Clemens and the flunked Mitchell report

Updated: June 19, 2012, 4:42 PM ET
By Buster Olney

The prosecutors representing the government in the case against Roger Clemens called dozens of witnesses, including experts in everything from beer cans to the handling of DNA. The attorneys argued so meticulously, in such excruciatingly thorough detail, that some jurors were excused during the nine-week trial because they fell asleep.

But in the end, in the face of that mountain of preparation and presentation, jurors decided overwhelmingly and quickly -- so quickly that Clemens had to scramble to get to court to hear the verdict -- that the pitcher was not guilty on each of six counts of perjury.

And yet five years ago, those who generated the Mitchell report -- most notably, George Mitchell, the former U.S. senator -- determined that it was appropriate to publish a public indictment of Clemens based on the word of one person: trainer Brian McNamee.

The 12 jurors voted that Clemens was not guilty. But they also, by extension, effectively repudiated the standard of proof used in the Mitchell report -- a woefully incomplete history that was a bad idea at its inception and became, in the end, an unconscionable exercise that generated a handful of scapegoats to distract the mob from the failings of more powerful men.

Nobody should be naive about what took place during the steroid era. It well may be that all 86 players linked to the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the Mitchell report did, in fact, take steroids or human growth hormone or some other form of performance-enhancers.

Clemens was found to be not guilty, which is not the same as being found innocent. He was cleared of perjury charges, which doesn't mean he told the truth. The inclusion of his name in the Mitchell report was incredibly unfair, but after his name was published, he made some awful choices. In trying to save a pitching legacy that was lost the instant the Mitchell report was released, he exposed those around him to unnecessary embarrassment and scrutiny.