Baseball Players Sue Al Jazeera, Peyton Manning Also Seriously Considering Lawsuit

Ryan Howard and Ryan Zimmerman filed defamation lawsuits against Al Jazeera after the news agency linked them to performance enhancing drugs. Peyton Manning is also considering a lawsuit.

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Jan 6 2016, 2:46am

Photo by Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Al Jazeera was too little, too late.

Washington Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman and Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard sued Al Jazeera and two of the network's reporters in federal court in Washington, D.C., Tuesday for linking the former All-Stars to the use of a banned performance-enhancing substance in last month's bombshell report that included allegations against Broncos QB Peyton Manning.

As VICE Sports reported last week, the two baseball players promised to take Al Jazeera to court unless the broadcaster retracted the story. Al Jazeera backpedaled by issuing a small correction to the story, which apparently did not satisfy the players. Zimmerman and Howard filed separate suits in U.S. District Court, potentially putting the case against Al Jazeera in front of two different judges.

By filing separately, the two players' attorneys can evaluate the judges assigned to the cases. They can then consider consolidating the two lawsuits into one depending on which court they feel might be most favorable to hearing their case.

Both ballplayers released statements Tuesday night hammering Al Jazeera. "I have always taken pride in my personal conduct," Zimmerman said. "While I am not a litigious person, I felt it was necessary to file this suit to restore my reputation and to hold Al Jazeera accountable for its actions. The suit speaks for itself, and I have no plans to discuss this any further."

Howard, meanwhile, said, "Today I authorized my attorneys to file suit against Al Jazeera and its reporters. Their irresponsible reporting forced me to take this action to protect my name and to fight back against the spreading of these lies. I will have no further comment, as the filing itself contains all I need to say."

"The substance alleged was Delta 2, not HGH," read a correction from Al Jazeera. That was not enough to deter Ryan Zimmerman from filing a lawsuit. Photo by Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Still to be determined is whether Manning will join them. Sources say Manning is seriously considering a lawsuit, as well. However, Manning's on-the-field situation may shelve any litigation until after the season. On Sunday, Manning rescued the Broncos by coming off the bench, replacing Brock Osweiler, to rally Denver to a victory over San Diego that clinched the team home field in the playoffs. He is likely to be the team's starting quarterback for the remainder of the season.

Under D.C.'s statute of limitations, Manning has one year to file a lawsuit. So he could simply let the two baseball players proceed with their cases and see how it plays out before filing. Depending on the outcome—for example, a settlement where Al Jazeera admits wrongdoing—Manning may not even have to sue at all.

Manning was the headliner for the report, "The Dark Side," which linked Manning's wife, Ashley, to alleged shipments of human growth hormone from the Guyer Institute in Indianapolis, but both baseball players were implicated, accused of procuring the banned substance Delta 2, a steroid precursor.

The ballplayers' filings state that Al Jazeera knew there were problems with the veracity of the main source in the story, Charlie Sly, who claimed to have been an intern at the Guyer Institute, an anti-aging clinic. In secret recordings, Sly says he "coached" Howard and Zimmerman in use of Delta 2. However, Sly recanted all statements he made before the broadcast aired on December 27.

The suit also shows that, prior to the broadcast, attorneys for the players had asked Al Jazeera to name their source so the players could knowledgeably respond to the allegations. In another email, on December 23, they demanded that "Al Jazeera immediately cease and desist from making false and injurious statements regarding ... alleged use of performance enhancing drugs."

The lawsuits also name two Al Jazeera reporters as defendants, including British hurdler Liam Collins. Collins went undercover posing as an athlete attempting to make the 2016 Olympic Games. He got his information about an alleged PED ring from Sly, who claimed to intern at the Guyer Institute when Manning—then with the Colts—was recovering from neck surgery in 2011.

The suit is not kind to Collins, citing his lack of reporting experience, his ban from directing companies in the United Kingdom for his involvement in what the suit calls a "real estate investment scheme," as well as his appearance in a dance duo called "Faces of Disco" on Britain's Got Talent.