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Friday, January 04, 2008

Roger Clemens admits to injections

Pitching legend claims it was lidocaine and B-12

This Sunday, the American news proram "60 Minutes" will air its 28 December interview with Roger "The Rocket" Clemens. Since being named in the Mitchell Report in early December Clemens has posted a Youtube video professing his innocence, as is the norm for stars who suddenly find themselves in the glare of the anti-doping spotlight.

But in a recent admission that also sounds all too similar to Barry Bonds' claim that Greg Anderson injected him with flaxseed oil, Clemens has now admitted that trainer Brian McNamee did indeed inject him---but with lidocaine and vitamin B-12, and not with steroids or growth hormone.

The use of vitamin B-12 would likely serve only a placebo effect as deficiencies of this vitamin are rare. However, the placebo effect is a real effect, and if Clemens really thought it would make him better, then technically it is not an illegal supplement.

However the use of lidocaine puzzles us. It is a local anesthetic available via prescription only in its injectable form, but many might know it better in its topical application form in creams such as Lanacane and other products. We use it in Exercise Physiology when administering muscle biopsies as it numbs the local area where we make the incision to take the small piece of muscle. Therefore McNamee would have had to inject the lidocaine into very specific sites and tissues such as joints, and it seems a strange choice for performance enhancement.

The same old excuse - "I might have used drugs, but it wasn't me"

As with most doping cases, it is up to us as fans to choose a side. Who do we believe? The athlete, Clemens in this case, plays the likely and predictable role, vehemently professing innocence and denying he ever took anything. But Clemens' attorney should have given him better advice, because this type of response only throws The Rocket in with all the other athletes who also at first denied, denied, denied, only to have it shown with other evidence that they were doping all along. The club is large and its most recent members are Justin Gatlin, banned for 4 years, and Marion Jones, who admitted to taking drugs prior to the 2000 Sydney Olympics although never testing positive.

McNamee: Why lie about Clemens and not Pettitte?

Most witnesses in these cases are less than credible, but Clemens' former trainer Brian McNamee poses an interesting situation. McNamee claims also to have injected Yankees' pitcher Andy Pettitte with growth hormone, and Pettitte confirmed this claim in the report and readily admitted that he took the hormone, thus bolstering McNamee's credibility.

And that makes it interesting---what does McNamee gain by telling the truth about Pettitte but then lying about Clemens? Does he hate Clemens so much that he would risk further punishment by making up the story about Clemens? Indeed, McNamee has recounted extremely detailed info about his time with Clemens, recalling specific instances and direct quotes, and that makes it hard to ignore entirely.


We suspect that Clemens is playing the predictable strategy, which would be to continue to deny everything until any tangible and hard evidence surfaces. As it stands right now, neither Major League Baseball nor the Mitchell Report can prove anything beyond a reasonable doubt, and as such Clemens can potentially walk away without any repercussions other than the bad press he has received. When charged with such allegations of drug use, the athlete has exactly one opportunity to come clean and tell the truth once and for all. Clemens missed his chance, and now as fans we can only watch and speculate as the saga drags out or until some hard evidence refutes Clemens' (and others') claims.

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