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Roger Clemens’ lawyers poke at former trainer Brian McNamee’s veracity

By Ian Duncan, Tribune Washington Bureau –

WASHINGTON — Brian McNamee, the key prosecution witness in the Roger Clemens perjury trial, said he had never made up details about the pitcher’s drug use, but that some of his memories of it had become clearer over time.

During cross-examination Wednesday, McNamee, a former strength trainer, described a conversation with Clemens in early 2004 in which the pitcher asked whether McNamee still had a source to obtain steroids. According to McNamee, Clemens told him, “I want to get really huge, I want to get strong.”

Rusty Hardin, Clemens’ lead attorney, asked why McNamee did not mention that to federal agents investigating steroid abuse in baseball in 2007. He attributed the oversight to a “bad memory.”

Apparently unconvinced, Hardin asked: “Mr. McNamee, do you sometimes just make stuff up?”

McNamee said he did not and had said earlier that as details about the case had emerged over time, new memories had been triggered.

The reliability of McNamee’s recollections and the consistency of his testimony will likely be critical in determining the outcome of the case. He is the only witness claiming direct knowledge of Clemens’ steroid and human growth hormone use.

McNamee also provided evidence for the Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drugs. The report triggered congressional hearings, where the government contends Clemens committed perjury.

Hardin held back his toughest questions for when the trial resumes Thursday, but described a plan to have McNamee classify his statements as either “mistakes,” “bad memories” or “lies.”

In another line of questioning probing McNamee’s memory and thought processes, Hardin returned to the beginning of the trainer’s relationship with Clemens.

McNamee had testified that Clemens approached him in June 1998 asking for help with a “booty shot” — an injection in the buttocks. McNamee said Wednesday he knew he meant steroids, even though the pitcher did not mention the drug by name.

Asked by Hardin why he made that assumption, McNamee said that he had previously heard Clemens and teammate Jose Canseco talking about obtaining the drugs, but added he could not remember the details of their conversation.

Earlier Wednesday morning, the specter of a second mistrial was raised in a heated exchange between lawyers over mentions McNamee made the previous day that he supplied HGH to Clemens’ teammate, Andy Pettitte. Judge Reggie Walton had barred mention of that link, and the first trial collapsed last year when a government lapse led to jurors seeing inadmissible evidence.

But Clemens’ lawyer Mike Attanasio concluded that calling for a mistrial would not be in the best interests of his client — or his own safety.

“Mr. Hardin will come tackle me if I ask for a mistrial, so I won’t,” he said.

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