WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The estranged wife of the main prosecution witness in Roger Clemens' perjury trial contradicted her husband on Wednesday, testifying she never urged him to protect himself by saving medical waste presented by prosecutors as proof the retired pitching ace used drugs.
Clemens, 49, is on trial for a second time on federal charges of lying in 2008 to a U.S. congressional committee when he denied using performance-enhancing drugs. The House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform was investigating drug use in Major League Baseball at the time.
His first trial ended in a mistrial last year.
The core of the government's case against Clemens has been a batch of medical waste, items of which prosecutors say contain his DNA.
Clemens' ex-trainer, Brian McNamee, has testified he personally administered shots of performance-enhancing drugs to Clemens and that he kept needles, gauze, a broken steroid ampoule and other waste for years, stuffed in a Miller Lite beer can and a FedEx box.
McNamee testified last month he kept the waste items to quiet his wife's fears he would "go down" for the pitcher's alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs.
"Were you ever on his back?" Clemens' attorney, Rusty Hardin, asked defense witness Eileen McNamee on Wednesday. "Did you ever say, 'You're going down, you're going down ... for what you're doing?'"
"No I did not, ever," she said.
Her testimony came on the final days of Clemens' defense in which his attorneys have worked to paint McNamee as a liar who obtained immunity in exchange for his testimony.
McNamee testified that he and his wife argued repeatedly about his giving Clemens human growth hormone and anabolic steroids from 1998 to 2001. McNamee said he stashed used needles and other waste to make his wife stop nagging him.
"What would make her not give me a hard time all the time? It had to stop," he testified in May. "I brought it (the used drug paraphernalia) home and she stopped. She looked away and that was it."
But Eileen McNamee, who separated from her husband several years ago, testified he never spoke of injections of steroids or human growth hormone for Clemens until 2007. Asked by Hardin if she had ever urged her husband to take measures to protect himself, she said no.
"I couldn't tell him to stop doing what I didn't know," she said.
Clemens won 354 regular-season games and is a record seven-time winner of the yearly Cy Young Award as best pitcher. He is among the biggest names implicated in drug use in baseball.
His lawyers have sought to depict Clemens as a hard-working pitcher whose stunning late-career success was the product of dedication and smart pitching, not performance-enhancing drugs.
Clemens won his final Cy Young Award in 2004 - the summer he turned 42 - in his first season with the Houston Astros.
Clemens' attorneys argued on Wednesday that medical waste identified as having traces of steroids and Clemens' DNA could have been contaminated from commingling with other items that were also kept in the box and beer can.
"I think it would be a significant risk," said Marc Taylor, a DNA specialist at Technical Associates Inc in Southern California.
McNamee has said he kept medical waste from injections of other baseball players in the same place.
A DNA expert testifying for the government has said he found Clemens' DNA on two cotton balls and a needle, items on which two previous forensic experts said they found traces of steroids.
Bruce Goldberger, a forensic toxicologist, testified for the defense that the evidence the medical waste provided was "lacking" because of the risk of contamination.
Building on Goldberger's testimony, Taylor said he could not rule out the possibility that DNA on the needle may have come from more than one person or was intentionally placed there.
He also questioned whether a pus stain on one of the cotton balls came from an injection, noting that an intramuscular injection would likely draw blood.
Hardin has said the defense team could rest its case on Friday, allowing jury deliberations to begin next week.
Reporting by Lily Kuo; Editing by Peter Cooney