BOSTON (CBS) -- Another beloved, legendary athlete has been (loosely) linked to PEDs. Fair or not, Peyton Manning will now face questions about his potential HGH use for a long time, if not forever.
Al Jazeera's American branch released a stunning documentary called The Dark Side: Secrets Of The Sports Dopers on Sunday, implicating Manning and several other professional athletes in the use of various banned substances across multiple sports. You can watch the full documentary in the above video.
The documentary features British former Olympic runner Liam Collins, who goes undercover to meet doctors and pharmacists on how to best enhance his performance through banned substances. It highlights the rampant use of PEDs among professional athletes, as well as the ease of passing random tests.
The main source for the story is Charlie Sly, a former employee of the Guyer Institute in Indianapolis, who name-drops Manning and several others as involved in PED use. The doc also depicts Sly's refrigerator, which contains an array of drugs and substances, presumably all illegal. Sly has since "recanted" the statements he made in the documentary, but that alone cannot put this story to rest, nor can it exonerate him from potential crimes of his own.
This is not to determine whether or not Peyton Manning actually used HGH, or that the specific allegation of his wife Ashley receiving shipments of HGH in his name has any truth to it. This is not to comment on the morality of PED use, or its importance to Peyton's legacy. This is not to highlight the curious lack of coverage or scrutiny from ESPN and other major networks. This is not to needlessly drag another, unrelated scandal into the matter. This is to simply go over what is known about this story so far, and what the public should know about it if not already.
In order to help you understand the Manning HGH allegations and the labyrinth of rhetoric that has followed, here is what you need to know about the story...
1. There are limited reasons to legally obtain an HGH prescription
Doctors can certainly prescribe HGH, but it cannot be prescribed for just any reason. There needs to be at least one specific and proven underlying medical condition for a person to require HGH treatment. For most patients, the problem is a growth hormone deficiency, which is common in children. Otherwise, adults need to have a muscle-wasting disease caused by HIV or AIDS, or short bowel syndrome. Children can legally obtain an HGH prescription because of "poor growth and short stature of unknown cause," chronic kidney conditions, or certain genetic disorders that affect growth and sex hormone levels, according to HGH.biz. It is illegal for a doctor to prescribe HGH "off-label," meaning for a reason not approved by the FDA.
It's unproven whether Ashley Manning actually received shipments of HGH in the mail, or if she did whether or not it was legally prescribed. Even if Ashley Manning obtained an HGH prescription for one of the legal reasons, which remains plausible, a medical expert in the Al Jazeera documentary says that she would not have received it from an anti-aging clinic.
2. The Guyer Institute has prescribed HGH in the past
While Dr. Dale Guyer himself has not admitted to prescribing Ashley Manning with HGH, he has prescribed it in the past. Indianapolis Colts beat writer Bob Kravitz disclosed in a recent column that Dr. Dale Guyer put him on HGH in an effort to help mysterious medical issues, which were not fixed.
This disclosure does nothing to indicate that Dr. Guyer may have done the same for the Mannings or any other patient, but it dispels any notion that the Guyer Institute had never prescribed HGH to anyone.
3. Al Jazeera alleges that Ashley Manning received HGH shipments from the Guyer Institute in Indianapolis
The principal allegation made against the Mannings in the Al Jazeera documentary, as stated by Charlie Sly to Collins as he was secretly recorded, is that Ashley Manning had received shipments of HGH in her name. Sly never directly accuses Peyton Manning of using HGH, but heavily insinuates that the HGH shipments were for him and not his wife.
"All the time we would be sending Ashley Manning drugs ... Like growth hormone, all the time, everywhere, Florida. And it would never be under Peyton's name, it would always be under her name," says Sly.
Sly's statements have yet to be proven true, specifically that Ashley Manning's prescription and shipments were for HGH. However...
4. A Peyton Manning Spokesman Confirmed That Ashley Manning Is A Patient And Has A Prescription From The Guyer Institute
According to a "Manning spokesman," Ashley Manning was a patient at the Guyer Institute and did have a prescription. He would not specify what she was being prescribed.
It's plausible that Ashley Manning's prescription was for a legal substance and not HGH. But all that is known so far is that she had a prescription for something.
5. Al Jazeera Made No Specific Allegations Against Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning's vehement, emphatic denial of HGH use in an interview on ESPN was convincing for many who watched it. He is "disgusted," among many other adjectives, about the report and as of right now plans to sue for defamation.
But, as Al Jazeera reporter Deborah Davies pointed out to Sports Business Daily, the documentary makes no direct allegations against Peyton. It only alleges that while Charlie Sly worked at the Guyer Institute, the clinic made numerous shipments of HGH to Ashley Manning in Florida. Davies, who narrates the documentary, went on the Today Show to defend the report on Tuesday.
It is a little disingenuous to claim that no one is alleging anything against Peyton; one of the documentary's main themes is to raise the questions of a possible link between him and HGH. On the surface, however, the only allegations are being made against Ashley Manning, not Peyton.
He dismissed the entire report as a "freaking joke" and "trash," referring to Sly as a "slapstick." But what Peyton and many others have seemingly failed to realize is...
6. Al Jazeera America Has Won Several Awards For Both Documentaries And Investigative Reporting
Former NFL head coach and current ESPN analyst Mike Ditka was one of many pundits who leaped to Manning's defense in the wake of the report, and made headlines when he dismissed Al Jazeera as "garbage."
It's easy for the uninformed to look skeptically at the Qatar-based organization and assume that they are spreading lies. You may see their name and immediately conjure images of al-Qaeda trying to spread Islamist propaganda, which is undoubtedly what Ditka did. But in reality, Al Jazeera's American branch has won many awards over the years for their investigative reporting and documentaries and is generally considered one of the more reputable, objective news sources in the country.
Al Jazeera America has won six awards for various investigative reports in just the past two years, with three other nominations. It has won another six awards for its documentary productions, two of which won 2014 Peabody Awards, the highest possible honor for "public service" in American media.
It's ultimately a matter of opinion whether you consider Al Jazeera America a reputable news source, but considering their track record, it's hard to believe that they would run a story containing allegations that they were not sure were true.
7. Peyton Manning Never Denied Al Jazeera's Original Allegations
Al Jazeera stands by the allegations made in the documentary, which again is that Ashley Manning received several shipments of HGH from the Guyer Institute in 2011. They made no direct allegations against Peyton Manning, despite some strong insinuations from Sly.
That didn't stop Manning from furiously denying that he ever broke NFL rules in order to recover from his 2011 neck surgeries. He may be telling the truth in this case, but he is denying allegations that were never made. And when asked about the actual allegations against his wife, he said: "Any medical treatments my wife received, that's her business. Had nothing to do with me. Nothing has been sent to her or my wife used that I have taken."
Peyton has clearly denied ever using anything shipped to his wife in her name, but he nor anyone else has denied that she ever received shipments from the Guyer Institute.
8. If Charlie Sly Told The Truth In Documentary, He Committed Several HIPAA Violations
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), passed in 1996, in part protects doctors and patients from disclosure of private medical information. It is illegal to disclose medical details about patients or clients, which Charlie Sly did about many high-profile patients in the documentary - if he was telling the truth.
Sly has since recanted his statements in a Youtube video, but as far as the reason for dismissing his statements as "incorrect," protecting Peyton Manning would presumably not be at the top of the list. Sly could very well be protecting himself from potential HIPAA violations, although his true motivation is unknown. If his statements are proven as legitimate HIPAA violations, the minimum penalty he faces would be a $100 fine per violation and an annual maximum of $25,000 for future violations, according to AMA.org - and that's if he could prove that he was not aware that he was committing violations.
Sly would also be concerned about potential future employment opportunities, which would be much harder to find (if not impossible) if he were proven to have committed HIPAA violations.
And for the record, Al Jazeera has spoken out against Sly's denial and stood by their reports:
9. Charlie Sly Is Confirmed As A Guyer Employee In 2011
Another key detail in the report is Sly's employment history with the Guyer Institute. The documentary claims he was an employee at the clinic in 2011 when the HGH shipments to Ashley Manning allegedly occurred. However, Dr. Guyer has come out and stated that Sly was only an employee at his clinic in 2013.
In the documentary, Al Jazeera says it confirmed Sly's employment at the Guyer Institute specifically in 2011, which it did through a recorded phone call with an employee at the institute who confirmed a "rotation" with Sly in October 2011.
It raises questions of why the Guyer Institute would lie about Sly's employment history at the clinic, which Al Jazeera so easily obtained and confirmed.
10. The NFL Is "Reviewing" The Matter
The NFL announced Monday evening, after making no statements on the story for over 24 hours, that it is looking into the reports, as they should for anything related to a potential PED violation.
"We are reviewing the matter ... Our procedure is to follow up on any information that potentially involves a violation of this nature," said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy.
There may be no further information that comes out of the NFL's investigation of the report, but it is not being completely ignored. Nothing has been proven about Sly's statements on Peyton or Ashley Manning, but the truth may yet come to light at a later date. The above details are all that is known so far.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Read more from Matt here. Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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