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Monday, February 18, 2008
Pettitte apologizes for 'embarrassment' of HGH use, says he mulled not playing

Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. -- Andy Pettitte repeated his apologies over and over again, saying he had embarrassed himself and set a terrible example.

Whether he upset Roger Clemens is anyone's guess. They haven't spoken in more than a month, since Pettitte corroborated allegations of drug use against the seven-time Cy Young Award winner.

"Obviously it's put a strain, I think, on our friendship," Pettitte said Monday. "I love him like a brother."

On the day he reported to spring training with the New York Yankees, the pitcher faced reporters for the first time since the Mitchell report was released in December and revealed accusations Pettitte had used human growth hormone. He patiently spent 55 minutes explaining what he had done and why he did it.

"I felt like I need to come out, be forward with this," Pettitte said. "Whatever circumstances or repercussions come with it, I'll take and I'll take like a man and I'll try to do my job."

Other athletes have ducked tough questions about allegations of drug use, using evasions and nonspecific replies. Pettitte admitted his mistakes and several times patiently asked reporters, "Did I answer your question?"

Wearing a dark polo shirt and jeans, and flanked by manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman, Pettitte had a hint of the shadow on his face that he's shown on the mound during so many postseason games. He seemed skittish at the start as he read from notes.

"I want to apologize to the New York Yankees' and to the Houston Astros' organizations and to their fans and to all my teammates and to all of baseball fans for the embarrassment I have caused them," he said. "I also want to tell anyone that is an Andy Pettitte fan I am sorry, especially any kids that might look up to me."

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He said he was a "nervous wreck" and "scared to death" before the news conference, held under a tent behind the third-base side of Legends Field. He relaxed after a few minutes and went into far greater detail than most accused athletes have about their transgressions.

Off to his right, sitting in a row, were Yankees teammates Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, friends for a decade who have shared numerous World Series titles.

"We've been through a lot of tough times in baseball. Why not support him?" Rivera said. "I consider Andy my friend. I'm glad I was there."

When it was over Jeter and Pettitte wrapped their arms around in each other in a hug.

"I know that once I have this press conference and talk to everybody about this and share everything with you, I think the truth will set you free," Pettitte said. "I think I'm going to be able to sleep a lot better at night once all this gets by."

Brian McNamee, the former personal trainer to Pettitte and Clemens, said in the Mitchell report that Pettitte used HGH in 2002 while with the Yankees. Two days after the report was released Dec. 13, Pettitte issued a statement through his agent confirming McNamee's account and saying that was the only time he used HGH.

In a deposition and an affidavit to a congressional committee two weeks ago, Pettitte said he injected himself with HGH for one day in 2004 while with the Astros after obtaining two syringes from his father.

"I am sorry for not telling the whole truth in my original statement," Pettitte said. "I never wanted to bring my dad into a situation like this. This was between me and him, and no one else. I testified about my dad in part because I felt in my heart I had to, but mainly because he urged me to tell the truth, even if it hurt him."

Pettitte said there were no other times he used performance-enhancing drugs.

"That's it. There are no other surprises out there," he said. "That's all there is and anything that would come up would be definitely false allegations."

McNamee said he injected Clemens with steroids and HGH at least 16 times from 1998-01, and all three were among those called before a congressional committee. Pettitte told Congress that Clemens had discussed nearly a decade ago using HGH. In addition, Pettitte testified McNamee, the former personal trainer for Clemens and Pettitte, had spoken in 2003 or 2004 about steroids use by Clemens.

Clemens claims Pettitte "misremembers."

"I'm just not going to go there," Pettitte said. "I've had to testify under oath. So has Roger. And, you know, I don't think that's anything I need to sit here and try to elaborate on with anyone else."

Pettitte said on the flight to Washington for his deposition, his wife handed him a Bible and told him to read Romans 13 for inspiration, a section that begins: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities."

He "prayed awfully hard" to be dropped from testifying at last Wednesday's hearing, not wanting to be caught between two friends. Pettitte was excused from testifying in public alongside Clemens and McNamee, and didn't watch the hearing.

Pettitte realizes he may have to testify again, either in Clemens' defamation suit against McNamee or if the Justice Department launches a criminal case against Clemens or McNamee.

"He can't put this behind him because of Roger's selfishness and inability to admit the facts," Richard Emery, one of McNamee's lawyers, said in a telephone interview. "Clemens is putting Andy in the middle of a meatgrinder again. He's doing to have to testify again in a deposition, probably this summer, and it's going to be far more extensive than anything Congress did. He is the key witness."

Joe Householder, Clemens' spokesman, declined comment.

Given permission to report four days after other pitchers on the team, Pettitte threw 35 pitches during a bullpen session at the minor league complex before the news conference. He acknowledged he had considered not playing because of the ongoing situation. Pettitte had agreed to return to the Yankees on Dec. 2, a few days before he learned McNamee had implicated him.

Pettitte plans to apologize to his teammates. He met with George Steinbrenner and the owner's sons, Hank and Hal, before facing reporters.

"I just wanted to tell them face to face that I'm sorry and apologize to him, you know, for the embarrassment that this has brought," Pettitte said. "He was a little stubborn in accepting my apology and said that he's behind me 100 percent, tried to tell me that I haven't brought any embarrassment to the organization. But I disagree with him a little on that."

The 35-year-old lefty with 201 regular-season wins and four World Series championship rings said he did not feel as if his accomplishments were tainted. He said he used HGH only because he felt pressure to pitch while injured because of his multimillion salary and thought HGH might help his elbow heal.

"I didn't do it to try to get an edge on anyone. I didn't do it to try to get stronger or faster or throw harder. I did it because I was that it might be able to help me," he said.

HGH wasn't banned by baseball until January 2005, so Pettitte does not appear to be at risk of a suspension. He said he would not have taken HGH had it been banned at the time.

"Was it stupid? Yeah, it was stupid. Was I desperate? Yeah, I was probably desperate," he said. "I wish I never would have done it, obviously, but I don't consider myself a cheater, no."