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Ryan Zimmerman Comments on Al Jazeera Report's PED Allegations, More

Washington Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Jeff Roberson/Associated Press
Mike ChiariFeatured Columnist IVDecember 13, 2016

In his first comments since an Al Jazeera America report linked him to alleged performance-enhancing drug use, Washington Nationals star Ryan Zimmerman was defiant Tuesday.

According to Chase Hughes of CSNMidAtlantic.com, the 31-year-old first baseman lamented the fact that the report could negatively impact his reputation within the community:

I've spent my whole career, my whole life really doing things the right way, so you're shocked. ... It's one of those things where you don't really have an answer. You don't know why or how this happened. Then, you turn from being shocked to being angry and frustrated. The biggest thing that frustrated me or angered me was not so much what you guys think or baseball players think, but I spend a lot of time I think in the community in D.C. with kids and families and things like that. To think that, I guess my integrity and the person that I really am is questioned by someone who has never met me, doesn't know what I'm about. I think that was probably the hardest part.

As seen in this video of the report, courtesy of Al Jazeera English on Twitter, Zimmerman was one of many accused of PED involvement, including Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning:

Zimmerman and Howard both filed a defamation lawsuit against Al Jazeera America on the heels of source Charlie Sly recanting the statements that Al Jazeera used to create the report.

Per Hughes, Zimmerman didn't think twice about filing the suit since he felt it was important to do everything possible to protect his reputation:

It was an easy decision for me to do it because I'm fortunate enough to have the resources. It's really, really hard to win these suits, but I think it's my responsibility not only to clear my name but if I do this and whether I win or lose on the defamation suit whatever it is, even if it gets to a trial, I sort of felt a responsibility because I am able to fight it that maybe if this stops this from happening to just one person after me, then it's worth it.

The 2005 first-round pick also revealed that he believes his trainer, Jason Riley, being linked to the report is the primary reason why his name was mentioned by Al Jazeera America:

None of that stuff is true. I've never done any of that. I've never thought about doing any of that. It's a tough spot. You do everything the right way. You work. You think something like this will never happen, and then, for some reason, it does.

I think Jason Riley is the reason that I was involved in this. Jason is a trainer I've worked with for years. His reputation is one of, if not the cleanest reputation trainers have. I can't speak for what happens with who he's involved with, things like that ... I would assume that that's the link. It's kind of reckless. A lot of people have worked with trainers and things like that. It's hard to just throw peoples' names out there without really having any sort of proof.

Zimmerman is a former All-Star, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award winner who has enjoyed an excellent 11-year career in Major League Baseball thus far.

The career .283 hitter with 200 home runs and 783 RBI has spent his entire career with the Nats and his name has never been at the forefront of PED suspicion until now.

According to Hughes, Zimmerman doesn't believe he has been treated fairly nor presumed innocent since the report was released despite his track record: "There's gotta be a line drawn somewhere. There's gotta be a way for innocent people to not be basically be proven guilty in the public opinion and then have to fight to be innocent. It's supposed to be the other way around in this country."

If the Nationals are going to return to the playoffs in 2016 after a one-year absence, they need Zimmerman to be on the field and to be among their top offensive contributors.

Fairly or not, Zimmerman figures to be under enhanced scrutiny by Major League Baseball moving forward due to the report.

There hasn't been any news with regard to a potential suspension, but going up against Al Jazeera America and winning could be Zimmerman's best hope of clearing his name.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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