NFL quarterback Peyton Manning on Sunday called an Al Jazeera report linking him to performance-enhancing drugs “a joke, a freaking joke.”
Manning, who said he was “furious” and “disgusted,” addressed the issue during an interview with ESPN’s Lisa Salters. He accused Al Jazeera of defamation and adamantly denied he ever used the human growth hormone (HGH).
Al Jazeera’s explosive investigation said the Denver Broncos quarterback, one of the NFL’s biggest names and a star on Madison Avenue who has appeared in numerous commercials, was one of several high-profile athletes who were supplied the drug.
The documentary, which was posted online early Sunday morning, is the result of a months-long investigation. In the report, titled “The Dark Side,” British hurdler Liam Collins goes undercover to expose the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs in international sports. As part of his cover, Collins told medical professionals tied to the doping trade that he planned to compete in the 2016 Olympics.
The report claimed that steroids and other drugs were shipped to Manning’s home in 2011 in the name of his wife, Ashley, so that the quarterback’s name was never attached to the shipments. The documentary claimed that Manning was given human growth hormone in 2011 while he was recovering from neck surgery.
Charlie Sly, who allegedly spoke to an undercover reporter working for Al Jazeera, was named as Manning’s drug connection.
“Absolutely not, absolutely not,” Manning said. “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.”
Manning, 39, repeatedly referred to Sly as a “slapstick” during his interview with ESPN.
Al Jazeera identified Sly as a pharmacist employed at Guyer Institute, an Indiana-based anti-aging clinic. But 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 Collins.
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.
“I think I rotated between being angry, furious,” he said. “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.”‘
“It’s completely fabricated, complete trash, garbage — there’s more adjectives I’d like to be able to use. It really makes me sick.”
A statement on Al Jazeera’s website says “the investigation raises questions about whether medical professionals are helping athletes cross to the dark side, and whether doping in sport is reaching new levels.”