Something smells rotten about Peyton Manning debacle
Veracity of Al Jazeera report linking NFL star to a banned drug still be determined, but motive for the report is a mystery
Time waits for no one. It’s even more impatient in the world of sports.
We may have recently witnessed some athletes seemingly cheat time only to find out they had a bit of help thanks to performance-enhancing drugs. But their feats have still been good for business and what self-respecting business reins things in because its practices may be unethical when profits are going through the roof? Pick your favourite sport and your favourite league and they are hardly immune to putting dollars before sense. It’s well documented.
So we as sports fans are completely justified by our heightened level of cynicism, so much so that when someone alleges that a 39-year old NFL quarterback may have used banned substances to keep playing it’s not really a big story. However when that quarterback is considered an American sporting icon it takes on a life of its own and then becomes a huge story.
Peyton Manning is one of the most revered athletes in the US and one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. He has been involved in a number of high profile charitable causes and is an omnipresent, polished and engaging corporate pitchman. He is also generous with his time and has always treated the media with respect.
Not surprisingly, he gets the benefit of the doubt on most issues from both fans and the press. Manning is now finishing his fourth season with the Denver Broncos after playing 14 years with the Indianapolis Colts.
At 39, he has battled injuries and poor performance all season and when he finally returns to active duty this weekend he will do so as the backup to Brock Osweiller. But whatever battles Manning has faced on the field this season pales in comparison to his fight off the field to protect his legacy. After a report aired on Al Jazeera this past week on drugs in sports featuring a dubious character detailing a slew of athletes he has helped secure performance enhancing drugs, Manning was furious.
Almost immediately he said he would probably sue Al Jazeera and after a day or two to reflect he hardly backed down. “The report wasn’t true Sunday,” he said. “It’s not true today and it won’t ever be true. And I’m still angry about it.”
Actually calling the Al Jazeera piece a report is somewhat misleading. This was a flat out sting operation by the network using an undercover former Olympic hurdler, Briton Liam Collins, working under the guise of making a comeback and willing to use whatever banned drugs possible to accomplish his goals.
Collins eventually comes across a guy in Texas, Charles Sly, who once interned at an anti-aging clinic in Indianapolis that Manning used to recover from a neck injury in 2011 and which also mailed batches of human growth hormones (HGH) to Manning’s wife Ashley.
Also named by Sly as drug users were a number of high profile athletes including baseball players Ryan Howard and Ryan Zimmerman and football’s Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers. Sly subsequently denied making the comments even though the footage shows he clearly did. Collins also has a dubious history as well having been implicated in a multi-million pound property swindle in the UK.
Al Jazeera claims it was not implicating Manning and simply stating that the clinic sent HGH, which is banned by the NFL, to his wife Ashley. This is the one fact that all parties involved have agreed on. However one big question remains: Why Al Jazeera? Based in Qatar, the network has prided itself on providing un-biased news coverage and sought to expand its reach by launching Al Jazeera America in 2013.
Still, how drugs in sports ended up on their radar is something of a mystery. Perhaps because they have no contracts with any major sporting leagues they felt unencumbered in their search for truth.
But someone at the network has to have the desire to pursue a story like this, someone has to have an agenda and if that agenda is to create a buzz over the network in the US then it would seem like mission accomplished.
Only time will tell what their motives were and only time will tell how much of the report is fact and how much is innuendo. A few of the athletes are threatening to sue but that should not concern you or I. We are free to believe what we want and if what you choose to believe is that sports today is rife with performance enhancing drugs, regardless of an athlete’s age or stature, then that is your prerogative. At this stage, we come by those thoughts naturally.