Even if New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez is telling the truth and didn't receive performance-enhancing drugs from a South Florida wellness clinic, the American public will never believe him, Rusty Hardin, Roger Clemens' attorney, told USA TODAY Sports.
"The sports world has turned the assumption of innocence on its head," Hardin said Wednesday in a telephone interview. "I am thoroughly convinced there is no way an innocent ballplayer can get out in front of these allegations.
"I truly know nothing about Alex Rodriguez, but do you think anybody is going to believe Alex Rodriguez now? Nobody is going to listen to him or any of these guys accused.
"The presumption is so strong that they did it and they're lying. The only way Alex Rodriguez is going to get a fair shake is by going to court and proving it.
"Who wants to wish that on anyone? Even if acquitted, the majority of the sports world still is going to assume he did it."
Clemens, represented by Hardin, vehemently disputed allegations in former Sen. George Mitchell's 2007 report on steroids that he used performance-enhancing drugs.
Clemens filed a defamation lawsuit against his former trainer, Brian McNamee, swore under oath in 2008 that he never took steroids, and, after being indicted by a grand jury in 2010 on charges of making false statements to Congress, was found not guilty in June on all six counts of lying to Congress.
"That was the only way Roger could get a fair hearing, but like Roger told Congress, he still lost his innocence. People still don't believe him," Hardin said.
"The problem now is that so many players deny it, and later on admit it, so the accusation carries additional weight."
Hardin declined to specify the advice he would give to Rodriguez if the Miami New Times report is inaccurate.
Yet if the report is correct in asserting Rodriguez purchased performance-enhancing drugs in 2009 and 2012 from Biogenesis, a clinic in Coral Gables, Fla., Hardin says Rodriguez should follow the lead of Yankees starter Andy Pettitte in 2007 and publicly admit his transgressions.
"If you did it, the way Andy Pettitte went about it is exactly the way to go. You admit it, accept responsibility and move on," Hardin says.
"If you didn't do it, then you've got to follow your conscience and recognize it's not going to work. People are too cynical to believe you.
"What we did with Roger didn't work. He denied it from every rooftop he could. What we discovered with Roger was that his denial just brought more scorn. After a while, we just shut up."
Hardin senses a similar path for Rodriguez.
"I don't think anything is ever going to change, no matter what Roger says. You never get your reputation back," Hardin says.
"Alex Rodriguez will find that out."
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