Clemens denying allegations he took performance-enhancing drugs

NEW YORK - Roger Clemens denied allegations by his former trainer that he took performance-enhancing drugs, calling them "a dangerous and destructive shortcut that no athlete should ever take."

The accusations against the seven-time Cy Young Award winner from former trainer Brian McNamee were the most striking in last week's Mitchell Report. Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell wrote McNamee said he injected Clemens with steroids in 1998 while with the Toronto Blue Jays, and steroids and human growth hormone in 2000 and 2001, while with the New York Yankees.

"I want to state clearly and without qualification: I did not take steroids, human growth hormone or any other banned substances at any time in my baseball career or, in fact, my entire life," Clemens said Tuesday in a statement issued through his agent, Randy Hendricks. "Those substances represent a dangerous and destructive shortcut that no athlete should ever take.

"I am disappointed that my 25 years in public life have apparently not earned me the benefit of the doubt, but I understand that Senator Mitchell's report has raised many serious questions. I plan to publicly answer all of those questions at the appropriate time in the appropriate way. I only ask that in the meantime people not rush to judgment."

Another former McNamee client, Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte, said last weekend that he took HGH twice while rehabbing from an injury in 2002. Mitchell said McNamee told him he injected Pettitte with HGH two-to-four times that year.

"He stands 100 per cent behind the accuracy of the information he provided to Sen. Mitchell," McNamee's lawyer, Ed Ward, said in a statement.

Mitchell declined comment.

Baseball players and owners didn't have an agreement banning steroids until September 2002. They banned HGH in January 2005.

Clemens' lawyer, Rusty Hardin, first issued a denial last Thursday, hours after Mitchell's report was released. Tuesday marked the first public comments by Clemens, an 11-time all-star who spent 24 years in the major leagues with Boston, Toronto, the Yankees and Houston.

The 45-year-old right-hander was 6-6 with a 4.18 ERA for the Yankees this year and may retire. He said he planned to retire after the 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 seasons, only to return each time.

A six-time 20-game winner, Clemens was considered by most to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer before McNamee's allegations.

The allegations also have the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association reconsidering whether to let Clemens speak at the group's annual convention next month. The group held an executive meeting Tuesday but postponed making a decision until it could get more information.

Clemens spoke with one of the group's coaches before the meeting and said he "is ready to come speak," said Jim Long, president of the association.

"We feel we owe it to our association and Roger himself to give him the benefit of the doubt further," Long said.

Associated Press Writer Juan A. Lozano in Houston contributed to this report.