A damning report has surfaced regarding Peyton Manning's recovery from four neck surgeries in 2011, and the nature of the accusation is one that could potentially change a lot about what we know and opine regarding Peyton Manning. An undercover reporter spoke with a "physician" (dope-dealer) in Austin, TX who claimed that Peyton Manning took human growth hormone in 2011, shortly after it was banned by the NFL in the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Manning has since called the report "complete garbage."
The report is from The Huffington Post based on a documentary by Al Jazeera. The accusation reads:
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.
"All the time we would be sending Ashley Manning drugs," Sly says in the video. "Like growth hormone, all the time, everywhere, Florida. And it would never be under Peyton's name, it would always be under her name."
The report goes on to connect other high-profile NFL players to the doping ring, including longtime Steelers linebacker James Harrison.
Why it could be true
Peyton Manning's recovery was remarkable in 2011, and we all know pro athletes will do anything they can to survive. His and the Broncos' record-breaking 2013 season also comes to a different light, given the accusation.
Why it might not be true
First, Manning's character is nearly above reproach. While everyone has skeletons in the closet, as someone who has followed Manning very closely, this would be incredibly surprising based on everything we know about Manning.
Second, this "pharmacist's" character is not above reproach. This man is an admitted dope-dealer trying to sell someone dope. It's Jesse Pinkman telling you meth is good for you.
Third and fourth, based on brief Internet research, it appears HGH can be used post-pregnancy, and Manning's agent called it a personal family matter.
Bad news. If Peyton Manning is on PEDs, so is your dad. pic.twitter.com/El721dJMIi— SportsPickle (@sportspickle) December 27, 2015
Seventh, Manning's response:
Personal statement from Peyton Manning released by the Broncos ... pic.twitter.com/O5pJuwzWGF— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) December 27, 2015
Where we go from here
There's no doubt that this is not over. This is the start of something; it feels like everything has changed. An accusation is such a small, simple thing - just a few words. But it carries so much weight. It could haunt Manning and his reputation forever. Perhaps this is the catalyst that could lead to an investigation by the NFL or the NFLPA or an independent organization like the Anti-Doping Agency. Perhaps this doesn't go very far. But, less than an hour after reading the report, it doesn't feel like the latter.
The Broncos (and the NFL) did not immediately respond to request to comment (Ed: this story has since been updated; see #7 above, but the Broncos themselves have still not commented). We'll keep you updated as we learn more.