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WASHINGTON - The FBI took up the Roger Clemens case yesterday after being told by the Justice Department to investigate whether the star pitcher lied when he testified to Congress that he never took performance-enhancing drugs.
The FBI's involvement was announced one day after leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee told Attorney General Michael Mukasey they weren't sure if Mr. Clemens told the truth under oath at a Feb. 5 deposition and Feb. 13 at a public hearing.
An investigation could result in charges against the seven-time Cy Young Award winner for perjury, making false statements, or obstruction of justice.
Congress did not ask for a similar inquiry of Brian McNamee, the former personal trainer who testified under oath that he injected Mr. Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone.
"The request to open an investigation on the congressional testimony of Roger Clemens has been turned over to the FBI and will receive appropriate investigative action by the FBI's Washington field office," FBI spokesman Debra Weierman said.
As with Barry Bonds and Marion Jones, Mr. Clemens faces scrutiny from federal authorities more for what he said than what he might have done.
Mr. Bonds, baseball's home run king and a seven-time most valuable player, was indicted in November on perjury and obstruction of justice charges stemming from 2003 grand jury testimony in which he denied knowingly using illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
Ms. Jones, the track and field star who won five medals at the 2000 Olympics, was sentenced in January to six months in prison for lying about using performance enhancers and her role in a check-fraud scam.
Mr. Clemens testified that he never used steroids or HGH; Mr. McNamee testified he injected the pitcher with performance-enhancers at least 16 times from 1998 to 2001.
"We've always expected they would open an investigation," said Mr. Clemens' lead lawyer, Rusty Hardin.
Mr. Clemens didn't answer questions directly yesterday at the Houston Astros' spring training camp in Kissimmee, Fla.
"I'm going to handle it the right way," he said. "You guys are wasting your time. We're going to handle it the right way."
In asking the Justice Department to look into Mr. Clemens' statements to Congress, committee chairman Henry Waxman (D., Calif.) and Tom Davis (R., Va.) said they weren't in a position to reach a definitive judgment on Mr. Clemens' truthfulness. They cited Mr. McNamee's testimony and that of Mr. Clemens' former teammate, Andy Pettitte, who told the committee Mr. Clemens admitted HGH use to him.
Evidence gathered by the FBI, in consultation with the Justice Department, is presented to grand juries, which consider whether there is sufficient evidence to indict someone on charges of violating a law.