It wasn't much of a surprise when Roger Clemens was acquitted Monday on all charges of lying to Congress and obstructing justice when he denied during a public hearing in 2007 having used performance-enhancing drugs during the latter stages of his pitching career.
It was a long time -- five years or thereabouts -- coming.
And it probably cost Clemens a pretty penny, in all likelihood many millions of them, to make that happen. It was money well spent.
For the record, I've always been a Clemens fan for the same reasons I've always been a Nolan Ryan fan -- I liked their competitive instinct and their well-known work ethic.
So I'm glad this piece of grandstanding on the part of the U.S. Department of Justice is over. And I'm glad Clemens was acquitted.
Though I must admit it does raise questions about how Barry Bonds and Clemens pretty much got away with lying to federal officials -- other than the cost of defending themselves, which was considerable -- while Martha Stewart was sentenced to five months in federal prison for pretty much the same offense (making false statements).
Perhaps they had the good luck or good sense to hire better lawyers than Martha did, I don't know.
Or maybe it's that jurors are more sympathetic or empathetic with baseball superstars than they are television personalities and business moguls.
But that doesn't mean I think Clemens is innocent of having used performance-enhancing drugs. And it doesn't mean I think he didn't lie to federal officials.
I feel certain he did both.
Here's the thing -- I, and lots of other people, live in the real world, where personal opinion and the court of public opinion (sometimes the same thing) carry as much weight as decisions made by judges and juries.
We can agree to disagree, in other words, because we are permitted to have a different standard of proof.
Remember one thing -- being found "not guilty" is not necessarily the same as being innocent. It just means there wasn't enough evidence in Clemens' case to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
OK, I can live with that. That's the way the system works. And it should.
However, it surely does not mean Clemens never used performance-enhancing drugs while pitching in the major leagues. I have no proof that he did. And I certainly don't believe he was the only player who did -- we know there were many, some even admitted doing it.
And I'm not inclined to believe Clemens' former trainer and chief accuser, Brian McNamee, who testified he injected the pitcher with performance-enhancing drugs in 1998, 2000 and 2001, plus an HGH injection in 2000, any more than I believe Clemens.
But I do believe Andy Pettitte, Clemens' New York Yankees teammate and training partner who says Clemens admitted to him that he used human growth hormone in 2000. And, Pettitte admitted, he'd done the same thing, taking HGH injections in 2002 and 2004.
Clemens says "No" to using steroids or any performance-enhancing drugs. Pettitte says "Yes." I believe Pettitte. To me, he's the more believable witness.
Nevertheless, the lying-to-Congress issue has been resolved.
What remains is this -- did Clemens use performance-enhancing drugs and HGH while a player in the big leagues?
I believe he did.
And does Clemens' deserve to be in the baseball Hall of Fame? Bonds, too, for that matter?
Well, based strictly on merit, I'd say they both belong. I could say the same thing about Rafael Palmeiro and Manny Ramirez, as well.
But if I had a vote, I wouldn't vote in favor of any of them.
Not today, at least.
And I suspect none of them are going into the Hall of Fame anytime soon.
Nor should they.
Sports columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Thursdays. E-mail: email@example.com.