An Al Jazeera documentary entitled The Dark Side: The Secret World of Sports Doping alleged that Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was one of several star athletes who had used performance-enhancing drugs. To fight these allegations, Peyton hired the former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer who now works as a crisis management consultant.
The Washington Post reported how Manning’s lawyers hired two PIs to look into the source of these allegations—one Charlie Sly. This pharmacist has since recanted his allegations that Peyton and other athletes took banned substances. Sly claimed that Al Jazeera recorded the accusations without his knowledge.
The PIs went so far as to show up at Sly’s house and talk to his parents who initially had their daughter called 911 about the strange men at the door. Once they understood the situation, the Slys let the men stay until Charlie Sly got home.
Sly’s lawyer Travis Cohron claimed that everything Sly said was a fabrication meant to impress the undercover reporter who he thought was a potential business partner. Cohron claimed that Sly’s comments were “pure puffery.”
However, there was a grain of truth in Sly’s comments according to Fleischer. The institute he was involved with had shipped medication to Ashley Manning. Fleischer claimed privacy issues and refused to identify the substance.
All of the players denied the claims that they took illicit drugs, and the baseball players Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Howard sued Al Jazeera for libel.
The Slys were only vaguely familiar with Al Jazeera, thinking it was only in the Middle East, so they thought the whole episode was a scam until the PIs showed up at their doorstep. Although the investigative report aired, Charlie Sly recorded a public statement disavowing the claims attributed to him.
While the truth of the scandal is not entirely clear, it appears that the claims against Manning and other athletes are far from rigorous.