WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Baseball great Roger Clemens, one of the best pitchers in the sport’s history, was indicted on Thursday for lying to the U.S. Congress when he denied using anabolic steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs.
Clemens, 48 and now living in Houston, was charged with one count of obstruction of the U.S. Congress, three counts of making false statements and two counts of perjury, according to the indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Washington.
If convicted on all charges contained in the federal grand jury indictment, he could face up to 30 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine. However, federal sentencing guidelines suggest a penalty of 15 to 21 months if convicted.
The charges stemmed from testimony Clemens and his former trainer gave under oath two years ago to a House of Representatives committee, contradicting each other on whether Clemens had used banned substances.
Clemens told staff for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee during a February 2008 interview that he had never used anabolic steroids or human growth hormones (HGH), then he repeated those statements during a subsequent committee hearing.
“In truth and in fact, as Clemens well knew when he gave this testimony, Clemens knowingly received injections of anabolic steroids while he was an MLB (major league baseball) player,” the 19-page indictment said.
In a statement posted on the social networking site Twitter, Clemens said, “I never took HGH or Steroids. And I did not lie to Congress. I look forward to challenging the Governments (sic) accusations, and hope people will keep an open mind until trial.”
Rusty Hardin, a lawyer for Clemens, said prosecutors had offered his client a plea deal, but “we’ve rejected it.” Under such deals, defendants in criminal cases often plead guilty to a lesser charge in return for sentencing leniency.
“Roger is looking forward to his day in court,” Hardin told reporters in Houston. “He didn’t do it. He’s adamant about that.” Hardin said he expects Clemens to make his initial court appearance within three weeks and for the trial to begin sometime next year.
Clemens, nicknamed the “The Rocket,” was one of baseball’s dominant pitchers over the past quarter century.
He was known for his longevity, fierce competitiveness and record accomplishments during a 24-year career in major league baseball playing for the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays.
But he has since faced questions about using drugs to boost his performance, as others in the sport admitted using them.
At the 2008 hearing, Clemens denied claims by former trainer Brian McNamee, who told investigators the pitcher had used performance-enhancing drugs. “Let me be clear. I have never taken steroids or HGH (human growth hormone),” Clemens said.
The pitcher later accused McNamee, who cooperated with federal authorities to avoid charges of steroid distribution, of fabricating the allegations. Clemens testified that McNamee injected him with the vitamin B12 in 1998, but the indictment said that never happened.
At the hearing, Clemens also was confronted with a sworn statement by former teammate and longtime friend Andy Pettitte, who said Clemens told him in 1999 or 2000 that he had used human growth hormone.
“I think he (Pettitte) misremembers,” Clemens told lawmakers. Soon after his testimony, the FBI began its investigation.
Allegations about baseball players’ use of drugs to boost their performance have plagued the sport for years. A 2007 report by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell named more than 80 former and current players suspected of having used steroids, human growth hormone or other banned substances. Clemens was named in the report but denied the allegations.
He began his major league career in 1984. He recorded a 354-184 career won-loss record and is one of only four pitchers to strike out more than 4,000 batters.
Clemens won the Cy Young Award, which goes to the league’s best pitcher, a record seven times, and was named to the all-star team 11 times. He bowed out at the age of 45, which is unusually old for a pitcher.
He spent the first 13 seasons of his career with the Red Sox before joining the Blue Jays for two years. After four seasons with the Yankees, he joined Houston for two years before closing out his career with the Yankees in 2007.
Another former baseball star, Barry Bonds, who set the career record for home runs, faces trial in March on charges of perjury related to his testimony about performance-enhancing drugs.
Miguel Tejada, a 14-year veteran now playing for the San Diego Padres, pleaded guilty last year to a misdemeanor charge of lying to Congress in 2005 about doping in baseball. He also said he had bought performance-enhancing drugs while playing in Oakland. Tejada was sentenced to one year of probation, fined $5,000 and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.
Another former star, Mark McGwire, declined to answer questions at the 2005 congressional hearing about doping but admitted this past January that he had used steroids.
Editing by Will Dunham