Roger Clemens was acquitted Monday on all charges that he obstructed and lied to Congress in denying he used performance-enhancing drugs to extend his long career as one of the greatest and most-decorated pitchers in baseball history.
Fierce on the pitching mound in his playing days, Clemens was quietly emotional after the verdict was announced. "I'm very thankful," he said, choking up as he spoke. "It's been a hard five years," said the pitcher, who was retried after an earlier prosecution ended in a mistrial.
This case was lengthy, but the deliberations were relatively brief. Jurors returned their verdict after less than 10 hours over several days. The outcome ended a 10-week trial that capped the government's investigation of the pitcher known as "The Rocket" for the fastball that he retained into his 40s. He won seven Cy Young Awards, emblematic of the league's best pitcher each year in a 24-year career with the Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays and Astros.
The verdict was the latest blow to the government's legal pursuit of athletes accused of illicit drug use.
A seven-year investigation into home run king Barry Bonds yielded a guilty verdict on only one count of obstruction of justice in a San Francisco court last year, with the jury deadlocked on whether Bonds lied to a grand jury when he denied knowingly taking performance-enhancing drugs.
A two-year, multicontinent investigation of cyclist Lance Armstrong was recently closed with no charges brought, though the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency filed formal accusations last week that could strip the seven-time Tour de France winner of his victories in that storied race. Armstrong denies any doping.
Late Monday, as the jury foreman read the acquittal on the final count, Clemens bit his lower lip and rubbed a tear from his eye.
Clemens, family members and his lawyers took turns exchanging hugs. At one point, Clemens and his four sons gathered in the middle of the courtroom, arms interlocked like football players in a huddle, and sobbing could be heard. Debbie Clemens dabbed her husband's eyes with a tissue.
Accused of cheating to achieve and extend his success -- and then facing felony charges that he lied about it -- Clemens declared outside the courthouse, "I put a lot of hard work into that career."
Clemens, 49, was charged with two counts of perjury, three counts of making false statements and one count of obstructing Congress when he testified at a deposition and at a nationally televised hearing in February 2008. The charges centered on his repeated denials that he used steroids and human growth hormone during a 24-year career that produced 354 victories.
The first attempt to try Clemens last year ended in a mistrial when prosecutors played a snippet of video evidence that had previously been ruled inadmissible.
Still, Monday's verdict is unlikely to settle the matter in sports circles as to whether Clemens cheated in the latter stages of a remarkable career that extended into a period in which performance-enhancing drug use in baseball was thought to be prevalent. Clemens himself told Congress at the 2008 hearing that "no matter what we discuss here today, I'm never going to have my name restored."
The government's case relied heavily on the testimony of Clemens' longtime strength coach, Brian McNamee, who testified he injected Clemens with steroids in 1998, 2000 and 2001 and with HGH in 2000. McNamee produced a needle and other materials he said were from a steroids injection of Clemens in 2001.
But McNamee was the only person to claim firsthand knowledge of Clemens using steroids and HGH, and even prosecutors conceded their star witness was a "flawed man." Clemens' lawyers relentlessly attacked McNamee's credibility and integrity. They pointed out that his story had changed over the years and implied that he conjured up the allegations against Clemens to placate federal investigators.