WASHINGTON -- A majority of baseball fans think pitching great Roger Clemens lied when he told Congress he has never used steroids, yet most also say he should enter the sport's Hall of Fame, according to a poll released Wednesday.
At the same time, fans seem more forgiving about whether to punish past steroid users than they did before the Mitchell report on the use of performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball was released, the Gallup Poll showed. The report, unveiled in December, linked Clemens and dozens of other current and former players to the use of such drugs.
Asked about Clemens' denials, 57 percent said they think he was lying. That was nearly double the 31 percent who said he was telling the truth.
Clemens had a combative session earlier this month before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee at which he repeated earlier denials of using steroids. On Wednesday, Committee chairman Henry Waxman and ranking Republican Tom Davis sent a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey asking the Justice Department to investigate whether Clemens "committed perjury and made knowingly false statements" to a House committee.
The two said Clemens' statements in a Feb. 5 sworn deposition and at the Feb. 13 public hearing "that he never used anabolic steroids or human growth hormone warrants further investigation."
Sixty-two percent said they think Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, should be elected to baseball's Hall of Fame. That's about the same number who said in the survey that the Hall should admit sluggers Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, discredited in an earlier steroid scandal.
It's also more than the 46 percent who said they favor electing Barry Bonds to the Hall of Fame. The sport's home run king is battling federal charges that he lied when he testified he never knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs.
In the new poll, 55 percent said baseball should not punish current major league players named in the Mitchell report for using steroids. When Gallup asked a similar question weeks before the report was released, just 37 percent said there should not be punishments, while 60 percent said there should.
The Gallup Poll involved telephone interviews with 456 baseball fans and was conducted from Feb. 21-24. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.