Manning Protects Legacy, NFL Clears Champion of Alleged PED Violations

On Monday, July 25, 2016, the NFL cleared Payton Manning, former quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos, of alleged human growth hormone (HGH) or other performance-enhancing drug (PED) use. Manning retired from the NFL following winning Super Bowl 50 with the Broncos.

Al Jazeera America aired a report in late December 2015 alleging that several professional athletes had received HGH or other PEDs from an anti-aging clinic, a violation of professional sports leagues. The report was based on hidden camera footage taken by Charles Sly, an employee at the clinic, the Guyer Institute, which allegedly provided the drugs, which supposedly proved that the athletes ordered the banned drugs and delivered the shipments. Sly later recanted his statements, stating that the video was recorded without his knowledge and intended to impress a potential business partner.

Shortly after, the NFL initiated an investigation, which included witness interviews, medical records, online research, and laboratory analysis and review. Additionally, the league interviewed Manning and his wife, who were “fully cooperative with the investigation.”

After finding “no credible evidence” against Manning, the NFL officially closed its investigation. Manning has preserved the right to file a defamation lawsuit, joining Zimmerman and Howard. The champion footballer could assert that Al Jazeera knowingly published false statements that damaged his reputation. Manning, however, would have to prove actual malice in the case, highlighting the fact that Al Jazeera knew the information was false and published the report anyways. Manning is likely not to pursue the suit due to the personal information that may be revealed through litigation; if packages were received by Manning’s wife from the Guyer Institute, their contents would be revealed.

Although Manning has been cleared, other players remain under investigation. The league is still reviewing the accusations against Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews, Mike Neal, and James Harrison. Addtionally, MLB players Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Howard were named in the report. Zimmerman and Howard have filed defamation lawsuits against Al Jazeera America, which recently ended its operations.

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