By Doug Russell Special to Published Jun 20, 2012 at 3:00 PM Photography: David Bernacchi

Roger Clemens was found not guilty by a federal court this week.

Ryan Braun was found not guilty by baseball's (at the time) independent arbitrator.

Both were accused of using performance enhancing drugs (PED's). Both have incurred the scorn of the public akin to Hester Prynne's dalliance with Arthur Dimmesdale in 1642. Of course today, the scarlet letter is not "A" but rather "S."

Steroids were the culture in baseball for, as best as anyone can tell, almost 20 years. Jose Canseco, once laughed off as a disgruntled kook with an ax to grind, was the first to blow the lid off the game's dirty little secret in his 2005 autobiography, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big.

But just as you wouldn't jump off a bridge bust because your friends did the same does not excuse not playing by the rules. And even the silly notion that steroids were not illegal in baseball until the passage of the 2005 drug policy is hogwash. The last time I checked, the law of the land trumps the law of the Bud every time.

Today we know that in different forms, PED's have been used and abused by the biggest names in the game. Rafael Palmeiro was found to have used steroids and was drummed out of the game for it. The cloud of suspicion over Sammy Sosa's head has rendered his 608 home runs almost as meaningless as the situations most of them were hit in.

Mark McGwire finally admitted to his steroid use; so did Jason Giambi. Barry Bonds will never admit to his because while its documentation and evidence was compelling, the government failed in their burden of proof to convict him of nothing other than a petty obstruction of justice charge.

With Clemens, the smoking gun was supposed to be the prosecution's airtight witnesses and empirical evidence. DNA was supposed to have been preserved by a medical professional. A longtime friend was supposed to have eviscerated whatever shred of believability Clemens had.

But the joke was on the feds.

Most believe that they actually saw Clemens' nose grow when he became America's laughingstock with the utterance "I think he misremembered" in speaking about his alleged steroid use to Congress on Feb. 13, 2008.

But that's all this comes down to. One publicly disastrous hearing in where Clemens was hauled in before a congressional subcommittee who apparently had nothing better to do than to try to clean up a sport that had already, albeit reluctantly, come correct on the matter years earlier.

This, of course, calls into question why Washington was even involved in the matter with more pressing issues like the housing crisis, the worldwide economy, foreign wars, terrorism, and health care to deal with. If there had been no hearing, after all, Clemens would not have been in a position to (allegedly) lie about the matter and the last four years he could have actually been able to live the life hundreds of other former ballplayers and (alleged) steroid users enjoyed.

"What a waste. I was thinking about it after all this time, what a waste of resources," Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said on Monday. "Then you hear about teachers and stuff who don't have paper and pencils for kids, and it seems like what a waste. What a waste of money."

In one way, Clemens and Braun will forever be linked as those that were officially exonerated of using PED's. They are linked by many fans' belief that both got off on a technicality. They are linked by their superstar status, and a fall from grace of the games they have dedicated their lives to.

Both may become Hall of Famers.

But this week, Braun fell to the fourth spot among National League outfielders in the All Star Game balloting, despite MVP-caliber numbers and previous league-wide popularity. This season, he has had to endure the microscope of suspicion and derision more than any other player in baseball.

In part because Dodgers fans believe their other-worldly center fielder, Matt Kemp, deserved last season's MVP Award over a rotten, filthy, dirty, steroid cheat, Ryan Braun was booed in his own hometown at the ballpark he grew up at, scorned by the same people he once cheered alongside.

This is akin to Jim Abrahams getting heckled at a UWM film festival. Unthinkable.

Of course, the player described by Brewers general manager Doug Melvin on the day he made his Major League debut as "a very confident young man," Braun has almost gravitated towards that fishbowl, thriving on the scrutiny, thumbing his nose at his detractors.

His statistics (.314, .608 SLG, 19 HR, 49 RBI through games of Tuesday) suggest no drop-off from when he was said to have been using. In fact, Braun has been the picture of consistency even when the Brewers were not playing good baseball. Without the protection of Prince Fielder in the lineup, Braun has been just as good as he ever was.

So much for the notion that Braun needed a pharmaceutical boost. The numbers simply do not support that theory.

Meanwhile, it is not hard to speculate when Clemens (alleged) steroid use began. The eyeball test (and trainer Brian McNamee's dubious testimony) suggests that 1997 was the year. After all, this would have been at the height of steroid use in the game, which was still reeling from the 1994 players' strike that cancelled the World Series and devastated fans worldwide. Hitters began bulking up; the Boston Red Sox had all but old their all-time best pitcher that he was finished at age 33, in part because he had been battling nagging injuries.

In 1997, Clemens, four years removed from his last All Star appearance, won the Cy Young Award for Toronto. In 1998, he did it again. In 2001, now playing for the Yankees, Clemens took the honor for the sixth time. Three years later, at age 41, Clemens won his seventh and final Cy Young Award while pitching for his hometown Houston Astros.

In hindsight, we all at least should have smelled a rat. Many did, but their voices were drowned out by the notion that steroids could not help pitchers. We wanted to believe that Roger Clemens had simply found his game and was determined to show Boston that they made a mistake in letting him go.

It is amazing what we all once believed.

Of course, as we sit here today, Roger Clemens – at least in the eyes of justice, which sometimes can be blind – is an innocent man.

How will the game he dedicated his life to treat him? Will there be forgiveness and redemption or will Clemens be blackballed for what most believe was cheating the game and never admitting the truth?

One side will believe that Clemens should pay for his (alleged) sins irrespective of what the court ruled. That just because someone was found not guilty does not address actual innocence. Those believe that a cheat is a cheat is a cheat and no cheaters belong in Cooperstown.

The slippery slope flaw in that argument is then the revisionist history one would have to do throughout the Hall of Fame gallery, picking and choosing who stays and who goes. This is and forever shall be an impossible task.

The truth of Roger Clemens' ultimate fate will be that of the best pitcher in an ugly era of baseball, but an era that nevertheless should not simply be simply swept away. He will wind up in Cooperstown, eventually, as he should be. As will Barry Bonds, believe it or not.

But now that there is a verdict, may there now be peace within the game itself? Please?

The fact of the matter is that baseball has cleaned up its house. Yes, it should have happened years before it did, but there isn't a thing anyone can do about it today.

Or as Mattingly concluded, "Really, I don't think anybody cares. At this point nobody cares, its like, 'So long.'"

Doug Russell Special to

Doug Russell has been covering Milwaukee and Wisconsin sports for over 20 years on radio, television, magazines, and now at

Over the course of his career, the Edward R. Murrow Award winner and Emmy nominee has covered the Packers in Super Bowls XXXI, XXXII and XLV, traveled to Pasadena with the Badgers for Rose Bowls, been to the Final Four with Marquette, and saw first-hand the entire Brewers playoff runs in 2008 and 2011. Doug has also covered The Masters, several PGA Championships, MLB All-Star Games, and Kentucky Derbys; the Davis Cup, the U.S. Open, and the Sugar Bowl, along with NCAA football and basketball conference championships, and for that matter just about anything else that involves a field (or court, or rink) of play.

Doug was a sports reporter and host at WTMJ-AM radio from 1996-2000, before taking his radio skills to national syndication at Sporting News Radio from 2000-2007. From 2007-2011, he hosted his own morning radio sports show back here in Milwaukee, before returning to the national scene at Yahoo! Sports Radio last July. Doug's written work has also been featured in The Sporting News, Milwaukee Magazine, Inside Wisconsin Sports, and Brewers GameDay.

Doug and his wife, Erika, split their time between their residences in Pewaukee and Houston, TX.