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Roger Clemens' DNA is linked to needle

Forensic scientist says syringe needle and cotton balls, allegedly used to administer steroids 11 years ago, had tiny amount of former pitcher's DNA.

May 25, 2012|Staff and wire reports
  • This photo, provided by Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, was submitted to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in 2008. It shows the syringe needle and cotton balls trainer Brian McNamee said he used when allegedly injecting steroids into Roger Clemens.
This photo, provided by Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, was submitted… (Senna Riahi / Emery Celli…)

A needle stored with a beer can appeared to contain an extremely tiny amount of Roger Clemens' DNA, which turned out to be good news and bad news for both sides in the perjury trial in Washington of the seven-time Cy Young Award winner.

A forensic scientist on Friday linked Clemens to cotton balls and a syringe needle saved from an alleged steroids injection 11 years ago. His testimony, laced with statistics and probabilities, was one of the last pieces of the government's case in its effort to prove that the pitcher lied to Congress in 2008 when he denied using performance-enhancing substances.

Under cross-examination, Clemens' lawyer tried to poke holes in the physical evidence. He got the expert to acknowledge there were "hundreds of thousands" of white males in the United States who could be a match for the scant amount of DNA found on the needle, and that it's "conceivable" the cotton balls could have been contaminated by beer and saliva.

The government's key witness, longtime Clemens strength coach Brian McNamee, says he injected Clemens with steroids in 1998, 2000 and 2001 and with human growth hormone in 2000. He said he kept the needle and other waste from a 2001 injection and stored it in and around a beer can in a FedEx box in his home for more than six years before turning it over to federal investigators.

Alan Keel of Forensic Science Associates told jurors that the DNA found on two cotton balls was "unique to one person who has ever lived on the planet" — Clemens. He said that one of the cotton balls had a random match possibility of one in 15.4 trillion for Clemens' DNA, and the other was one in 173 trillion, when compared to the population of white people in the U.S.

But the needle was not as conclusive. Keel was able to detect only six to 12 cells for testing when he examined it. A drop of blood, by comparison, contains up to 30,000 cells.

During cross-examination, Clemens lawyer Michael Attanasio attacked the findings in several ways. He pointed out that Keel was being paid by the government. He pointed out that Keel didn't test all of the items available. He pointed out that the DNA had degraded over time. He noted that 449 was a "far, far smaller number" than the other numbers in the trillions, and it therefore can't be said with uncontested certainty that the DNA on the needle belongs to Clemens.

Clemens' lawyers have maintained all along that a beer can is no way to store evidence.


Dufner takes Colonial lead

Jason Dufner moved into position for his second straight victory and third in five weeks, shooting a six-under 64 to take a two-stroke lead in the Colonial at Fort Worth.

Dufner had an 11-under 129 total at Hogan's Alley. First-round leader Zach Johnson was second after a 67, and Bo Van Pelt and Tommy Gainey were third at seven under.

Hale Irwin shot his age with a five-under 66, finishing the second round of the Senior PGA Championship at Benton Harbor, Mich., two shots behind leaders Roger Chapman and John Cook.

England's James Morrison shot an eight-under 64 to take a four-stroke lead in the BMW PGA Championship at Virginia Water, England.


Alabama won its first women's golf title, holding off two-time champion USC by a stroke on the 72nd hole in the NCAA Division I championship at Franklin, Tenn.

Oklahoma's Chirapat Jao-Javanil won the individual title by four strokes.

The Crimson Tide gave Coach Mic Potter his first national title and first for a program in its seventh trip to the national tournament when senior Brooke Pancake rolled in a four-footer for par on No. 18. Alabama finished at six-over 294 in the fourth round for a 19-over 1,171 total.

USC trailed Alabama by 14 strokes after 36 holes and by two going into the final round. The national champion in 2003 and 2008, USC tied the Crimson Tide five times atop the leaderboard and led by five strokes before losing the lead on the back nine.


Former Los Angeles Times soccer writer Grahame L. Jones was named the seventh winner of the Colin Jose Media Award, presented by the National Soccer Hall of Fame. Jones, who started at the Times in 1971 and covered soccer for 38 years before retiring last fall, will be honored at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Landover, Md., next week.

—Kevin Baxter

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