On Monday, Roger Clemens was acquitted. He had been accused of lying to Congress about his use of illegal drugs. Clemens has adamantly refused to acknowledge that he took performance enhancing drugs. The government felt this was disingenuous and his repeated insistence to congress was a punishable crime.
During the last two days I have read some articles and heard sports commentary suggesting that it is a good thing that Roger Clemens was acquitted, but that his acquittal will not remove the obstacles that he faces in getting into the Hall of Fame. The argument apparently is that despite the jury's decision, the truth is that Clemens took the drugs to enhance performance. Therefore his success as a player--which would be the criterion for Hall of Fame admission--is so asterisked as to render him not sufficiently outstanding to be among the top echelon admitted to the Hall of Fame.
There is an article in today's Globe entitled, Clemens acquittal is justice served, which essentially makes these points. He should have been acquitted, but the Hall is another matter. There are a number of claims made in the article and in other communications arguing this point, that I find problematic.
The first is that lying to Congress about taking drugs is not enough of a big deal to warrant the government wasting resources prosecuting Roger Clemens. A corollary is that if he had lost, then he would have gone to jail costing taxpayers money which could go elsewhere.
I could not disagree more. The use of performance enhancing drugs in sport is a problem. It is a problem primarily because there are those who don't take them and did not take them because it was illegal to do so. Those that played by the rules were disadvantaged by playing by the rules. The interest in sport lives and dies on the belief that the game is on the up and up. People follow baseball statistics and can cite all time home run and rbi champions like most of us can recite our ABCs. Is Barry Bonds really the home run king if he used drugs and Henry Aaron did not? How long will people care about sport statistics if the statistics are looked upon with skepticism.
As significantly, the screaming message advanced by cheering for Clemens's acquittal for any other reason than because he had, in fact, been telling the truth, is that cheating is condonable as long as you can get away with it. I don't think this is a good message to promulgate especially when so many people who follow the game are kids. The acquittal in the Clemens case informs the next generation that honesty is not actually the best policy.
I have also read that Clemens deserves to be acquitted because his lawyer was more effective than the prosecutor. I am not sure I have heard a more fallacious argument in a while. There is an old quip that a court case is held to determine who has the better lawyer. It may be, in actuality, that a not guilty verdict is more dependent on the quality of your representative, than the integrity of the evidence. But to proclaim that Clemens deserved to be acquitted BECAUSE he had the better lawyer and because that lawyer was able to poke holes in the testimony of Clemens's chief accuser, seems, as my grandfather was wont to say, ridikalus.
A liar does not become a truth teller because she or he has an agent who can convince a body that she or he is telling the truth. Liars are liars if they lie. If people argue that Clemens will not get in the Hall of Fame because he lied regardless of the jury's decision, then Clemens acquittal was NOT Justice Served.
I don't know for sure if Clemens told the truth or not. I do know that he was a slim fellow when he started pitching for the Red Sox. Then he became a big fellow. Personally, I doubt that it was pizza and beer that tipped the scales. Regardless, Clemens's acquittal should only be celebrated if he was innocent.