NEW YORK – A defamation lawsuit against Roger Clemens should be thrown out because the seven-time Cy Young Award winner was merely trying to defend himself against his former personal trainer's doping allegations, Clemens' lawyers argued Wednesday.
Clemens should be able to respond to claims "that are disastrous to his reputation without being subject to a lawsuit," attorney Rusty Hardin said at a hearing in federal court in Brooklyn.
Lawyers for the trainer, Brian McNamee, responded by branding Clemens a liar.
"Mr. Clemens has a right to defend himself, but not when he's lying and he knows he's lying," said attorney Richard Emery.
U.S. District Judge Sterling Johnson Jr. reserved decision on a motion to dismiss the suit.
McNamee sued for unspecified damages last year, accusing Clemens of waging "a defamatory public relations campaign" against the trainer over allegations the pitcher used steroids.
The trainer has told federal authorities, baseball investigator George Mitchell and a House committee that he injected Clemens more than a dozen times with steroids and human growth hormone from 1998-2001.
The suit quotes Clemens saying in a YouTube video in 2007 that McNamee "did not inject steroids into my body either when I played in Toronto for the Blue Jays or the New York Yankees." It also cites an ESPN interview in which Clemens, when asked about McNamee, responded that it was a case of "somebody out there that is really crawling up your back to make a buck."
The comments "always happened in response to accusations," Hardin said Wednesday. "He is not defaming Mr. McNamee by saying these things."
Emery argued his client "had to tell the government the truth ... and when he told the truth, he was put in the position of being called a liar repeatedly."
Clemens, who wasn't in court on Wednesday, has steadfastly denied using performance-enhancing drugs.
"Your honor, he wasn't injected with anything," another Clemens attorney, Joe Roden, said at the Brooklyn hearing.
Last month, Clemens was indicted for lying to Congress. He has pleaded not guilty to perjury and other counts, and has a trial scheduled for April.
A federal appeals court in Texas has refused to reinstate a similar suit Clemens filed against McNamee.