Roger Clemens yesterday denied allegations by his former trainer that he took performance-enhancing drugs, calling the drugs "a dangerous and destructive shortcut that no athlete should ever take."

Brian McNamee's accusations against the seven-time Cy Young Award winner were the most striking in last week's Mitchell Report.

Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell wrote that McNamee had said he injected Clemens with steroids in 1998 while the pitcher was with Toronto, and with steroids and human growth hormone in 2000 and 2001 while Clemens was with the New York Yankees.

"I want to state clearly and without qualification: I did not take steroids, human growth hormone, or any other banned substances at any time in my baseball career or, in fact, my entire life," Clemens said in a statement issued through his agent.

Another former McNamee client, Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte, said last weekend that he had taken HGH twice while rehabilitating after an injury in 2002. Mitchell said McNamee had told him that he injected Pettitte with HGH two to four times that year.

McNamee "stands 100 percent behind the accuracy of the information he provided to Sen. Mitchell," McNamee's lawyer, Ed Ward, said.

Baseball players and owners did not have an agreement banning steroids until September 2002. They banned HGH in January 2005.

Selig defends program.

Commissioner Bud Selig insisted that baseball has been proactive in identifying players who used steroids and other banned performance-enhancing drugs.

He also cited Major League Baseball's funding of a program on HGH and baseball's minor-league testing program as proof that he hadn't lagged in efforts to clean up the sport.

His remarks came on a day Congress announced plans to review the use of performance-enhancing drugs, with star-studded hearings scheduled next month and legislation to limit access to steroids and growth hormones.

Agreeing to a request by Selig, the players' union said it would discuss with owners the Mitchell Report's recommendations to toughen baseball's drug program.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Dennis Miller for a telecast tonight on the cable channel Versus, Pete Rose said players who used steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs were "making a mockery" of baseball.

Rose, the career hits leader, has been banned by baseball for gambling.

Orioles.

Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts admitted using steroids, but insisted he had tried them only once before realizing he made a "terrible decision." He was named in the Mitchell Report.

Nationals.

Washington's new ballpark will be the scene of the traditional Sunday night opener when the Nationals host the Atlanta Braves on March 30.

The major-league season begins the week before when Boston plays Oakland in two games in Tokyo.

Also, a woman's request for a restraining order against Nationals outfielder Elijah Dukes was dismissed after she failed to appear for a hearing in Tampa, Fla.

Dukes, traded by the Tampa Bay Rays last month, appeared in court alone. He replied "no" when the judge asked whether he had anything to do with Amanda Reese's absence.

Jurisprudence.

Yankees traveling secretary David Szen pleaded guilty in federal court to filing a false tax return and admitted he failed to report more than $50,000 in tips from players and coaches. He was fired yesterday, according to a Yankees spokesman.. . . Former Seattle reliever Julio Mateo, 30, pleaded guilty in New York to charges he beat his wife, Santa Martina Sanchez, in a Manhattan hotel May 5. The Mariners traded him to the Phillies for a minor-league shortstop in July, and he was sent to Reading before being released this month. In exchange for the plea, Mateo was spared jail and ordered to enter a domestic-abuse program.

Elsewhere.

San Diego completed its $3.85 million, one-year contract with former Phillies infielder Tadahito Iguchi. . . . The New York Mets bolstered their bullpen, agreeing with righthander Matt Wise, formerly with Milwaukee, on a $1.2 million, one-year contract. . . . The Houston Astros and former Atlanta righthander Chad Paronto agreed to a one-year, $500,000 contract.