Once a formidable figure on the mound, Roger Clemens has found a way to make himself look very small.

Instead of deciding whether he should wear a Red Sox or Yankee hat on his Hall of Fame plaque, Clemens is preparing to answer criminal charges for lying to Congress.

For the moment, Clemens is sticking to his guns, loudly claiming that he did not do what our eyes and common sense say he did. He has staked his reputation on the claim that he did not use performance enhancing drugs, enabling him to continue to get stronger at an age when most athletes in history are hanging it up.

According to the report put together by former Maine Sen. George Mitchell, Clemens was one of the biggest names to be involved in the use of performance enhancing drugs, such as anabolic steroids or human growth hormone, but he was not alone.

Mitchell found that he was part of a culture in which many players on every team did whatever they could to gain an edge, and it was not just the stars like Clemens and all-time homerun king Barry Bonds who were taking advantage. Starting in the minor leagues, marginal players hoping to make a career also cheated.

Steroid use was so pervasive that revelations about players who “failed a test” at some point in the past barely make a ripple these days, and what would have once been considered spectacular achievements, like admitted some-time doper Alex Rodriguez’s 600th homerun, are met with yawns.

We fans have been able to write off the whole period from the late 1990s to the middle of the last decade in which cheating was at least widespread — if not universal.

But the bulldog qualities that made Clemens such a tough pitcher are hurting him now, as he continues to deny the obvious. This not only makes him the face of the whole sport’s excesses, it may make him the only player to have to go to jail for it.

 


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