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03/06/08 11:49 PM ET

Clemens investigators widen probe

Internal Revenue Service investigators have gone to the Houston area to widen their probe into whether Roger Clemens committed perjury last month in front of a Congressional committee, regarding his use of performance-enhancing drugs, the New York Times reported on its Web site Thursday.

The Times said that agents have contacted a former employee of a fitness center that is just miles from Clemens' Houston home about whether the seven-time Cy Young Award winner purchased anabolic steroids or human growth hormone in the area.

Clemens insisted, both in a deposition and in public on Feb. 13 in front of the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee that he has never used performance-enhancing drugs, contradicting the testimony of Brian McNamee, his former personal trainer. McNamee was quoted in the Mitchell Report as saying that he injected Clemens with steroids and HGH 16 times from 1998 to 2002.

The leaders of that committee have since sent a letter to the Dept. of Justice, asking that the top prosecuting arm in the U.S. to determine whether Clemens committed perjury in his sworn testimony. The FBI has begun its own investigation, but the IRS, with agent Jeff Novitzky leading the investigation, is now probing whether Clemens also purchased the drugs in his hometown.

Novitzky is the same agent who dug through bins of trash for months building enough evidence against the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative to get a warrant to raid those premises in 2003. The ensuing investigation ensnared a number of baseball, football and track stars who all had blood work done by BALCO.

Barry Bonds, the former Giants star and MLB's all-time home run leader, is currently fighting four charges of perjury and one of obstruction of justice, involving his own testimony about performance-enhancing drugs made before a federal grand jury seated in San Francisco nearly five years ago.

The Times reported that the anonymous former employee of Shaun Kelley Weight Control was asked by the federal agent whether Clemens knew the center's owner, Shaun K. Kelley.

Kelly, in several interviews with the reporters from the newspaper, said Clemens was an acquaintance, but he wasn't involved in the sale of performance-enhancing drugs.

But Kelly had advertised HGH on his Web site, the newspaper reported, and that he had referred clients to Dr. Lisa C. Routh, a Houston psychiatrist, "including at least one person who was then prescribed steroids." Routh, in an interview, told The Times that she had never met Clemens and had never prescribed any medications for him.

Under federal law, HGH can only be prescribed under the narrowest of circumstances and cannot be used for performance enhancement or to recover from athletic injuries.

Clemens was seen at Kelley's center, according to the former employee who spoke to the agents, The Times reported. The newspaper also said that when Clemens showed up at the center, he explained that he was a friend of Kelley and waited while Kelley finished speaking to a client. Clemens then entered Kelley's office and stayed for about 20 minutes.

Kelly told The Times that the meeting never took place.

"I have never seen Clemens in my store, ever," he said. "This is all totally false."

Clemens gave testimony to the Committee in a Feb. 5 deposition and later at the hotly contested public hearing that broke down along party lines with Republicans chastising McNamee and Democrats taking whacks at Clemens.

The Dept. of Justice doesn't have to act on a Congressional referral and can open a grand jury on its own to review the existing evidence, although it has yet to determine whether it will do so. McNamee has a proffer agreement with federal prosecutors that states that he can be found criminally culpable of making false statements if he lied under oath.

The committee didn't ask the Dept. of Justice to investigate McNamee.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.