On June 12 in Washington, prosecutor Gil Guerrero stood in front of a federal jury, whose members were surprisingly all awake, and offered this as part of a closing argument:
“He chose to lie, he chose to mislead, he chose to provide false statements, to impede Congress’ legitimate investigation. Now, it’s your turn to hold him accountable on every single count. You are the final umpires here.”
He was mistaken on a few major points.
From the beginning, Congress investigating baseball and performance-enhancing drugs lacked countless levels of legitimacy. There are far bigger and more serious issues for it to tackle.
Also, the final umpires are not only those in a jury box, but you and anyone else with the slightest interest in how baseball history will be written.
I don’t know if Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is completely correct in his opinion that a five-year investigation into former major league star Roger Clemens was a total waste of time and money, because there are good reasons for why it’s illegal to obstruct the work of Congress or one of its committees.
It also should be illegal for Congress to lie to the American people as much as it has over time, but if we start putting all the crooked politicians behind bars, there won’t be enough tap water left for any of the champion boxers to use.
Clemens was found not guilty on all six counts that he lied to Congress when denying the use of performance-enhancing drugs, a verdict that was expected more than lead defense attorney Rusty Hardin wearing a bright-colored tie to court.
That the jury took a day and a half before returning must mean there were comfortable cots and pillows available for naps.
We are steroids saturated. We are overloaded on PEDs. Two of the jurors in the Clemens case were dismissed for sleeping on the job, including one who was caught dozing during testimony of the only witness (former Clemens trainer Brian McNamee) anyone wanted to hear.
Our views about baseball and steroids are like those of electric cars.
We’re so over it.
But it doesn’t mean we forget.
Jail time wouldn’t be the worst result for athletes such as Clemens or Barry Bonds or Lance Armstrong, the seven-time winner of the Tour de France now facing charges from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for allegedly using and trafficking performance-enhancing substances. Neither would a loss of revenue from their celebrity.
They could survive time behind bars and carry lighter wallets.
The worst thing is what they, along with other premier athletes linked to doping, have already lost.
There is no harsher court than that of public opinion, a truth Clemens and Bonds and Sammy Sosa probably will learn when their names appear on a Hall of Fame ballot for the first time in November.
A verdict of not guilty for Clemens will mean nothing to those who cast votes, who have already made their opinions about those who allegedly cheated during their careers crystal clear by how few endorsed the candidacies of Mark McGwire (19.5 percent of the vote last year) and Rafael Palmeiro (12.6).
We can forgive reformed drug users, those who admit weakness and fall on a sword of shame and repentance. We’re big on those believed to be embarrassingly contrite. We’re not so compassionate to those who continually deny what most perceive the truth.
Bottom line: The opinions most held about these former baseball stars and their links to steroids likely weren’t changed because a jury of Rip Van Winkles found Clemens not guilty.
It’s a little different with Armstrong, although his dwindling list of sponsors offers enough proof to suggest most of the country believes he couldn’t have possibly won all those Tours riding in one of history’s dirtiest sports while clean. I’m part of that camp. I think he was doped out of his mind.
But his link to cancer and the fact he continues to inspire survivors around the globe does, in many eyes, give him a pass when it comes to the doping allegations.
Whether you stand on that side of the fence or not – and I never have – it is true that the risk-reward quotient for continuing to spend taxpayer money when chasing baseball stars or wasting time trying to catch a hero to millions stricken with a dreaded disease long ago proved foolish.
It was time to move on a long time ago, when the court of public opinion reached its verdict on sports stars and cheating.
No matter what those Rip Van Winkles decided.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 AM and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.