“The sports world has turned the assumption of innocence on its head,” Rusty Hardin (Roger Clemens’ attorney) said Thursday in a telephone interview with USA TODAY Sports. “I am thoroughly convinced there is no way an innocent ballplayer can get out in front of these allegations.
“I truly know nothing about Alex Rodriguez, but do you think anybody is going to believe Alex Rodriguez now? Nobody is going to listen to him or any of these guys accused.”
“The presumption is so strong that they did it, and they’re lying. The only way Alex Rodriguez is going to get a fair shake is by going to court and proving it.”
“Who the hell wants to wish that on anyone? Even if acquitted, the majority of the sports world still is going to assume he did it.”
Roger Clemens vehemently denied Senator George Mitchell’s 2007 report that he used performance-enhancing drugs. He filed a defamation lawsuit against his former trainer, Brian McNamee. He swore under oath that he never took steroids, and after being indicted by a grand jury on charges of making false statements to Congress, he was still found not guilty on all counts of lying to Congress.
“That was the only way Roger could get a fair hearing,” Hardin said, “but like Roger told Congress, ‘He still lost his innocence.’ People still don’t believe him.”
Has he given us a reason to believe him though?
“The problem now is that so many players deny it, and later on admit it, so the accusation carries additional weight,” Harden continued.
If the Miami New Times report is accurate and Rodriguez did indeed purchased performance-enhancing drugs in 2009 and 2012 from Biogenesis, a clinic in Coral Gables, Florida, Harden says that Rodriguez should follow the lead of Yankees starter Andy Pettitte. He publicly admit his transgressions.
“If you did it,” Hardin says, “the way Andy Pettitte went about it is exactly the way to go. You admit it, accept responsibility, and move on.”
“If you didn’t do it, then you’ve got follow your conscience and recognize it’s not going to work. People are too cynical to believe you.”
“What we did with Roger didn’t work. He denied it from every rooftop he could. What we discovered with Roger was that his denial just brought more scorn. After awhile, we just shut up. There was nothing more we could offer from the dialogue.”
“But I will say that if a person didn’t do it, they shouldn’t cave in and say they did it, just to make it go away.”
Hardin realized that even after being victorious in trial, the public perception of Clemens wouldn’t be dramatically altered. That was confirmed this year when the seven-time Cy Young award winner received only 37.6% of the vote in the Hall of Fame ballot.
“I don’t think nobody will ever look at the evidence before they cast their next vote,” Hardin says. “The trouble is that Roger was lumped together with (Barry) Bonds and (Sammy) Sosa. The other two guys, everybody knows they did it.”
Do they? They’ve denied it as much as Clemens.
“There’s no question that Bonds did it.”
Which is interesting because many people can say that about Hardin’s client.
“Everybody knows that. And Sosa proved positive. And since Roger was accused, he was thrown in the same group,” Hardin continued.
Bonds testified that he never knowingly used steroids. Sosa tested positive in an anonymous 2003 test, according to the New York Times, but has denied that he ever used steroids.
“I don’t think anything is ever going to change,” Hardin says, “no matter what Roger says.”
“You never get your reputation back.”