An Indianapolis anti-aging clinic supplied quarterback Peyton Manning with human growth hormone, a performance-enhancing drug banned by the NFL, a pharmacist who once worked at the clinic asserts in a new special report from Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit.
Manning missed the 2011 season, when he was a member of the Indianapolis Colts, after undergoing neck surgery. In the documentary, Sly tells Collins, who is taking secret video of his interactions, that he was “part of a medical team that helped [Manning] recover” from the surgery. Sly alleges that the clinic mailed growth hormone and other drugs to Manning’s wife, Ashley Manning, so that the quarterback’s name was never attached to them.
Manning, for his part, has strongly and quickly denied these accusations:
The allegation that I would do something like that is complete garbage and is totally made up,” the statement from Manning said. “It never happened. Never. I really can’t believe somebody would put something like this on the air. Whoever said this is making stuff up.
I have a few very early thoughts on this report, that of course can change as we learn more:
- First, it should be noted that Manning is not the only NFL player implicated in this report. Also among the accused are Packers linebackers Mike Neal and Julius Peppers (along with a non-HGH accusation levied at Clay Matthews), Steelers linebacker James Harrison, and former Jets/Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller. Manning may be the most high profile player among the accused, but there is Pro Bowl talent among the other names listed above.
- Furthermore, it’s highly likely that many, many more players have taken HGH recently. Chris Kluwe (who, if you read his Twitter feed is hardly being kind to Manning), gave this guess:
@contrariancont Teams, 100%. Percentage of guys on the team, dunno. Probably 40ish from the esteemed source of "numbers from my ass."
— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) December 27, 2015
- As the Huffington Post explains, HGH was included in the Program on Anabolic Steroids and Related Substances in the 2011 CBA (but actual testing did not occur until 2014). This is laid out in Art. 39, §7(b) as the only mention of HGH in the entire CBA, stating that “the Program on Anabolic Steroids and Related Substances will include both annual blood testing and random blood testing for human growth hormone, with discipline for positive tests at the same level as for steroids.”
- The 2014 addendum to the CBA that allowed HGH to be tested made clear that a first time violation for HGH would be exactly four games. It is unclear if evidence unrelated to testing would allow the NFL to place in the player in the steroids program like it would for substance abuse (see, e.g., Shane Ray for his weed citation before the 2015 NFL Draft that allowed him to fall to the Broncos). But we would be potentially talking about evidence that dates back four years, as the HuffPost for its part links Manning specifically to the year 2011.
- And if 2011 is the only year in question, and if positive tests are required for any discipline under the steroids program, it’s highly likely that any punishment of any implicated player could violate the terms of the CBA. And in Manning’s case, even if retroactive punishment is allowed, it’s highly unlikely it would actually affect him unless he makes the increasingly odd choice to attempt to play in 2016.
- Finally, it should be noted that nothing in the HuffPost article implicates either the Colts or Broncos organizations. That should go without saying, but I have a feeling that the Patriots fanbase is going to make yet another comparison of every possible allegation of NFL wrongdoing to Deflategate—with the added ingredient of the endless Manning-Brady debate resulting in a particularly intense round of rationalization.