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Roger & Him

Brian McNamee is an upstanding citizen (or a man with a shady past) who was best friends with Roger Clemens (or just worked for him) and who designed a famous training regimen for the all-star pitcher (or took credit for it) and injected him with steroids (or vitamins). Is baseball’s unreliable witness actually telling the truth?

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Clemens and McNamee after a workout in Lexington, Kentucky, in 2006.  

What do you want me to do? I’ll go to jail, I’ll do whatever you want … Tell me what you want me to do. I’m firing my lawyers. I’m getting rid of everybody. I have nothing. What do you want me to do? My wife is gone. My kids are gone. What do you want me to do?

Brian McNamee is cracking up. He’s been harassed by the media for weeks—news helicopters flying overhead, Mike Wallace on the phone. To protect his family, he’s moved to a one-story brick bungalow in Long Beach, where he is living alone. When I reach him in early January, he is by turns combative and agitated, paranoid and oddly vulnerable. “I’m exhausted by this,” he tells me. “I’m beaten down. I don’t need it.”

This is not at all the way he thought his life would turn out when he met Roger Clemens ten years ago. Ever since, McNamee had been caretaker of the pitcher’s body, telling him what to eat and what to drink and how many squats and sprints and lifts to do. He trained Clemens’s mind not to quit even when his muscles were giving out. And, when Clemens asked him to, he allegedly injected him with the steroids and growth hormones that would allow the aging player to stave off the ravages of time. The goal, of course, was the Hall of Fame, and McNamee was along for the ride, thrilled with his proximity—dare he say, his friendship—with the baseball great. And maybe he would make a buck off it. Who wouldn’t want to buy training products from the man responsible for keeping Clemens’s physical machine running smoothly?

Now all those plans were in shambles. Under threat of prosecution for drug distribution, McNamee had accused his hero, benefactor, and friend of steroid use before the Major League Baseball commission led by former senator George Mitchell. When the commission’s report, naming 89 players, was released in December, Clemens attacked his former trainer, suing him for defamation, denying everything he’s said, calling him a liar.

“I’m not innocent on all counts,” McNamee confesses over the phone. “I made some mistakes. I don’t want to make excuses.”

It’s not clear which “counts” McNamee is referring to. Clemens’s legal team has highlighted every distortion and exaggeration McNamee has ever told, and there have been more than a few. At times, McNamee seems willing to take the blows to his reputation, a fitting punishment for turning on a friend. His lawyer admits that he cannot control McNamee, whom he calls “tormented.” The former trainer continues to reach out to Clemens against legal advice, leading to the release a few weeks ago of a pathetic seventeen-minute phone conversation between the two.

McNamee would love to be able to take it all back, to unsay the things he’s said, return to being Clemens’s friend. But under threat of a perjury charge, McNamee must soon testify before Congress about Clemens’s alleged steroid use—while the man who McNamee says made him sits in the same room, watching and listening.

Toward the end of our conversation, McNamee tries to summon some resolve. “There’s only one article you can write about me,” he says, “and it’s positive. I’m very confident in the truth.” Though his relationship with the truth has been as complicated as his relationship with Roger Clemens.

You treated me like family. You brought me into your house. I ate with your family. I helped you with school projects. I can’t deny that. And I’ve used how you were as a dad to your kids, I tried to be like you … Everything I have to this day I have because of you.

Brian McNamee met Roger Clemens back in 1998, when they were both recent arrivals to the Toronto Blue Jays. Clemens was 35, an aging pitcher from Texas who’d spent thirteen seasons with the Red Sox, earning the nickname “the Rocket” for his 98-mph fastball, but also the less flattering moniker “Pillsbury Doughboy” for his heft. After four Cy Young awards, he wasn’t the pitcher he once was. Biology and physics were conspiring to slow him down.

McNamee was 31, a trainer from Queens who had grown up wanting to be Johnny Bench or Thurman Munson or Pete Rose—tough, no-nonsense players—but had never been good enough to go pro. He was from a tight-knit beach community called Breezy Point, a gated neighborhood known locally as the “Irish Riviera” and populated largely by Irish-Catholic police officers, firemen, civil servants, and finance executives. “Those Breezy Point guys, when they get the sand in their shoes, they never leave,” says McNamee’s high-school baseball coach, Jack Curran. “They don’t let outsiders in there.”


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