It’s hard for me to write this without some personal bias. I am a fan of baseball, and since the very first time I watched New York Yankees play some 40 years ago, I have been in love with the team. The other reason for my lack of objectivity is that I have very little respect for Congress. So, as I read about the perjury trial of Roger Clemens, I can’t help but be disappointed by this great pitcher, congressional committees and our judicial system.
Clemens has been charged with perjury because he lied to a congressional committee during hearings regarding the use of performance enhancing drugs, specifically human growth hormones, by a number of baseball players. What Congress has to do with baseball, or any sport for that matter, is beyond me. Clemens was foolish, or arrogant, enough to answer their questions, and now his future is in the hands of the Department of Justice. This isn’t the first time the DOJ has attempted to try Clemens. A mistrial was declared earlier and everyone was forced to regroup. The DOJ isn’t fooling around this time, either. They’ve assigned five federal prosecutors to the case in order to ensure that they prevail this time.
One of their witnesses is another pitcher, and fellow Yankee, Andy Pettite. Pettite makes no secret of the fact that he had always admired Clemens, and still considers him a friend. The DOJ is pitting the two against each other, however, asking Pettite to testify to conversations that took place over 6 years ago. It’s a rotten position to be in, but this is being done in the name of the law and righteousness, so anything goes. After all, lying to Congress is unacceptable, right?
Federal prosecutors are coming off what they must consider a huge success, having managed to convict Barry Bonds, not for steroid use, but for obstruction of justice. His sentence was 2 years of probation, 250 hours of community service, a $4,000 fine and 30 days of home confinement. It hardly seems worth it. They spent a lot of time, money and human toil, and this was their result. Martha Stewart’s punishment was more harsh. Even if they can eke out a conviction in the Clemens’ case, I can’t see his sentence being any worse than what Bonds received.
I know, you’re wondering if I think there is anyone who should be brought before a jury. I wrote an entire post about what I considered another courtroom travesty – putting John Edwards on trial. Well, I do, in fact, have some other cases in mind and I think the DOJ should refocus and double down its’ efforts elsewhere. Now that Attorney General Eric Holder has decided on the venue, perhaps his team of prosecutors could begin trying really dangerous people, real threats to society. Senior al-qaeda leader, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has been languishing in Guatanamo Bay prison since 2006. The DOJ charged him and four of his fellow terrorists in 2008 with plotting and conspiring to kill Americans on 9/11. Mr. Holder has vacillated, not only on the location, but as to whether these five should be tried in a civilian court or by military tribunal. I think he has finally made up as mind, as the Sheikh is due to be arraigned, again, at Gitmo, and the plan for a trial on American soil and in an American courtroom has been abandoned, for now.
Now, if you’ll bear with me for just a little longer, I’d like to make a special plea on behalf of some other sports figures who are near and dear to my heart, and could actually benefit from committee hearings and a little bit of justice. I would like the members of Congress to form a new subcommittee and take a good hard look at horse racing and the problems with doping that exist there. Race horses are expensive, just like all athletes, and owners and trainers often administer pain relievers and other drugs to protect what they have invested in them.* Just as Roger Clemens may have used PEDs to make a comeback to the game of baseball, a number of these mostly Thoroughbreds are given some type of chemical assistance to run their races, right up until race day. The difference is that Clemens chooses to risk his health by injecting HGH. If he injures himself in the process, the team doctor won’t be on the pitcher’s mound, injecting a fatal dose of phenobarbital.
Today, the first Saturday in May, marks the beginning of the Triple Crown, beginning with the Kentucky Derby. Now, I have nothing against horse racing, and, in fact, I actually love to watch these beautiful athletes as they surge around the track. I do, however, hold my breath, hoping that none of them crumble and fall, running with injuries, the pain of which is masked by drugs. I want them to run and compete, but I just want them to do it when they are sound and healthy. In the United States, an average of 24 racehorses die each week, many of which had been on medications for preexisting injuries.** The exact number of doped horses is unknown, for a couple of reasons. Most of the States’ racing commissions are reluctant to release the figures, and only about 22% of the euthanized horses are sent for necropsy. Maybe Congress would like to hold hearings, and question owners and trainers about what these athletes must endure to remain in the game. The Justice Department could round up another batch of bad guys and hold a few trials based on who lies and who doesn’t. They might want to get statements from the horses about it, too. I know that they’ll tell the truth – their lives depend on it.
*New York, Times, 4/30/12 **New York Times, 3/25/12