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Clemens trial begins with jury selection

Record-setting pitcher Roger Clemens is becoming the latest prominent player to stand trial on criminal charges from baseball’s steroids era.

Clemens goes on trial Wednesday in federal court on charges of lying to Congress in 2008 when he denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs during his 23-year career.

The trial began by narrowing a pool of 125 Washington, D.C., residents to a panel of 12 jurors and four alternates. The trial is expected to last four to six weeks.

The case will pit Clemens against his former trainer, Brian McNamee, who says he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone several times during the decade they worked out together.

Clemens’ attorneys say McNamee made up the allegations to save himself from unemployment and prosecution on drug charges.

On Wednesday, prosecutors and the defence read the panel a list of people who may be called as witnesses or mentioned at the trial.

It included some of the biggest names in baseball, among them players who have been at the centre of the steroid scandal, such as Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and Jose Canseco.

Also on the list were baseball commissioner Bud Selig, New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, former Yankees manager Joe Torre, former players union director Donald Fehr and several other officials and teammates from the four major league teams Clemens played for.

Jurors were asked about their knowledge of those figures as well as their feelings about the case, baseball, Congress and the law. They were asked whether they played organized sports, read sports news or were baseball fans.

One woman was not. “I can’t imagine spending money to watch a sport where guys scratch themselves and spit a lot,” she said, drawing a smile from Clemens, who otherwise sat expressionless through most of the proceedings.

Another potential juror, former personal trainer and Little League coach Omari Bradley, said he was an avid sports fan who has seen a media drumbeat that Clemens should just admit he used steroids. Clemens lawyer Rusty Hardin asked, “Can you be one of the few men in America not to be affected by it or are we going to start out this trial with you thinking he probably did it?”

Bradley, 37, responded it would be difficult for him to find Clemens not guilty. The judge excused him and two others. Six were told to return Tuesday in hopes of seating a panel that day.