steroids needle syringeA documentary that purports to be the result of an undercover HGH (human growth hormone, a performance-enhancing drug) and steroid investigation by Al Jazeera has been released to the Huffington Post, and it implicates, among others, MLB players Ryan Howard, Ryan Zimmerman, and Taylor Teagarden. The biggest name in the documentary, which has been embedded via YouTube in the Huffington Post article that discusses it in detail, is that of NFL quarterback Peyton Manning.

Manning immediately and vehemently denied any connection to HGH in a statement to ESPN: “For the record, I have never used HGH. It absolutely never happened. The whole thing is totally wrong. It’s such a fabrication, I’m not losing any sleep over it, that’s for sure …. [T]he allegation that I would do something like that is complete garbage and is totally made up. 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.”

On the baseball side, an attorney for Howard and Zimmerman released a statement to MLB Trade Rumors: “It’s inexcusable and irresponsible that Al Jazeera would provide a platform and broadcast outright lies about Mr. Howard and Mr. Zimmerman. The extraordinarily 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.”

If MLB finds they used PEDs, Howard and Zimmerman could be subject to an 80-game suspension.

As for Teagarden, who primarily played with the Iowa Cubs last year, but did appear enough with the big league team to give us The Taylor Teagarden Game, he is currently a free agent, but would also be subject to suspension. The documentary claims to show Teagarden admitting to using banned substances during the 2015 season.

You can read more about the investigation here at Huffington Post and here at ESPN, and you may immediately be struck, as I was, by how questionable the thing seems as a reporting endeavor. I’m not saying it may or may not be accurate in the end, but the man at the center of the documentary, Charles Sly, who is purported to have worked at an anti-aging clinic in Indiana and provided the HGH to the specifically-named athletes, has already recanted.

According to Sly, as told to ESPN, he thought the undercover reporter Al Jazeera used might be trying to steal information for business purposes, so he made things up to test the reporter’s legitimacy. Obviously Sly now has incentive to deny what he’d previously said, because he could be exposed to liability, but it does seem a little blustery – the Al Jazeera report indicates Sly worked at the involved clinic in 2011, but Sly told ESPN that he was actually a student intern there in 2013. Furthermore, while I understand that it’s hard to “get” a story like this with more than one source – people tend not to talk, especially publicly, about PED usage – I’m surprised to see a report like this released largely on the basis of a single source who may have simply been telling wild stories to the people with whom he was speaking

In other words, it seems just as plausible that Sly, who appears to have been trying to grow his business in the supplement market (I make no comment on whether it was illegal or illicit), was telling tales to impress a prospective client (or, as he claims, feeling that client out to see if he was “legit”), and that prospective client turned out to be a reporter who ran with it as a story. I’ll concede that it’s also possible that Sly was telling the truth in the documentary, and is now lying to try and limit his exposure to legal liability.

It all just strikes me as questionable. Even on that front, I’ve got to concede that it’s possible Al Jazeera has more confirming information that they’ve not yet put out there. It’s possible I’m missing something as to why their organization thought it was still in a firm position to go forward with a story that, at present, doesn’t look so solid.

I expect we’ll be hearing much more about this in the coming weeks, though I suspect the NFL side of the story will probably continue to drive the train, given the enormity of the primary name involved.

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