Monday, August 10, 2009
Blair sues reporters, publisher
By Mike Fish
The much ballyhooed federal perjury investigation of Roger Clemens has yet to produce an indictment, though the on-going saga continues to spawn a string of defamation lawsuits stretching from New York to Houston.
On the eve of his appearance Tuesday morning before the Washington, D.C., grand jury hearing evidence against Clemens, former Houston gym owner Kelly Blair filed a lawsuit in his hometown on Monday alleging he was defamed in the book, "American Icon: The Fall of Roger Clemens and the Rise of Steroids in America's Pastime." The suit comes in the wake of a defamation claim Clemens made against his chief accuser, his former trainer Brian McNamee, and a counter defamation suit filed by McNamee against the pitching icon.
The suit filed Monday in a Houston district court names as defendants the four New York Daily News reporters who penned the book -- Michael O'Keefe, Christian Red, Teri Thompson and Nathaniel Vinton -- as well as the publisher, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, and Robin Dobbins, a Houston fitness consultant who the suit alleges was the source of false allegations.
"There are allegations in the book about Kelly Blair that are just completely not true," said Houston-based attorney Jason Gibson, who represents Blair. "They said he is basically a drug dealer who was running an underground steroid network. There are a number of statements of fact that were made that are false. The only defense to allegations of defamation are that it was true. In this case, it is not true."
Most notable among the false statements alleged in the lawsuit are that Blair sold steroids to Clemens and current New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte and that he prepared shipments of drugs intended for professional athletes. The book quotes a source, who Blair believes to be Dobbins, as saying he witnessed Blair putting together a package of steroids in his gym office that Blair told him were intended for Clemens and Pettitte.
Blair told ESPN.com that he had a falling out with Dobbins after he refused to hire him as a personal trainer at his gym.
Blair was a partner in 1-on-1 Elite Personal Fitness, a gym in Pasadena, Texas, that closed last year. He is a cousin by marriage to Pettitte, a friend and former teammate of Clemens. Pettitte's father worked out at the gym, where he reportedly obtained human growth hormone for his personal use.
"We have not received the complaint, but we do stand by our reporting," Thompson, the Daily News Sunday sports editor/investigations told ESPN.com Monday afternoon. An attorney for the publishing house, Min Lee, said she was waiting for the complaint to be served and offered no other comment.
According to Blair, he previously told FBI agents that he never supplied either Clemens or Pettitte with drugs. Blair claims to have never met Clemens, in fact. He doesn't deny having used steroids himself in the past. He also acknowledges having recommended to athletes a Houston doctor who would prescribe HGH, though he claims neither Pettitte nor Clemens were involved.
Federal prosecutors are scheduled to meet with Blair and his attorneys in Washington on Tuesday morning prior to his appearance before the grand jury that is hearing evidence regarding whether Clemens lied to Congress about not having used performance-enhancing drugs.
"They're just trying to see if there is any possible way they can link [performance-enhancing drugs] to Roger," Blair said. "I already told them I didn't [supply Clemens], but I think there is going to be some kind of a big surprise or something. I don't know, man. They're going to say, 'Well, five people said that they bought steroids from you.' They couldn't prove it, 'cause it just didn't happen.
"I think that some people that hated my guts may have said some things. And now that they're in the situation they are, I think there are going to be some things that were changed in my favor. I really do. There ain't nobody that has anything on me."
Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.