Commentary

Clemens saga weaves a tangled web in Houston

Originally Published: May 21, 2008
By Mike Fish | ESPN.com

HOUSTON -- You can't utter Roger Clemens' name around this sprawling oil-centric metropolis without riling up the locals. The Rocket is a larger-than-life icon, a hardball favorite of down-home folks, board room captains and Texas politicos. He is such big stuff that former president George H. W. Bush phoned Clemens, as the pitcher sat perched in a deer blind on a hunting trip last winter, to commiserate about the steroid accusations leveled against him in the Mitchell report.

Everyone here seems to know his story. Everyone has opinions about the get-out-of-my-face Texan with the new buzzed Marine-style haircut, and most of those opinions are still favorable. Still, these obviously are not good times for Clemens. As he hunkers down, surrounded by his wife and four kids, juicy media reports that Clemens might have a philandering past have launched several of the Rocket's alleged old flames into the tabloid spotlight. His gal pals, according to those allegations, are said to include struggling country singer Mindy McCready -- who he reportedly met when she was 15 years old -- and a former bartender at a trendy Manhattan night spot, as well as the ex-wife of hard-living golfer John Daly.

[+] EnlargeRoger Clemens
AP Photo/David J. PhillipMost Houston fans have memories long enough to still be savoring the fact that Roger Clemens helped the Astros to their only World Series appearance in 2005.
Those tales could haunt Clemens in the defamation of character lawsuit he brought against his former trainer, Brian McNamee, if they suggest to a potential jury that Clemens has damaged his own reputation. McNamee's attorney is also threatening to dispatch a pair of retired New York City cops to Houston to dig up even more dirt on the Rocket.

Tawdry allegations such as those run counter to the public image cultivated by Clemens, whose nonprofit foundation donated $445,000 to charity -- $293,000 in cash grants and the remainder in Houston Astros tickets and baseball memorabilia -- according to its most recent filing in 2006. Nor do they jibe with the image penned by Clemens' friend and former teammate, Jose Canseco, in his first book, "Juiced," which depicted the legendary pitcher as never straying from his wife of 23 years.

But the last five months haven't been particularly pleasant for a number of people connected to Clemens. It's clear that the fallout from the Mitchell report, and the Rocket's response to it, has intruded on many lives in the Houston area. As he's fought to protect his Hall of Fame-worthy legacy -- a fight that has made him the subject of a federal perjury investigation for statements given under oath before Congress -- Clemens has also left a wake of ill will and unwanted scrutiny in his hometown and a handful of other stops along his 24-year big-league tour.

And the alleged old flames are just part of it.

In Houston, the aftermath of the Mitchell report has federal agents and reporters scurrying about in search of evidence Clemens lied when he defiantly told Congress in February that he has never used steroids and human growth hormone [HGH]. A slew of folks -- from gym rats to doctors known to write prescriptions for performance-enhancing meds, and even family and friends -- have been sucked into the muck.

Now, three months after that congressional testimony, many of these supporting and sometimes unknown characters have become pawns in a legal chess match, potential witnesses in a federal investigation to resolve the conflicting stories given by Clemens and his chief accuser, McNamee. Their stories are at times sordid tales of conflict, tainted pasts and dirty dealings, of whistleblowers squealing on gym owners who are cast as potential sources of performance-enhancing drugs. One is a trainer of heavyweight boxers and former husband to a Miss Universe; another comes from a prominent Houston family and is the brother in-law of an Olympic gymnastics sweetheart.

The stories might be comical if they weren't, in some cases, hurtful. A sampling:

• Tom Pettitte, proud father of a big-league pitcher, sat by helplessly as word filtered out of the halls of Congress that he had dabbled with human growth hormone and provided at least two injections for his son, the Yankees' Andy Pettitte.

[+] EnlargeDebbie Clemens
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez MonsivaisDebbie Clemens, Roger's wife, wasn't able to stay in the background of the Mitchell Report allegations.
• Debbie Clemens, the pitcher's wife, has been exposed as another HGH dabbler who was injected by McNamee around her belly-button before she posed for a 2003 Sports Illustrated swimsuit photo. Among other stories that have bubbled up in recent months is word that Debbie Clemens, now 44, and the former Mrs. Jose Canseco, currently Jessica Fisher (a one-time Hooter's girl), compared results of their breast enhancement surgeries at a now-infamous party at Canseco's South Florida home in 1998 -- a get-together that Clemens swore under oath he didn't attend.

• Koby Clemens, a minor-league catcher and oldest son of the Rocket, reportedly worked out with a gym owner who has been questioned by the FBI, though the younger Clemens hasn't been connected to performance-enhancing drugs and the owner disputes having assisted him. The Rocket's step-sister, Bonnie Owens, also made headlines with the disclosure that she formerly was a massage therapist at another Houston gym reportedly of interest to the feds.

• FBI agents recently knocked on the door of Kelly Blair, a Houston-area fitness trainer and cousin through marriage of Pettitte, the Yankee left-hander. Agents also met with Kevin Schexnider, partner with Blair in 1-on-1 Elite Personal Fitness, a gym where Pettitte's father worked out and reportedly obtained HGH.

• Shaun Kelley, another fitness specialist and owner of a weight-loss clinic that has been drawn into the story, took a polygraph test for the FBI. He also told ESPN.com that he was quizzed by Clemens' attorney, Rusty Hardin. Shaun Eckhardt, a former employee at Kelley's upscale clinic, also said Clemens' attorneys have questioned him.

• Even the Clemens family's former nanny, Lily Strain, surfaced as a person of interest and was interviewed by congressional investigators about the 1998 Canseco party and told she could face criminal prosecution if she provided false testimony.

It's only been five months since the Mitchell report named Clemens and he began his vigorous and noisy series of denials, but it didn't take long for the reverberations to reach into a fascinating cross-section of Houston lives. Here are some of those stories.

The father

Deer Park sits to the east of Houston, down the freeway and beyond miles and miles of oil refineries spewing smoke to the heavens. This is where Andy Pettitte grew up and later married Laura Dunn, daughter of a local Baptist pastor. This is where his parents live, a few blocks off the main commercial drag on a relatively new cul-de-sac of brick homes with neatly manicured lawns.

As he answered the door bell on a recent late morning, Tom Pettitte was an imposing, barrel-chested, older version of his son. His white hair was neatly brushed back. He wore blue jeans, a long-sleeve burnt orange knit shirt and running shoes.

When a reporter asked if he had a few minutes to talk about his son, about what he's gone through and how Andy earned his reputation as a widely respected, stand-up guy, Tom Pettitte said he and his wife needed to be somewhere in 30 minutes, but led the reporter into a family room dominated by a fireplace, with a flat-screen TV and an L-shaped brown leather couch.

Andy Pettitte
AP Photo/Darron CummingsNeither Andy Pettitte nor his father, Tom (top), could avoid the negative publicity about their use of HGH.
"I'm not gonna talk about all this Roger stuff," Pettitte said.

His wife, Joann, pacing anxiously, suggested he say nothing, but Tom wanted to talk about Andy's upbringing. Andy's mother sighed and raised her eyes as the details were offered up.

"Yeah, after this come out, he told me, 'I don't know how this all come about,'" Tom Pettitte said. "He said, 'The worst thing I done in my life is took one sip of one beer.' He was always mocked 'cause he went to church and didn't do sporting events.

"He's just always been a straight-shooter. Of course, you heard the interviews and everything. That is just the way he is. That is the way he's always been. That is the way you're supposed to be. It is the way you should be. He wanted to come out prior to [the affidavit of his congressional testimony becoming public]. Unfortunately, he could not."

In the end, Tom Pettitte said, he knew his boy would do the right thing, even if it was going to be painful. In his affidavit, given to congressional staff under penalty of perjury, the younger Pettitte said Clemens, his former teammate and close friend, admitted during a conversation in 1999 or 2000 that he had used human growth hormone. Pettitte talked about his own brief experimentation, too, and then tossed in an unexpected twist: His own father had used HGH.

The fallout hasn't been easy on the family.

"It is a nightmare," Tom Pettitte said. "Sometimes, a situation like that turns everything upside down and stuff."

"Every time it gets twisted around," Mrs. Pettitte said. "Everything is, 'Andy took steroids' across ESPN. He did not take steroids. We gone through a lot."

In fact, Andy Pettitte didn't say he took anabolic steroids. Instead, he acknowledged to congressional investigators that he used HGH, an undetectable substance which has not been proven to increase muscle strength, for two days in 2002 for an elbow injury, and then twice again in 2004 when he tore the flexor tendon in his pitching elbow. And he said his father was the source of the HGH in 2004.

[+] EnlargeRoger Clemens
AP Photo/Kevin FujiiWhen Clemens met the press after the Mitchell Reports was made public, he did it in Houston.
At the time, HGH wasn't banned by Major League Baseball. In Andy Pettitte's affidavit, he said he first learned of his father's use of it from McNamee, with whom he was training along with Clemens. Later, when his mother came to him with concerns, he said he suggested to his father that he stop.

"I personally didn't have any problem with what he did, 'cause I know his heart," said Tom Pettitte. "If he would have done it to cheat, I would have been highly ticked off. I know he was asked, 'You think you're a cheater?' I don't think he is a cheater, 'cause I know his heart. God knows his heart. In the end, just like he told y'all [in the media], 'We're gonna be judged by a higher power.' I don't think Andy was a cheater. I wouldn't look at any ballplayer -- I wouldn't look at any person -- as a cheat if they did it with the right intent.

"I know why I did HGH: for my own personal reasons, for my own personal health. I don't think as if I did anything illegal. True enough, I didn't get it ... 'cause my doctor didn't give it to me. I asked him for it, and he wouldn't give it to me. When you're sick and tired of being sick and tired, you'll do what you can to help yourself. I would not ever come out and say that I think anybody should be doing it, 'cause I wouldn't want the kids to get the wrong impression. But it helped me. And that is the bottom line."

Tom Pettitte, 58, said he was a desperately ill man after having open heart surgery in 1998 and has been on disability ever since. He said doctors told him he suffered a heart attack on the operating table two years ago. He said he still has blockage on the "back side of the heart."

He said he no longer uses HGH.

And, with that, Pettitte's cell phone rang and the interview reached the finish line. The caller was Tom Farrell, one of Pettitte's attorneys, and the lawyer was upset to hear that his client had allowed a reporter into the house. Up from the couch and standing in the middle of the family room, Mr. Pettitte apologized profusely to the attorney over the phone while Joann Pettitte paced, shaking her head.

"OK, Tom said don't talk to you," Pettitte said when the phone call ended. "In fact, just tear up everything you got there and throw it away. Just go to your boss and tell him I slammed the door on you. Just tell him that. The lawyers have told me that I ain't supposed to talk to nobody. People have run stories that are not true."

As the reporter headed for the door, Mrs. Pettitte offered up a final word about her son: "He loves his family. He loves the Lord."

The nanny

Lily Strain had lost touch with Roger Clemens. The family nanny for 13 years, she'd tended to the couple's then-young children. But she told congressional investigators that when the job ended in 2001, she felt it best to keep her distance for emotional reasons. So when Clemens called on Sunday, Feb. 10, to ask her to come by the house later that afternoon, it was the first time she'd seen him in years.

Presumably, Strain has no idea whether Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs. In fact, congressional staffers didn't even raise that question when they interviewed her. Their interest, as it pertained to her, was whether Clemens perjured himself when he testified under oath that he did not attend the June 9, 1998, gathering at Canseco's home with his Toronto Blue Jays teammates.

[+] EnlargeHenry Waxman
AP Photos/Susan WalshRep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., paid particular attention to the deposition from the Clemens family's former nanny about a party at Jose Canseco's house.
McNamee, the former personal trainer, swore under oath that Clemens, in fact, did show up that day. In making his case, McNamee gave Congress a vivid, colorful, poolside image of the party, and it involved the nanny.

"I was eating a sandwich next to Mr. Canseco's pool by myself," McNamee said in sworn testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, according to hearing transcripts. "I noticed a young child running towards the pool. And as I looked up, there was a woman chasing after the young child and she was wearing a peach bikini ... and she was a thin, probably mid-to-late-30s woman, and she grabbed the kid, the child, who was about 2 years old at the time, if not younger.

"And I later found out from one of the ballplayers ... it is Roger's nanny. And I had turned around to see Roger and Debbie Clemens talking in the middle and then they went inside the house. I did believe I said hello to Roger, and I know Roger showed up a little bit later [to the party]."

Three months after the hearing, the bikini-clad nanny remains a mystery character. She wasn't called to appear before Congress, and committee staff promised to keep her name confidential. It only surfaced when Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., the ranking minority member on the committee, let it slip during the Feb. 13 hearing.

In the days since, her name has been deleted from the written transcript.

According to public records, Strain is 46 and lives on the western outskirts of Houston. She and her husband lease a single-story brick house on a cul-de-sac in a large middle-class neighborhood.

Two stops at the house by a reporter seeking comment about Clemens proved fruitless. Both times, a man who appeared to be close to 60 years old answered the door. On one of those occasions, he was wearing a gray, short-sleeved New York Yankees T-shirt. When told of the reporter's interest in speaking with Strain for a story about Clemens, he said, "You're not getting it here."

When the reporter mentioned that her version of events was already in the congressional record, the man said, "Then go read it. We don't want to be involved."

According to a transcript of her telephone interview with the congressional investigators, Strain said she doesn't recall the team party at Canseco's house.

"I would have remembered the party, you know, because you would never forget all of these big boys and stuff," she said.

But in the 47-minute interview, she revealed a few details that might undercut part of Clemens' story. For example, she put the Rocket in Canseco's house on or around the day of the party.

"Mr. Jose Canseco was very proud of his house, and he was showing us around," she said about the trip to South Florida. "At that time, yes, I saw Roger; he was with us looking at the house."

She wasn't certain, she said, if Clemens spent the night before the party there with his family, but she recalled that she, Debbie Clemens, the couple's four boys and Clemens' brother in-law slept over at the Canseco home.

The nanny told Congress that Clemens played golf with Canseco the next morning, which fits with an 8:58 a.m. golf course receipt produced by Clemens.

"Yes, sir," she told committee counsel when asked if she was certain of the Clemens-Canseco golf date.

But in a sworn affidavit, Canseco recalled his disappointment that Clemens didn't attend the barbecue at his home, saying: "I later learned that he had a golfing commitment that day and could not attend the party."

During the February hearing, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the Oversight Committee chairman, used the nanny's interview to lash out at Clemens, noting publicly that her recollection "directly contradicted your deposition testimony, where you said you were not at Mr. Canseco's home at any point June 8 to June 10, 1998."

That might have ended Strain's involvement, except for this: Federal investigators are looking into whether Clemens and his legal team tampered with her as a witness.

On Friday, Feb. 8 -- five days before Clemens and McNamee appeared at the Capitol Hill hearing -- committee staff asked Clemens' attorneys for the name of the nanny and her contact information. Two days later, the nanny was summoned to Clemens' house and met him and two investigators retained by his legal team. The people back in Washington weren't made aware of that meeting.

Around 5 o'clock that Sunday afternoon, according to Waxman, Clemens' attorneys were again asked for help reaching the nanny; and this time, the congressional staff requested that no one from Clemens' side contact her until someone from the House committee had spoken with her. Clemens' attorneys finally provided her name and number on Monday afternoon, Feb. 11.

In her interview for the committee, the nanny said Clemens was particularly interested in the party at Canseco's house during his discussion with her that Sunday. When she couldn't remember it, she told committee counsel: "[Clemens] says, 'You know, the reason that you don't remember that party is because I wasn't there' ... because I know that he was playing [golf] with Jose."

Hardin, the Houston-based attorney for Clemens, portrayed the early conversation with Strain as innocent. He said that one of her relatives was killed in another country, and that she is "very nervous" about the government.

"We had two investigators interview her at Roger's house, away from Roger," Hardin said after the February hearing. "All Roger did was greet her and say, 'Hey, these guys would like to talk to you.' And they go through their interview."

That meeting is the reason Strain, described by Clemens as a "sweet lady," is still of interest to the feds.

Hardin, through an associate with Clemens' legal team, declined to comment for this story.

The gym rat

While Clemens was appearing before a congressional committee in February, Kelly Blair was in a drab mountain outpost in Bulgaria, serving as strength coach for former WBO heavyweight champ Sergei Liakhovich, who had his own worries. Liakhovich had injured his right shoulder in training, a development, Blair said, known both to promoter Don King and trainer Tommy Brooks. Liakhovich lost a unanimous decision in Nuremberg, Germany, to 7-foot-1, 320-pounder Nikolai "The Beast from the East" Valuev, a one-time WBA champ, on Feb. 16.

That faraway gig, though, didn't keep Blair from being drawn into the Clemens saga.

As the story grew to include HGH use by Pettitte and his father, the New York Daily News identified Blair and his suburban Houston gym, 1-on-1 Elite Personal Fitness, as the source of the performance-enhancing drugs Tom Pettitte obtained in 2004. The newspaper also reported that Clemens' son Koby, a minor league player who has not been linked to illicit drugs, had also been seen training with Blair.

[+] EnlargeKelly Blair
Mike Fish, ESPN.comKelly Blair is related by marriage to Pettitte, but says he's never met Clemens.
At a restaurant back in Houston, Blair, in a booming voice, told ESPN.com that he is miscast as a steroid dealer. He said he lives in government-subsidized housing and drives a 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix, hardly the crib and ride of a prosperous drug dealer. His current gym occupies a small, corrugated metal building off the main drag of strip clubs, fast food joints and auto repair shops in Pasadena, near Deer Park.

The connection: Blair is related by marriage to Pettitte. His sister is married to Pettitte's brother-in-law. The two went to Deer Park High together, Blair graduating when Pettitte was a sophomore. And Tom Pettitte used to come by Blair's gym for cardio workouts.

But according to Blair, he didn't provide HGH for Tom Pettitte, though he didn't deny the possibility that the source could have been AIDS patients who work out at his gym and obtain HGH legitimately to counter the weight and muscle loss associated with the disease. He also said Andy Pettitte visited his gym only once, but Blair never trained him. Nor, he said, did he ever train the Rocket's son.

"If [Koby Clemens] walked in the door, I couldn't even tell you if that was him," Blair said. "I never seen him in my life."

The New York newspaper stories, however, created enough buzz to bring two FBI agents for a visit to Blair on a recent Friday afternoon. Blair kept the business card given him by special agent Heather Young, one of the three federal investigators who sat less than 10 yards from Clemens during his congressional testimony in February.

"They are desperately trying to find the person that supplied Roger so they can get him [Clemens] for perjury," Blair told ESPN.com. "Like they told me, 'If you were to tell us right now that you got Roger Clemens growth hormone, nothing is going to happen to you. This is not about who got it. If we find the person that did get it, it just means that now we have Roger. But nothing happens to the person that got it for him.' But I said, 'I never even met Roger. I wish I had. I'd be braggin' about it all day long. I never met him, much less got him growth [hormone].'

"They kept telling me over and over: 'We're after the people that are lying.' I said, 'Man, I don't know what to tell you, 'cause I'm not lying.' I told them everything. I told them what I done in the past. I didn't get Tommy Pettitte growth hormone. I didn't get Roger Clemens growth hormone. That is just it, period."

A day after that meeting, Blair said agents visited his partner in the Pasadena gym, Kevin Schexnider.

So who turned the heat on him? Blair pointed to disgruntled former employee Carlos Torrijos, who he said trained Pettitte's father the last two years, for connecting his struggling gym to the Clemens situation. Blair suggested that Torrijos, 33, went to the Daily News with drug allegations after he fired him.

Blair also said he assumes the FBI has interviewed Torrijos.

Torrijos did not respond to repeated messages left by ESPN.com at the Houston fitness club where he is currently employed.

[+] EnlargeKelly Blair
Mike Fish, ESPN.comFBI agents paid a visit to Kelly Blair's 1-on-1 Elite Personal Fitness gym.
"I'm looking at Carlos," said Susan Magee-McClure, the club owner, over the phone. "He is one foot from me. He has nothing to say to you."

Blair, 38, apparently knows better than to try to come across as an angel. He grew up here on the outskirts of Houston and, like Pettitte, married a Deer Park girl -- Chelsi Smith, Miss Universe 1995. He was her trainer as she scored top marks in the fitness/swim suit competition.

At one point, the couple moved to Los Angeles so Chelsi could pursue the "acting thing," but Blair said the Tinseltown lifestyle wasn't for him and they divorced. According to Blair, though, while he was there, he trained his first athlete client -- then-overweight NBA center Kevin Duckworth.

A one-time bodybuilder and gym owner, Blair admitted to using performance-enhancers during his younger years.

"It did a lot of damage to me, to my life, my family. ... I used growth hormone, absolutely," he said.

And now?

"I can't afford it," he said. "If I could afford it, I'd be on [growth hormone]."

When he was into bodybuilding, Blair said, he hustled steroids for other bodybuilders and used the profits to buy his own stuff. Almost 10 years ago, when he was training baseball players, he told ESPN.com he sent a few pitchers to a Houston doctor to see if they were candidates for growth hormone.

Blair identified the doctor as Michael C. Scally, a preventive medicine specialist and a former Mr. Texas bodybuilder. According to public records, the Texas Board of Medical Examiners fined Scally $190,000 -- the second largest fine in its history -- and revoked his license in 2005 for prescribing anabolic steroids without a medical purpose. The case is being appealed.

"I'd send them to the doctor to get their blood work done and see if there is any deficiency there," Blair said. "Did [they] qualify for growth hormone and did they do some? I would think so, yeah. ... That was the whole purpose of sending them there, 'cause these guys had serious injuries. That was the purpose. 'Let's get you back in the game.'

Blair said none of the pitchers is still active.

One was Donnie Elliott, another Deer Park High product, who pitched in the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres systems before a shoulder injury derailed his career. Elliott, 39, told ESPN.com that he saw Dr. Scally two or three times in 1998, though he said he was never given HGH. Instead, he said he was given a prescription for something to "increase stamina and endurance" that he stopped taking after a week or so because it made him jittery.

"I was trying to come back [from shoulder surgery] and Kelly had mentioned that there was some athletes going to a Dr. Scally and he was helping you [get] over recovering from injuries and all that," said Elliott, now a teacher and baseball coach at South Houston High School. "I went in and told him that I was a ballplayer that had surgery and wanted to come back. And was there anything that he could do for me, as far as getting me back on track?

"I'm not gonna name any names, 'cause it was 10 years ago. But when I talked to Dr. Scally, without him mentioning names, he said there was a bunch of prominent members of the [Houston] Astros that would go in and see him."

Contacted by ESPN.com, Scally said he doesn't remember Elliott or any other athletes Blair might have sent his way. He said he has treated "close to 1,000 athletes," mostly when they were trying to get off steroids. One, he said, was former National League MVP Ken Caminti, an admitted steroid user who died of a drug overdose-induced heart attack in 2004.

According to Scally, HGH was not part of his regular protocol: "There is nothing in the literature that would support the use of growth hormone for recovery from injury. ... The only time I prescribed growth hormone is in the aspect of trying to get people's testicles back working, and then very low doses."

Scally said he never saw Clemens, and hasn't been approached by federal investigators.

Even so, the Clemens story has brought him into the news, along with Blair, Schexnider, Torrijos and others.

"I think that Roger is looking like an ass. I really do," Blair said. "But one thing is for sure. The guy obviously -- if he did growth hormone -- was very smart about it and covered his trails, man. The FBI is having a hard time finding a paper trail.

"Like [with] Barry Bonds, there [were] paper trails. That is how they caught him. So they're just desperately trying to catch him lying."

Bonds currently is awaiting trial on 14 counts of making false declarations to a grand jury and one count of obstruction of justice.

The weight-loss guru

Shaun Kelley's parents served on the Houston city council at separate times in the 1990s. His brother played quarterback at the University of Texas. His sister-in-law, Mary Lou Retton, captured hearts and gold at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. The family mingles smoothly with the upper crust of Houston society.

And Kelley's gym, in a trendy shopping plaza in the city, caters to the wealthy overweight crowd. It charges fees upward of $15,000 a year.

You aren't likely to catch muscle-heads pumping iron at Shaun Kelley Weight Control. On a recent morning, the gym was quiet save for two middle-aged women in colorful garb striding comfortably on treadmills. But FBI agents have made a stop here, too, in their probe of Clemens.

[+] EnlargeShaun Kelly
Mike Fish, ESPN.comShaun Kelly says the results of his lie-detector test should remove any suspicion.
The attraction is Kelley, the gym owner with the expensive, tailor-made suits and Vince McMahon look.

Some reports have indicated Kelley has bragged about being friends with Clemens, though the gym owner told ESPN.com he met Clemens for the first time only last year at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes luncheon in Houston. In the midst of a vicious feud with two former gym employees, that talk apparently grew loud enough that federal agents inquired about Kelley's friendship with Clemens and whether he was a source of drugs.

Like Blair, Kelley, a former bodybuilder and powerlifter, is candid about his past use of human growth hormone. Another hook that surely intrigues the feds is his admission that he referred some weight-loss clients to Dr. Lisa Routh, a Houston physician who said in a New York Daily News story that she prescribes HGH to her patients.

So in late April, two FBI agents came to Kelley's second-floor store. Two days later, on April 30, Kelley walked into the FBI office in Houston to take a polygraph test. He claimed the results support his innocence.

"They start off asking questions to see how you react," Kelley said about his experience with the lie detector. "Once they get you accustomed to the questions, then they come back and ask if I had ever known Roger Clemens. If I had sold drugs to Roger Clemens. Of course I said, 'No' and 'no.'

"I passed the test, so what about the accusers? If they lied to federal agents, they should be prosecuted. They should get prison time like they are seeking Roger to get."

Kelley, 46, identified those "accusers" -- those whom he believes alerted the FBI about him -- as former employees Shaun Eckhardt and Graham Burket, as well as Burket's wife, Jaclyn. He claimed the former employees, in a bid to smear him and bring down his business, threatened to pass his name on to the feds shortly after Clemens' alleged link to performance-enhancing drugs surfaced in the 409-page Mitchell report in mid-December.

In January, Kelley filed a forgery complaint with Houston police against the two former employees and Burket's wife. Police spokesman Victor Senties said the complaint remains under investigation.

[+] EnlargeShaun Kelly
Mike Fish, ESPN.comKelley has been contacted both by the FBI and by Roger Clemens' attorney.
Kelley said he discovered his signature had been forged while he was going through bank records in his office. The discovery came after Burket, the clinic manager, was sent home without pay because he'd brought two large snakes to the gym.

"I do not want any snakes at my store," said Kelley, sitting at a desk in his expansive office, an American flag over his right shoulder and a surveillance monitor over his left. "We have people who are 350 pounds, 400 pounds, come up there that are teetering on a heart attack, anyway."

Now Kelley is threatening to bring additional charges against Eckhardt and the Burkets. He alleged, among other things, that they stole his client list of more than 6,000 people and began soliciting them on behalf of Eckhardt, who had borrowed his concept in opening Weight Control by Shaun Eckhardt.

"I am going after all the accusers," Kelley said. "This has basically been a hostile takeover-type situation, to make Shaun Kelley look bad. And then they can solicit all my clients and go down the street and train them for half price, 'cause they don't have the overhead I have."

After their dispute became public, Kelley and Eckhardt both told ESPN.com, they were contacted by Hardin, Clemens' Houston-based attorney. Hardin, they said, asked what they knew about his client, and requested that they get back to him if either heard from the feds or anyone associated with Brian McNamee.

"Yeah, [Kelley] threw his name out there all the time," Eckhardt said in reference to Clemens. "That is why he is in trouble. That is how this all came up. I can remember when we were doing a radio show. The topic of discussion was the whole steroid deal. And he was talking about how he didn't think Roger Clemens did it, 'cause he knew him and he was good friends with him and whatnot. That is exactly what he told everybody."

Eckhardt, who has a criminal record in Texas, discounted the fraud allegations levied against him and the other two as "totally bogus." He declined to go into detail, though, saying he's been advised by his attorney not to speak with reporters because of the legal threats made by Kelley.

Eckhardt identified his attorney as legendary Houston criminal defense lawyer Richard "Racehorse" Haynes -- an odd twist in that Haynes has represented Kelley in past legal skirmishes, including a 1995 cocaine possession case, and Kelley told a reporter that Haynes remains his legal counsel.

Asked about Eckhardt's claim that he is a client, Haynes said, "Who is he?"

If Eckhardt were to seek to retain him, the attorney said, "Since I have known Shaun Kelley, I think I'll go in with Shaun. He has spent the last 14 years getting his life cleaned up and straight. He has done good. I don't think he needs to be in the headlines anymore."

Several days after the polygraph test, in fact, Kelley said he met with FBI agents in Haynes' law office to discuss the fallout with Eckhardt and the others.

Kelley said he taught Eckhardt, 28, the weight-control business, and he hired Burket to manage his clinic on the recommendation of Routh, a neuropsychiatrist who operates the Brainwaves Neuroimaging Clinic in Houston. Burket is now married to Routh's daughter, Jaclyn.

Kelley said he had developed an earlier professional relationship with Routh. According to Kelley, he sent clients her way when he thought blood work might show they could benefit from steroids or human growth hormone.

"I don't have growth hormone here or sell it; but where it can be of help, I advise people to see Dr. Routh," Kelley said. "But I have not sent athletes to see her. I don't really deal with athletes."

Routh, who co-authored the book "Healing Anxiety and Depression," formerly appeared as a regular guest on Kelley's recently canceled Houston radio show. Kelley said the relationship was beneficial for both.

[+] EnlargeRoger Clemens
Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty ImagesIn 2005, Clemens was big enough in Houston to be throwing autographed baseballs to the crowd at a Rockets' playoff game.
"I would send her clients that I felt had thyroid dysfunctions or hormone dysfunction," Kelley said. "She, in turn, was a best-selling author. So having a doctor behind me was a good endorsement.

"Of course, there is nothing unlawful about that. So I sent her clients. But never Roger Clemens."

Kelley's relationship with Routh has soured, though, to the point that he said he told FBI agents of allegations about prescriptions for steroids and HGH being forged in her office.

Routh didn't respond to messages left for her by ESPN.com. Reached at her mother's office, Jaclyn Burket said: "We have been instructed here by our attorneys not to respond to anything Mr. Kelley says."

According to public documents, Routh, 48, has been disciplined three times by the Texas Medical Board, including last year for a misleading advertisement on the Internet. Too, she has promoted herself as board certified, when in fact her board certification has lapsed, the records show. In 2005, she reached an agreement with the Alaska Medical Board not to apply for reinstatement of her license there, which had lapsed, and pay a $10,000 fine in the wake of "allegations of unprofessional conduct by the submission of false or misleading information to the Alaska Medical Board, failure to maintain adequate medical records and violating a regulation of the Alaska Medical Board by entering into a dual (financial) relationship with a patient.''

Jill Wiggins, spokesperson for the Texas Medical Board, said state officials continue to monitor news reports involving Routh and her practice.

In this case, those watchdogs likely wouldn't have been put on high alert if it weren't for an iconic Texan who is baseball's greatest living pitcher. Lives wouldn't have been turned topsy-turvy, either. Secrets wouldn't have been exposed, and businesses wouldn't have been brought to the brink of failure.

None of this likely would be happening, in fact, if people hadn't come to Houston in search of answers about the Rocket.

"Everything here is because of Roger," Kelley said.

Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN.com. He can be reached at michaeljfish@gmail.com.