Steroids and Roger Clemens: A Love Letter to Rocket from Texas Monthly

I know I should give Texas Monthly a break. It’s a general interest magazine. It’s not a sports magazine. It shouldn’t be expected to get all of the nuances of a sports story correct. But when that story is on Roger Clemens and steroids, well, I can’t stay silent.

First, let me hit one of the minor problems. The story’s author, Gary Cartwright, writes about all steroids enhancing performance, but he goes further, writing, “There have been a few cases where the premature death of an athlete was possibly the result of steroid use, most notably…Houston Astros and San Diego Padres slugger Ken Caminiti, a user of cocaine and steroids who died of a heart attack at 41.”

Let’s get this straight. Ken Caminiti died because he was a drug addict who overdosed on cocaine and opiates. Not because he overdosed on steroids. I know this doesn’t fit the thesis. But it’s an easy fact to check. And if Cartwright got this thing wrong, what’s that say about the accuracy of the rest of the piece?

Cartwright’s central thesis is that Roger Clemens is just one of many steroid/HGH users who is being singled out because of his fame and who shouldn’t be having to testify before Congress or worry about jail. He writes, “It’s almost as though the holy warriors were waiting for a star of Clemens’ magnitude to make it official that performance enhancers are our newest national hysteria, nudging aside old standbys like bird flu, sharks, and red hordes. This has gone beyond silly.”

I’ll tell you what has gone beyond silly. Cartwright has gone beyond silly. To support his thesis, Cartwright relies on the study released by Rocket’s agents, the Hendricks Brothers, showing that what Rocket has done in the late stages of his career is comparable to what others, who are not under suspicion, have done. The problem in relying on this study is that it has been thoroughly debunked. The report doesn’t say what it’s supposed to say.

Cartwright then excuses Rocket’s use because, unlike Barry Bonds, who according to Cartwright used ‘roids to change his body, Rocket just used ‘roids to combat the effects of aging. Huh? I’ve never heard this theory about Bonds before. I’ve always thought Bonds used steroids because he was an unlovable prick who was jealous of the attention of alleged juicers Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and took the steroids to make himself a better player who would get that same kind of attention.

As for combating the effects of aging, what does that have to do with anything? I stupidly thought steroid use was illegal unless done under a doctor’s supervision. I didn’t know there was a combat-the-effects-of-aging loophole out there.

Cartwright tells us the whole Congressional thing could have been avoided, but “[t]he House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform had all but commanded his appearance, because he had dared to challenge the Mitchell report.” Which is kind of funny in that the chairman of that committee told the press they wanted to cancel hearings but Team Rocket demanded that it go forward.

Cartwright then goes on to attack McNamee’s credibility and trots the old stuff about the rape allegations – in which it appears McNamee took the fall to protect a Yankee player – and claims that McNamee’s allegations about the abscess on Rocket’s butt have been disproven. Which is kind of funny because I remember a lot of discussion during the hearings about that abscess and who caused it – remember Rocket blaming the Blue Jays’ doctor for it?

He doesn’t seem to have a problem with Rocket’s credibility, which is kind of funny in that Rocket has changed his story about McNamee giving him shots. He’s changed his story about McNamee not warning about the report. He’s changed his story about what he told Andy Pettitte. He tried to tamper with witness testimony. He’s changed his story about whether he was at that Canseco house party.

But that’s okay to Cartwright, it appears.

And finally, Cartwright thinks this whole thing is blown out of proportion because Clemens is “not a drug addict or even a serious abuser. In the four-year span that McNamee claims to have juiced Clemens, he took a total of maybe sixteen injections—hardly enough to account for a career of greatness or do any harm to the game.”

But Gary, we don’t know that for sure. We just know what McNamee told us about. And as we’ve found out, both Chuck Knoblauch and Andy Pettitte took HGH at times that McNamee didn’t know about it. So how do we really know that it was only “a total of maybe sixteen injections?” That’s just what McNamee told us he knows about.

And that’s why the Feds are now going after Jose Canseco. They want to know if there were more than just sixteen injections. They want to know if Canseco is protecting Rocket. They want to know if Rusty Hardin has something do about Canseco’s sudden silence when it comes to Rocket.

But that’s okay. According to Gary Cartwright and the minds at Texas Monthly, there’s no need to pursue Rocket. He’s just an innocent man who acted like a jerk. Forget the facts. Forget the evidence. Just go find someone who’s not a sports hero to pick on – or else, just pick on Barry Bonds instead.

Like I said, I should give Cartwright and Texas Monthly a break. But this is supposed to be one of those excellence-in-journalism-award-winning magazines. As such, I expect better. – John Royal


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