By Mike Dorf
The announcement that Roger Clemens has been indicted for lying to Congress fills me with a flood of thoughts. It being Friday in late August, and me with a syllabus still to tweak, a draft with many incomplete footnotes, and a column to write, I'll confine myself to a few random observations about a curious fact: Of all the baseball players who took performance-enhancing drugs over the last couple of decades, only Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds ended up getting indicted for lying to Congress. Why not others?
Account No. 1: Bonds and Clemens were, respectively, the best hitter and the best pitcher of that era, and so they were inevitably going to attract the most scrutiny.
Account No. 2: Bonds and Clemens are both notorious for having difficulty getting along with others. Rafael Palmiero was generally better liked, so he caught a break.
Account No. 3: Clemens had no credibility to begin with. In June, during interleague play, Clemens had hit Mets catcher Mike Piazza in the head with a baseball. The Mets and Yankees then met in the World Series. With Clemens pitching, Piazza swung and the bat broke. As Piazza was running to first, Clemens picked up a large chunk of the bat and threw it at Piazza, nearly hitting him. After the game, Clemens denied that he was trying to hit Piazza with it. He explained that he thought the bat was the ball.
Account No. 4: Bonds, meanwhile, was undone by the before-and-after photos. Working out can add muscle mass, but it doesn't usually show up in an athlete's head. Given the obviousness of Bonds's juicing, his denials cried out for investigation.
Account No. 5: During his congressional testimony, Clemens tried to explain away the injections he was taking as Vitamin B12. One member of Congress asked Clemens why he was taking B12. "Are you a vegan?" Clemens was befuddled, answering that he didn't know what a vegan was. In this account, the indictment is simply the resulting bad karma.
Still, when all is said and done, there does seem something a bit unfair about the fact that Bonds and/or Clemens could be convicted for lying to Congress about taking steroids, while Oliver North's conviction for obstructing Congress was thrown out. But then, North never threw a bat at anyone.