Tests that link Roger Clemens' DNA to blood in syringes provided to investigators by Clemens' personal trainer Brian McNamee could bolster prosecutors' claim that Clemens lied about steroid use. But both legal and medical experts cautioned that the more difficult determination would be establishing the presence of performance-enhancing drugs in those syringes.
A report yesterday in The Washington Post cited two unidentified sources who said the tests were positive for Clemens' DNA, but the results are preliminary and subject to verification. The Post quoted Stevan Bunnell, a former federal prosecutor, as saying the DNA evidence "gives it a certain extra mystique with the jury," which has been asked by prosecutors to decide whether to indict Clemens, the seven-time Cy Young Award winner who pitched for four major-league teams, for perjury.
The investigation, to determine whether Clemens lied under oath, was set in motion last February after Clemens repeatedly denied McNamee's testimony when both appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. McNamee testified he injected Clemens nearly 40 times with steroids and human growth hormone from 1998 to 2001.
Craig Calcaterra, a Columbus, Ohio, lawyer who applies his expertise and baseball passion to a blog called "The Hardball Times," said yesterday in a telephone interview: "There needs to be a second half to for it to mean anything. Since Clemens has admitted to taking B-12 shots from McNamee, unless they also can establish those needles were used for steroids or some other performing-enhancing drug, I'm not sure this advances the story."
The Post reported that the syringes are being analyzed at the Anti-Doping Research Institute in Los Angeles, where the task, Calcaterra said, is to "put Clemens' DNA at the scene" of steroid traces.
Such a determination is possible, said Dr. Gary Wadler, the World Anti-Doping Agency's sports drugs expert based in Manhasset. But it won't be easy, depending upon the type of steroid injected.
With testosterone, laboratory tests would have to differentiate synthetic vs. naturally produced testosterone. Furthermore, if the drug were HGH, the amount of blood in the syringe could cause the drug "to be degraded by the enzymes in the blood," Wadler said. And he said another consideration is "the stability in the environment in which the syringes were kept."
McNamee had provided syringes, gauze pads and other items used to inject Clemens that he said were stored in a FedEx box in his basement. Wad ler wondered how long traces of a steroid or HGH would last "in an unrefrigerated state"?
Some steroids, such as Winstrol, are more stable and "probably still detectable," Wadler said. "The same scenario with HGH is a bigger problem. And if [tests for drug traces] turn out to be negative, could it be that, over time, the molecule was significantly altered? Or it never was there in the first place?"