Five-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning is considering taking legal action against the Al-Jazeera television network for airing a documentary which asserts Manning ingested Human Growth Hormone in 2011.
The documentary, titled “The Dark Side,” follows British hurdler and convicted fraud Liam Collins as he attempts to gain access to performance enhancing drugs. Over the course of the documentary, Collins encounters Charles “Chuck” Sly, a former pharmacist living in Austin, TX, who claims he was part of a medical team at Indianapolis’ Guyer Institute that supplied the future Hall of Famer with the banned substance HGH, while he was recovering from neck surgeries.
Manning, the Denver Broncos, the Indianapolis Colts, and even the accuser himself, have released statements denying or recanting the accusations since news of the documentary broke late Saturday night.
Sly recanted his story saying he was filmed without his knowledge and that any statements made about Manning, or any number of other athletes Sly mentions in the documentary were “false and incorrect.”
A statement released by Dr. Dale Guyer, owner of the Guyer Insitute, claims Sly was in fact an unpaid intern at the Indianapolis anti-aging clinic two years after Manning received treatment in the facility’s hyperbaric chamber, and was not associated in any way with the former Super Bowl MVP’s recovery.
Despite the dubious nature of the claims made in the documentary, Al-Jazeera English aired the documentary Saturday evening and released on YouTube where as of 6:30 MST Sunday Night. It had already been viewed more than 81,000 times.
The release of the documentary has spurred Manning and his advisors into action. Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who is advising Manning on this matter, told the Mile High Huddle that Manning is still considering a course of action and that the accusations made against him by Sly in the documentary are untrue.
“He has never used HGH, never failed a drug test, and these accusations are completely baseless," Fleischer said.
However, Manning himself is using much stronger words, telling Sports Illustrated’s Peter King that he is strongly considering legal action against Al-Jazeera for airing the documentary.
“Yeah, I probably will,” Manning said. “I’m that angry.”
In an emotional interview with ESPN’s Lisa Salters that aired on “NFL Countdown” Sunday morning, Manning used the strongest possible language to describe his feelings about the accusations.
“I think I rotate between angry, furious, and disgusted,” Manning said. “It really makes me sick. I’d love to understand why this guy is saying this, why he’s making this up. It’s garbage. It’s a complete joke.”
Going forward, Manning and his team will have to decide whether a defamation suit is the right course of action. Defamation lawsuits involving public figures require proof of “actual malice,” towards the plaintiff, which means Manning would have to prove that Al-Jazeera not only aired false statements, but that they were well aware that the statements they aired were false.
Launching such a suit is a slippery slope for the notoriously private Manning, however. Doing so would likely require a pretrial discovery period wherein Manning may be forced to reveal information about himself or his family.
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