McNamee had to work out his marital problems on his own, but Clemens came to the rescue as far as his career was concerned. As Clemens’s lawyers would later write in his defamation suit against McNamee, “McNamee pleaded with Clemens for work” and insisted the alleged rape was actually a “lifesaving attempt.” Clemens accepted McNamee’s version of what happened and agreed to help his trainer rehabilitate his reputation. For many, it was a sign of just how close the two men were. Says a friend of both Clemens and McNamee, “To Roger’s credit, he doesn’t say, ‘Mac, get the fuck out of here.’”
Clemens worked out with McNamee in a public gym in Manhattan to help him promote himself, and he praised McNamee in a profile in the New York Post just five months after the incident: “Secret to Rocket’s Power: Can You Keep Up With His Trainer’s Punishing Workout?”
Despite the public displays of loyalty, it was clear that something had changed in their relationship. One theory about why McNamee’s last alleged injection was in 2001 is that Clemens never really trusted McNamee again after the Florida incident, seeing him as a liability if ever the authorities cornered him. With McNamee now barred from the Yankees locker room, he and Clemens saw each other less and less. McNamee had taken a job at his old college, St. John’s, teaching sports management as an assistant professor.
It was around this time that Major League Baseball started to feel the heat over steroid use. In 2003, the league started testing players. A nervous McNamee sought out a meeting with a Clemens associate in a coffee shop in New York. McNamee described the meeting to Clemens in their notorious taped phone conversation: “I said Jimmy, I just wanted to give you guys a heads-up because you better have some information. I’d rather you be prepared than unprepared.”
Meanwhile, a federal investigation into steroid distribution in the Northern District of California was expanding, eventually nabbing onetime Mets staffer Kirk Radomski, a key steroid dealer to players and trainers—including McNamee. As the scrutiny intensified, McNamee remained loyal to Clemens, telling Sports Illustrated that the pitcher didn’t have anything to do with performance-enhancing drugs.
But authorities were closing in on McNamee. Investigators obtained a series of checks that McNamee had written to Radomski to pay for steroids, and soon he was facing prosecution for distribution of illegal drugs. When he met with federal agents this past June, they threatened him with jail time. The trainer hired a lawyer, and the lawyer brokered a deal: If he answered their questions truthfully, nothing he said would be held against him.
The decision to give them Clemens’s name must have been excruciating. According to McNamee’s version of his life, he is a fall guy. If he is to be believed, he has lied again and again—sometimes at personal peril—to protect his friends. Now he was being asked to sell out his most important friend, the guy who made him, the player his son worshipped. McNamee was working out with him in Kentucky when he first got the call to appear before investigators. In fact, he trained Clemens multiple times through the period of his questioning—putting the pitcher through his paces even as he wrestled with what to tell federal agents.
By December, after five months and three interviews with Mitchell, McNamee had told investigators all he knew—or at least all he remembered or was willing to say. Still, it was enough. All McNamee could hope for was that Mitchell wouldn’t name names in the report.
All I did was what I thought was right—and I never thought it was right, but I thought that I had no other choice, put it that way. And I think when I spoke with your guys, that I laid it out there.
McNamee knew things were going to get ugly. Before the Mitchell Report went public on December 13, he learned that Clemens would be named. He sent his wife and three kids to Disney World. At his wife’s request, he’d already moved out of his house to keep the press away from the children. Now he waited.
And then, the deluge. Suddenly, McNamee’s name was everywhere, on TV, in the local Queens press, on the lips of his neighbors and his son’s friends at school. They wanted to know if Brian’s father was the man who’d sold drugs to their idols. “How do I tell my kids what’s going on?” he asked his friend Piccione. “They worship Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. They’re up on their walls.” According to Piccione, McNamee took both their sons aside to tell them that Clemens and Pettitte were still heroes despite the drugs. “They did something stupid and that was that,” he told them. “If you’re a fan of Roger or Andy, continue to root for them.”