been the chief prosecutor in the probe. The personal trainer tells Murray that he initially denied that Clemens or Pettitte had anything to do with drugs but that he had to change his tune when Novitzky and Parrella suggested they knew he was lying and threatened him with jail.
"They made statements that made me believe that they had information," McNamee says.
In the conversation with Murray, McNamee does most of the talking, explaining how he had provided illegal drugs to both players. McNamee tells Murray that he ultimately had to cooperate with baseball's steroids probe because of pressure from the government, which was working with Mitchell.
McNamee claims that Parrella -- whom he misidentified as "Adam Peralta" -- "looked me in the eye and he said, 'If you don't speak to Senator Mitchell, you're going to get locked up.'"
However, in testimony Wednesday before Congress, McNamee said he never had a deal with the government nor was he coerced to cooperate.
Regardless of whether McNamee was pressured, the government tactic appears to reflect a slight departure from its previous approach to the BALCO case and its connected steroid probes. Though McNamee faced a possible distribution charge, the government appears ultimately to have used its power to get him to cooperate with the Mitchell probe -- a private investigation on behalf of a private entity, Major League Baseball.
In a conversation one week later with investigators working on behalf of Clemens, McNamee railed against the government for its approach; he alleged his bank records had been turned over to Mitchell by the feds.
"Well, that's interesting to us that they would use the arm of the federal government to fund a private investigation for Major League Baseball," one of the investigators, Billy Belk, tells McNamee.
"That's what I'm raising hell about, but no one gives a s--- and they just want me to shut up," McNamee responds.
Hardin, a former prosecutor, said Thursday he was troubled by the government's approach.
"Why give immunity to a guy to give you information that is then required as part of a deal to give to a private organization," Hardin said. "That's just rife with potential misuses. McNamee has admitted crimes. Why are you giving him a free ride to get information on people you're not going to charge with a crime, but simply to tarnish their reputation by a private investigation issuing a report?"
A law enforcement source has told ESPN that McNamee was never granted immunity.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco did not return phone or e-mail messages seeking comment.
Peter Keane, a professor at Golden Gate University Law School in San Francisco and a close follower of the BALCO case, said the government's role was unique but not unprecedented. He said it would be "alarming" if prosecutors were randomly meddling in a private enterprise and using police powers, but he believes the government is acting within its charge.
"Government does have a very real responsibility and role in terms of the health system of this country -- whether or not young people are looking at athletes as role models and fooling them will harm their health," Keane said. "So there's a synchronicity that comes with government joining with Mitchell, a private enterprise's inquiry, and pooling their resources in a common alliance."
McNamee's conversation with the investigators for Team Clemens took place at the personal trainer's home one day before the release date of the Mitchell report, Dec. 13.
The conversation was recorded by the investigators, and McNamee indicates he invited the men to meet with him.
After Belk, a former Houston police officer, and McNamee, a former New York City cop, briefly discuss their time on the force, McNamee says to the two investigators: "So, let's -- what are you guys doing? What are you trying to accomplish? And the only thing I can tell you is: I'm trying to help."
Early on in the conversation with Belk and fellow investigator Jim Yarbrough, McNamee recounts a meeting he says he had with Murray in 2004. McNamee says the meeting was designed to warn Murray about the government's interest in Radomski, who had been providing McNamee with performance-enhancing drugs.
At the time of the meeting with Murray, BALCO investigators had obtained what were supposed to be confidential results of drug tests on major leaguers in 2003, and McNamee says he also cautioned Murray that Clemens could have a problem.
"Brian, why did you feel that there might be a problem with Roger," asks one of Clemens' investigators.
"Because Roger was taking steroids and if he -- if it stays in his system for a long enough period of time where he might have tested positive," McNamee responds.
"And how do you know Roger was taking steroids?"
From there, McNamee explains how he provided Clemens with various performance enhancers and also injected him with the drugs -- including, he says, once in the Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse. McNamee states he had not told that to the government agents who interviewed him, and at various points he insists he is telling Clemens' people more than he told the feds.
McNamee tells Clemens' investigators that the pitcher had some performance enhancers, which the trainer believed had been obtained from Jose Canseco in Florida, during the now hotly debated party that Clemens did or did not attend. McNamee says the pitcher provided him with a Ziploc bag full of steroids to dispose of, but he states he never told that to the federal agents.
McNamee repeats his claims about government coercion, even going so far as to imply he had a figurative gun to his head. But when asked if he'd be comfortable with Clemens' people making that point, McNamee indicates he would not.
At various points during the conversation, the investigators ask McNamee about the existence of additional information regarding Clemens and performance-enhancing drug use. They inquire about other people involved or documents.
"Brian, in any of this, and during this whole time that this is taking place were there ever any records that the government could have gotten," one of the investigators asks McNamee. "In other words, did Roger ever give you a check that you went to a store and purchased this stuff or was there any Fed Ex packages delivered that could be traced back? Was there any kind of paper trail, documentation, on any of this stuff."
"No," McNamee responds. "I don't know about Roger."
The conversation appears to turn tense toward its end when the question of McNamee's credibility is raised. One of the investigators mentions a prior sexual assault allegation against the trainer, as well as prior public denials about giving steroids to ballplayers.
"Is there anything in your background from a credibility standpoint that they're going to be able to use against you?" one of the investigators asks McNamee.
McNamee clearly becomes wary, wondering who "they" would be. The investigator presses forward, but at the same time says the trainer sounds "to me like a very credible person."
McNamee ultimately says, "I mean, the only people that are going to look to hurt my credibility are you guys."
The investigators also attempt to gauge McNamee's insistence that the drug use actually occurred, as well as how he might respond if Clemens issues a vehement denial.
"Is there any doubt in your mind that what you told us today is the truth?" Yarbrough asks McNamee.
"Well, you guys made the trip here. I would hope to that that I would only tell the truth," McNamee responds. He adds, "You first said that Roger and Andy would love to talk to me, but they can't and you know why. Why would they want to talk to me if I could only -- they know I would only tell the truth.
"And Jim Murray would only know that I'm telling the truth. You know what my biggest problem is, 'telling the truth.' That's my biggest problem."
Mark Fainaru-Wada, co-author of "Game of Shadows," is a reporter for ESPN. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Transcripts released after the congressional hearing on steroids in baseball provide new insights into the contentious saga between pitcher Roger Clemens and his former trainer, Brian McNamee, writes Mark Fainaru-Wada.