NEW YORK – Roger Clemens' lawyer wouldn't commit Sunday to having the pitcher give a deposition to congressional investigators, even as he said the seven-time Cy Young Award winner remains willing to testify in open session before a House committee investigating denials that he used performance-enhancing drugs.
Clemens' lawyer, Rusty Hardin, was likely to meet this week with staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which has asked him to testify Feb. 13 along with his accuser, former trainer Brian McNamee. The committee wants to take depositions from the pair along with Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte, former Yankee Chuck Knoblauch and Kirk Radomski, the former Mets clubhouse attendant who has admitted supplying players with steroids and human growth hormone.
Hardin wouldn't directly answer questions about a deposition.
"There has been absolutely no change in Roger's willingness and indeed desire to testify under oath before Congress in a public hearing at a date of the Oversight Committee's choosing," Hardin said in a statement. "Any suggestion that he or we are having any second thoughts about that is absolutely false. All other pre-appearance issues and scheduling we will discuss privately with the committee and do not think it is appropriate to discuss those matters publicly."
McNamee told baseball drugs investigator George Mitchell that he injected Clemens with steroids and HGH in 1998, 2000 and 2001, allegations the pitcher denies.
ESPN.com, citing an unidentified individual familiar with the inquiry, reported Hardin is hedging on whether Clemens will give a deposition because it could interfere with the defamation suit Clemens filed against McNamee on Jan. 6. The individual also said Hardin might not give the committee the recording of a Dec. 12 interview involving McNamee and Clemens' investigators.
"This backtracking by Hardin is indicative of him getting cold feet. Roger will never testify," said Richard Emery, one of McNamee's lawyers. "Now we're seeing his true colors being revealed, that he's refusing to go before Congress and do that by trying to put it off."
A deposition allows staff lawyers for the committee time to push witnesses on points in ways congressmen often don't. Any inconsistencies the deposition and later testimony during a hearing could be exposed.
"He has no choice in the matter if he's subpoenaed," Emery said. "It's just a question of whether the congressional investigators will be subpoena him. If they don't, they'd be crazy. The whole point is to investigate in advance of the hearing so it isn't a circus."
McNamee's lawyers keep hinting there is additional evidence to back his account but won't go into details.
"We've always said there will be clear corroboration," Emery said. "Clear coronation exists. And I won't say anything more."
In the opener of Congress' baseball/steroids doubleheader, commissioner Bud Selig, union head Donald Fehr and Mitchell are to testify before the committee on Tuesday. Mitchell has refused to release most of the evidence supporting his report, saying that decision was up to Major League Baseball and others who supplied evidence to him.
A former Senate majority leader and current Boston Red Sox director, Mitchell made 20 recommendations in his Dec. 13 report. Selig has adopted many but others are subject to collective bargaining, such as Mitchell's call for drug testing to be moved to an independent body.
Players have complained that Mitchell had no standard of evidence for what he printed in the report. Clemens angrily was upset that he has been presumed guilty.
Fehr said the issue goes beyond that.
"Once the report issues, there's going to be a natural tendency for people to treat it as accurate merely because it issued and that is without any sort of the normal process you would have," Fehr said. "The whole premise of drug-testing is that you are presumed guilty unless you are proved innocent, and that is fairly inconsistent with normal modes of jurisprudence, but that's what we have."