Congress investigates Jose Canseco's barbecue, a nanny in a peach bikini, and Roger Clemens' bloody butt.

The stadium scene.
Feb. 13 2008 8:48 PM

The Rocket Under Fire

Congress investigates Jose Canseco's barbecue, a nanny in a peach bikini, and Roger Clemens' bloody butt.

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Nothing that emerged from Clemens' mouth, though, will serve as the lasting memory from this hearing. What we'll all remember is the pitcher's bleeding butt. In his deposition (PDF), McNamee talks about injecting Clemens' backside with growth hormone in a Jacuzzi. (Wait a second—that might be the lasting image.) After the Jacuzzi injection, McNamee says, Clemens "bled through his designer pants." When Yankee teammate Mike Stanton noticed the blood, McNamee said, Clemens decided that from then on he would carry "those little Band-Aids for his butt if it bled." Clemens, of course, denied carrying around little Band-Aids for his butt if it bled.

In recent weeks, Clemens' defenders and detractors have scrutinized the pitcher's statistics for any sign that he used performance-enhancing drugs. On Wednesday, the committee found an asterisk—on Clemens' backside. According to trainers' reports from the pitcher's tenure with the Blue Jays, Clemens had an MRI after getting a "palpable mass on his buttocks." Clemens claims the mass arose because of a bad B-12 shot or a strained glute. Lynch, the Massachusetts Democrat, disagreed. He read from a report the committee commissioned from one of the "country's leading experts on MRIs," Dr. Mark D. Murphey. "[I]t is my opinion," Murphey wrote, "that the history and MR imaging descriptions are more compatible with the Winstrol [steroids] injection." As Waxman pounded the gavel to try to cut them off, Clemens' lawyers jumped up to present a report from a Dr. O'Malley who "says there were no steroids." In the steroids era, a pitcher's butt is a Rorschach test.

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While Clemens tried to cover his ass, the man sitting between him and McNamee—Mitchell report investigator Charles Scheeler—mostly twiddled his thumbs. When the report did come up, the committee focused on a single niggling detail: Clemens' presence at or absence from a 1998 barbecue hosted by then-Blue Jays teammate Jose "Juiced" Canseco. In the context of the Mitchell report, the Canseco party is a minor narrative flourish—the report doesn't say that Clemens and Canseco chatted about 'roids at the party, much less that they injected each other in the pool house.

Still, the congressmen obsessed over the party: If McNamee was lying about Canseco's guest list, perhaps he was lying about everything else. In his testimony, McNamee describes an idyllic-sounding afternoon spent "eating a sandwich next to Mr. Canseco's pool" when he saw a woman with a "peach bikini with green in it and board shorts." Struck by the woman, McNamee asked a fellow partygoer about her identity. He was told it was the Clemens' nanny; moments later, he says, he saw Roger and Debbie Clemens go inside Canseco's house. Jose Canseco, on the other hand, told the committee (PDF) that Clemens wasn't at the barbecue. The Clemens camp also produced copies of a Blue Jays game broadcast in which the announcers noted that Clemens hadn't attended the Canseco fete. (It is unclear why this came up during the telecast; perhaps there was an eight-hour rain delay, and the announcers needed to fill time.)

As dictated by congressional bylaw, the tiebreaker vote goes to the nanny. In an affidavit (PDF), the anonymous former Clemens employee said that she doesn't recall any barbecue. She did, however, stay at the Canseco home overnight with Debbie Clemens and the couple's children, and she remembers Roger going into the house to have a look around, as well. More damaging to Clemens is the appearance that he tampered with the witness. Last Friday, the committee asked Clemens' attorneys for the nanny's name and phone number. Before releasing that information, Clemens asked her to come meet with him in his Houston home. Such an invitation, noted Waxman, "sure raises an appearance of impropriety." Ignoring Waxman's plea to pipe down, Clemens' attorney Rusty Hardin announced that it was his "idea to investigate what witnesses know, just like any other lawyer in the free world does." For his part, Clemens argued that he "was doing y'all a favor. ... I hadn't seen this lady in a long time, she's a sweet lady, and I wanted to get her to you."

On this day, the only person Roger Clemens did any favors was Brian McNamee. By engaging in what looks a lot like witness tampering, Clemens and his camp may have opened themselves up to more legal trouble. And by surreptitiously taping a series of phone calls with McNamee, Clemens, et al. have done the impossible: turned the trainer/injector from a shady figure into a sympathetic one. McNamee lied to reporters and federal investigators about how much he knew about his clients' drug use. He kept vials, syringes, and bloody gauze used by Clemens in his basement, he says, just in case his friend and employer ever turned on him. Last week, this all sounded completely insane. Now, after watching Roger Clemens and his team stumble through five hours of testimony, Brian McNamee looks like the smartest guy in the room.