An Al Jazeera America report claiming Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning used human growth hormone in 2011 came under fire Sunday. The five-time NFL MVP is reportedly furious over the accusation, which has now been recanted by the key source in the news agency's reporting, and "probably will" sue as a result.
The Washington Times reports that Charlie Sly, the source of the HGH claims for Manning and other professional athletes, says he was videotaped by Al Jazeera's Liam Collins without his knowledge or consent.
"The statements on any recordings or any communications that Al-Jazeera plans to air are absolutely false and incorrect," Mr. Sly said on YouTube. "To be clear, I am recanting any such statements and there is no truth to any statement of mine that Al Jazeera plans to air. Under no circumstances should any of those statements recordings or communications be aired."
Al Jazzera's undercover investigation claimed Sly worked at the Guyer Institute in Indianapolis in 2011 as a pharmacist while Manning was recovering from neck surgery. However, Sly told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that he isn't a pharmacist and was not employed by the institute at the time.
Sly admits telling Al Jazeera hurdler Collins that Manning and other athletes used HGH, but that he gave the false information in order to "determine whether this guy was legitimate or just trying to steal some knowledge about the business."
The would-be accuser recanted his story to Al Jazeera after realizing the news outlet was going to use the made up claim. The news outlet pushed ahead with the report anyways.
"When I was there, I had never seen the Mannings ever. They were not even living there at that time," Sly told ESPN after recanting. "Someone who worked there said they had been there before. That was the extent of any knowledge I had. I feel badly. I never saw any files. This is just amazing that it reached this point."
The Al Jazeera report, titled "The Dark Side," used Sly's claim to allege performance enhancing drugs were shipped to Manning's home address under his wife's name in 2011. Manning acknowledges he received nutrition and oxygen therapy from Dr. Dale Guyer of the Guyer Institute, but his wife never provided any medication for him to take.
"Yeah, I probably will. I'm that angry," Manning said.
It remains to be seen if Manning will follow through with the threat of a lawsuit. As Pro Football Talk notes, defamation suits for public figures are extremely difficult to prove in the United States due to a high standard of proof. It also opens up the plaintiff to an investigation of his personal life by the defendant's lawyers during the discovery phase. This also opens up the HGH use accusation to being a constant part of the news cycle with ESPN and other outlets. Manning and his lawyers will have to weigh out the benefits and chance of winning before they proceed down that road.
This is also a difficult time for Manning as he's spent the last six weeks recoving from a plantar fascia tear in his foot. The team has gone 3-2 under backup quarterback Brock Osweiler during that time, but face a tough test in the Monday night matchup against the AFC Central-leading Cincinnati Bengals.
[Photo by Jack Dempsey/AP Photo]