Peyton Manning Among Athletes Allegedly Connected to Doping Ring, Per Report

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured Columnist

Denver Broncos injured quarterback Peyton Manning stands on the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

Al Jazeera aired an investigative report Dec. 27 titled The Dark Side: Secrets of the Sports Dopers that reportedly connected several athletes, including Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, to a doping ring, according to the Huffington Post's Travis Waldron and Ryan Grim.

Players Allegedly Named in Dark Side Report
Peyton ManningQB, Denver Broncos
Mike NealLB, Green Bay Packers
Clay MatthewsLB, Green Bay Packers
Julius PeppersLB, Green Bay Packers
James HarrisonLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Dustin KellerFormer NFL Tight End
Ryan Howard1B, Philadelphia Phillies
Ryan Zimmerman1B, Washington Nationals
Mike TysonFormer Boxer
Taylor TeagardenC, Chicago Cubs
Source: The Huffington Post

Continue for updates.

Howard Suing for Defamation

Tuesday, Jan. 5

Jim Salisbury of CSN Philadelphia reported Phillies slugger Ryan Howard is suing Al Jazeera America for defamation.

Salisbury, citing a person with knowledge of the situation, reported Dec. 30 that William Burck of the law firm Quinn Emanuel sent a letter to Al Jazeera demanding the retraction of its report, which named Howard in connection with performance-enhancing drugs. Burck said:

Al Jazeera tried sneaking out a correction which acknowledges major errors in their story about our clients Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Howard. The original defamatory "report" connected our clients to the use of HGH, but Al Jazeera has now admitted this defamatory accusation was wholly false and unsubstantiated. Al Jazeera's acknowledgment confirms their unforgivable sloppiness and the recklessness of its publication of this false story. Al Jazeera must retract the remaining false allegations against our clients immediately.

On Dec. 27, Burck spoke about the allegations, per Salisbury:

It's inexcusable and irresponsible that Al Jazeera would provide a platform and broadcast outright lies about Mr. Howard and Mr. Zimmerman.

The extraordinary reckless claims made against our clients in this report are completely false and rely on a source who has already recanted his claims.

We will go to court to hold Al Jazeera and other responsible parties accountable for smearing our clients' good names.

Zimmerman Taking Legal Action

Tuesday, Jan. 5

Reuters reported Zimmerman is suing Al Jazeera America for defamation.

New York Times Digs Deeper Into Charles Sly

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Tuesday, Jan. 5

Michael Powell of the New York Times, with help from colleagues Ken Belson and Doris Burke, reported more detail on Sly's backstory and the possible connection between the athletes he named in his confession to Al Jazeera:

Nearly all of the athletes he named are clients of Jason Riley, a fitness trainer based in Sarasota, Fla.

Sly is a business partner of Riley's. When Sly applied for a pharmacist license in Florida, he used Riley's home address.

Riley and Sly founded Elementz Nutrition, a nutritional supplements company whose website and Facebook page feature many athletes Sly mentioned on camera. Zimmerman is featured on the website; Howard, Neal and Keller on the Facebook page. In one photograph on Facebook, Riley poses at his gym, the Compound, between the mountainous Howard and the no less imposing Neal.

Not every athlete cited by Sly in the Al Jazeera report is connected to Elementz, and not all of Elementz's big-time clients were mentioned by Sly.

Al Jazeera Reporter Says Network Has 2nd Source for Manning Allegations

Sunday, Jan. 3

Michael O'Keeffe of the New York Daily News passed along comments from Deborah Davies of Al Jazeera, who said on CNN's Reliable Sources that the network had a source who confirmed Manning's wife was sent human growth hormone and was "absolutely impeccably placed, knowledgeable and credible."

The source was not named in The Dark Side because "the source was confidential and could not be named," according to Davies, who said the network only used the source to corroborate pharmacist Charlie Sly's statements.

NFL Issues Statement on Report

Monday, Dec. 28

"We are reviewing the matter. Our procedure is to follow up on any information that potentially involves a violation of this nature," the NFL said in a statement, via Tom Pelissero of USA Today.

Harrison Comments on Potential Legal Action

Monday, Dec. 28

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison told reporters he spoke to lawyers and determined it "wouldn't be worth his trouble" to sue Al Jazeera over the claims made in the report.

Reporter Stands By Manning Claims in Report

Monday, Dec. 28

Davies made an appearance on MSNBC, where she stood by the claims made regarding Manning and his wife, Ashley:

Manning Comments on Taking Legal Action

Sunday, Dec. 27

Peter King of Sports Illustrated asked Manning if he'll sue the makers of the documentary (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk). “Yeah, I probably will," Manning said. "I'm that angry."

However, Florio outlined why suing might not be in Manning's best interest:

Filing a defamation case, which for a public figure involves a very high standard of proof, is one of the worst things to do in anger, because the pre-trial discovery process can lead to plenty of added frustration. Much of the plaintiff's private life becomes fair game, with defense lawyers entitled to explore plenty of seemingly irrelevant facts in order to determine the plaintiff's reputation before the alleged falsehood harmed the plaintiff's image. Also, any claim for damages based on emotional distress arising from the false allegations invites a wide range of personal questions regarding other sources of stress in the plaintiff's life, and regarding how the alleged stress from the defamatory statement affected overall happiness and well-being.

Sly Recants Original Comments

Sunday, Dec. 27

The documentary reportedly alleges that the Guyer Institute, an Indianapolis anti-aging clinic, provided Manning with human growth hormone, mailing supplements addressed to his wife, Ashley Manning, following the quarterback's 2011 neck surgery.

"All the time we would be sending Ashley Manning drugs," Sly said in the documentary, per Waldron and Grim. "Like growth hormone, all the time, everywhere, Florida. And it would never be under Peyton's name; it would always be under her name."

Sly also alleges he provided several high-profile athletes with Delta-2, which is classified as a hormone supplement that is not an anabolic steroid but rather "steroidal in nature." 

However, Sly declined to back up his assertions in the documentary when asked for comment by Al Jazeera, saying his comments about supplying substances to athletes were "false and incorrect." ESPN.com provided additional comments from Sly:

Sly told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that he isn't a pharmacist and wasn't at the Guyer Institute in 2011, as Al Jazeera claimed. State licensing records indicate that a Charles David Sly was licensed as a pharmacy intern in Indiana from April 2010 to May 2013. His license expired May 1, 2013.

Sly also said he recanted his story to Al Jazeera when he realized that it had used information he had "made up" to British hurdler Liam Collins, the undercover reporter who Sly said was trying to get into the supplementation business. ...

Sly said he was "testing" Al Jazeera's undercover reporter by dropping "names like Peyton Manning, Derek Jeter, Ryan Howard and James Harrison." He said none were clients. While Manning, Howard and Harrison were mentioned in Al Jazeera's HGH investigation, Jeter was not.

"When I realized Al Jazeera was using a secret taping and Collins as a so-called investigative reporter, I was baffled," Sly said. "I cannot believe that can happen. That's why I recanted the story. It wasn't true, and I was trying to pull one over on Collins to see if he had any idea of what he was talking about.

"I was trying to determine whether this guy [Collins] was legitimate or just trying to steal some knowledge about the business."

The documentary is said to revolve around the undercover dealings of Collins, who used aspirations of competing in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro as a way to link up with Sly and other medical personnel to reveal alleged indiscretions.

Manning Comments on Allegations

Sunday, Dec. 27

"The allegation that I would do something like that is complete garbage and is totally made up," Manning said in the statement on Saturday night, per Troy E. Renck and Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post. "It never happened. Never. I really can't believe somebody would put something like this on the air. Whoever said this is making stuff up."

"Manning acknowledged that he went to the Guyer Institute in 2011 to use a hyperbaric chamber, which was recommended by trainers and doctors with the Indianapolis Colts. But the five-time NFL MVP "emphatically said that he is angry at the report that he received HGH," per ESPN.com.

Manning also spoke about the allegations on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown and accused Al Jazeera of defamation when denying the report. ESPN.com transcribed Manning's comments:

Absolutely not, absolutely not. What hurts me the most about this, whoever this guy is, this slapstick trying to insinuate that in 2011, when more than less I had a broken neck—I had four neck surgeries. ... It stings me whoever this guy is to insinuate that I cut corners, I broke NFL rules in order to get healthy. It's a joke. It's a freaking joke. ...

I'm not going to lose any sleep over this report, this slapstick's lies. Keep my head up above it, keep pressing on, trying to get healthy, trying to get back onto the field next week, practice with the team and go from there. ...

I think I rotated between being angry, furious. Disgusted is really how I feel, sickened by it. I'm trying to understand how someone can make something up about somebody, admit that he made it up and yet somehow it gets published in a story. I don't understand that. Maybe you can explain it or somebody else can.

It's completely fabricated, complete trash, garbage—there's more adjectives I'd like to be able to use. It really makes me sick.

ESPN @espn

"It's defamation and it really ticks me off." Peyton Manning disgusted with report linking him to HGH in 2011: https://t.co/990i4EJ2hB

Manning also stated that any treatment for his wife, Ashley, should be her business: 

Any medical treatments that my wife receives, that's her business. That has nothing to do with me. Nothing that was sent to her and my wife has used have I ever taken. Absolutely not.

I have my treatments that I do. She may have hers, but that's her business. There's no connection between the two. I'd love to understand why this guy's saying this, why he made it up, that he admits he makes it up and yet it still becomes a story. I'd like to be told and explained that.

Matthews Comments on Allegations

Sunday, Dec. 27

When asked about the Al Jazeera report, Matthews stated it was "bulls--t", per Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

NFL to Investigate Alleged Players

Sunday, Dec. 27

Mark Maske of the Washington Post, citing a source, reported the NFL will investigate the allegations mentioned in the report.

As Waldron and Grim noted, the NFL banned HGH when it signed its new collective bargaining agreement in 2011 and didn't start testing for the performance-enhancing substance until 2014. 

Broncos Support Manning

Sunday, Dec. 27

The Broncos released a statement on Sunday morning on Manning's behalf:

Knowing Peyton Manning and everything he stands for, the Denver Broncos support him 100 percent. These are false claims made to Al Jazeera, and we don't believe the report.

Peyton is rightfully outraged by the allegations, which he emphatically denied to our organization and which have been publicly renounced by the source who initially provided them.

Throughout his NFL career, particularly during his four seasons with the Broncos, Peyton has shown nothing but respect for the game. Our organization is confident Peyton does things the right way, and we do not find this story to be credible.

Colts Defend Manning

Sunday, Dec. 27

Lindsay Jones @bylindsayhjones

Statement from the Colts re: Peyton Manning and treatments in 2011. https://t.co/6LbMa5LKKu

Fleischer, Manning's Agent Comment on Allegations Against Manning

Sunday, Dec. 27

"Ari Fleischer, who heads a sports communications company and is an adviser to Manning, slammed the accusations in an interview with the Denver Post on Saturday night, calling the report "junk journalism," wrote Renck and Jhabvala"There's no truth to it," Fleischer said. "What they have is a well-known con man from England who secretly recorded a former intern."

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport relayed a synopsis from his conversation with Fleischer:

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

Peyton Manning spokesman Ari Fleischer told me Manning has never used HGH, never failed any league drug tests & this won't affect his status

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

Manning spokesman did say Peyton's wife was a patient at this anti-aging clinic in question. She had a prescription, wouldn't say for what

According to Waldron and Grim, Manning's agent told Al Jazeera the documentary's assertions are "outrageous and wrong" but did not flatly deny the clinic sent HGH to the quarterback's wife: "The treatment he received at the Guyer Institute was provided on the advice of his physician and with the knowledge of team doctors and trainers."

Nationals Defend Zimmerman 

Sunday, Dec. 27

The Nationals defended Zimmerman in a press release

We do not find Al Jazeera's report -- which has been recanted by their source -- to be credible. Ryan has unequivocally stated that these allegations are false. The Lerner family and our organization fully support him. We are confident Major League Baseball's investigation will show the allegations levied in this report are unfounded. We will fully cooperate with MLB and refer all questions to them at this time.

Harrison and Zimmerman all denied using the supplement to Al Jazeera, while the other members of the group reportedly didn't respond to requests for comment. 


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