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The Baltimore Sun

If Roger Clemens is bluffing, he shouldn't ever pitch again. He should be taking his act to the World Series of Poker.

Whenever someone is hauled into court - whether it's a real courtroom or the court of public opinion - you generally get an initial denial. "I plead not guilty, your honor." Then the system works things out.

But in Clemens' case, the seven-time Cy Young Award winner is making an all-out frontal assault on allegations in the Mitchell Report that he used steroids and human growth hormone. Let us count the ways the Rocket has proclaimed his innocence:

Through his attorney.

In an Internet video on his foundation's Web site.

In an interview with Mike Wallace (admittedly a friend) on 60 Minutes on Sunday.

In the filing of a defamation lawsuit against accuser and former personal trainer Brian McNamee.

During a news conference Monday, with the added attraction of a recorded recent phone conversation between Clemens and McNamee.

And, presumably, in an appearance before Congress next week.

Folks are trying to read all sorts of things into what Clemens is saying and even how he's saying it. Some have seized on potential inconsistencies in his account of events. Others say that his obvious anger signals guilt as opposed to righteous indignation.

Well, forget what has happened until now. What counts is what Clemens says to Congress - one would surely expect under oath - because that's where you can get into real hot water.

The lesson of Watergate, and a lot of whatever--gates since then, is that the cover-up often is worse than the original crime.

Let's recall why Barry Bonds in under federal indictment. Not for taking steroids. Bonds has been indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice. In short, for allegedly failing to tell the truth to a grand jury about events as they related to performance-enhancing drugs.

Clemens, you would expect, has excellent legal advice at his disposal. And you'd expect that this excellent legal advice would caution against saying anything that can be proved to be untrue and uttered with the clear knowledge that it's untrue - because then you're in the pickle that Bonds finds himself in.

So the real parsing of Clemens' words should wait until he's under oath, because that's when there would be serious consequences for lying.

Also recall that Rafael Palmeiro had to sweat out a decision on whether he would be prosecuted (on a perjury charge) after his finger-pointing declaration in front of Congress in 2005, until it was decided that it couldn't be proved that he took steroids before his testimony. He famously failed his drug test six weeks after his appearance in front of Congress.

In Clemens case, there will be no such wiggle room. So, let's wait until we hear Clemens in front of Congress, because that's when his words will be weighed not just by the public but by those who enforce the law.

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