Al Jazeera released a report Sunday, a documentary entitled "The Dark Side," implicating Peyton Manning along with several other NFL and MLB players in taking illegal performance enhancing drugs. The allegation has made waves; Manning has vehemently denied the report, and the Broncos, Colts and Guyer Institute have each issued statements backing their employee/patient.
We took it upon ourselves to view the documentary so we could give our take.
"The Dark Side" is roughly 45 minutes long and follows several doctors and undercover athletes with hidden cameras, recording the sales of drugs without their knowledge. Throughout the documentary, doctors name athletes, not knowing they are being recorded, during the sale of illegal PEDs.
The first doctor, Dr. Fox, stated that he supplied PEDs to three "golden girls" of track and field. He immediately stated that he made it up when he found out he was recorded. One MLB player, Taylor Teagarden, was secretly caught on camera discussing what he purchased and how he passed the MLB testing protocol. The report also implicated several other football players, including Julius Peppersand Clay Matthews, neither of whom were reached for comment.
The Peyton Manning reveal
It's interesting, from an editorial/journalistic standpoint, that Al Jazeera juxtaposes the Manning reveal with his idolization in Denver. A young boy in a Manning jersey is seen throwing a football outside of Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Other fans in Manning jerseys are shown. Manning himself is seen throwing a football during a game in a highly stylized, sketch-like edit.
A woman's voice is heard, calling Manning "a great leader and a great role model. That whole character and that father-and-husband mentality is very important to me."
"I love Peyton Manning," the voiceover continues. "He gives us hope. He gives us hope."
The intended wow-factor of the "Peyton Manning" reveal is set up for maximum impact, making it feel more like an advertisement for the documentary itself than a journalistic pursuit of the truth.
Dr. Sly makes, recants his allegation
It isn't until the very end of the video that Peyton Manning is implicated, when Dr. Charlie Sly is being filmed. "The Dark Side" cuts to Indianapolis.
Al Jazeera claims that they confirmed Dr. Sly worked at the Guyer institute in 2011, when Manning was there undergoing recovery treatment for his neck injury while still with the Colts (Dale Guyer has since released a statement that Dr. Sly was only an unpaid intern in 2013 - if there's an opportunity for further investigation into this, it would make sense to start there). Dr. Sly states in the video that Manning and his wife, Ashley, came in after hours to get HGH treatment, and that he sent them HGH under Ashley’s name.
Later in the documentary, when confronted about the hidden-camera allegation, Dr. Sly recants, claiming that what he said about all the athletes was "completely false." Manning’s agent also state that the claim was false, and that Colts doctors and personnel had knowledge of his treatment, and that Ashley Manning’s health and treatments are her own private matter.
Editor's Note: I asked Pete and Kelly to give their take on the video by asking them a handful of questions. I asked if the documentary provides any other evidence outside of Dr. Sly's statement implicating Manning, if they believe Manning took HGH, and if they think Manning should sue. Their responses are lightly edited for brevity below.
Big Pete: I find absolutely no credibility to Peyton or any other professional athlete being a client of Dr. Sly's. For starters, Sly speaks in very vague and ambiguous terms. In order for me to put millions of dollars on the line to trust you, you better bring something better than "maybe" and "umm" and "kinda" to the table.
After watching this and hearing everyone's statements, do I think Manning took HGH? This is tricky. On the one hand, what Hall of Fame player doesn't have the mindset of "at all means necessary" to prolong or build upon a stellar career? But on the other hand, honestly, there is absolutely nothing that makes me think that Peyton would take any performance enhancing drug. Sly has absolutely no evidence from himself, his doctor compadres, or any acquaintances of his to support Peyton Manning or any other athlete taking steroids or even Vitamin D from him, and the documentary does a poor job establishing any such corroborating evidence.
Should Peyton sue? Again, as with most people in ragtag magazines, it's often better to let sleeping dogs lay than to poke a bear. There's little to come out of a lawsuit from Peyton, especially with his career coming to an end, to sue this newspaper. What is Peyton going to sue for? Defamation? Sure, he can win, but win what? All it will do is keep his name linked to steroids longer than it should be.
Kelly Fleming: After watching this documentary, it seems to me as if the claims are unwarranted. Almost every implication was made when one of the PED dealers was in the process of selling someone else the drug. They were asking him questions, and the doctor used famous athletes as examples to try to make them look good to him, which is exactly the reason Dr. Sly gave when he stated that he made false claims. In fact, only about two minutes of the 49 minute film is about Peyton Manning specifically.
Peyton vehemently denies HGH allegations
After one major accusation and thousands of speculations, Peyton Manning takes to the airwaves to discount any notion that he did anything illegal: "I busted my butt to get healthy. I did a lot of hard work. I saw a lot of doctors. ...and that really stings me that whoever this guy is, insinuated I cut corners and broke NFL rules, in order to get healthy. It's a joke. It's a freaking joke."
There is nothing in the documentary other than Dr. Sly's statement during the hidden camera interview implying Manning took HGH or any other banned substance. No other evidence is presented in the documentary, though they seem to really draw out the Manning link, implying that a national sports hero is all an act. To their credit, Al Jazeera did mention that Sly recanted his statement in the documentary, but only gave it a five-second caption at the very end of the film. If it were any other athlete, I doubt they would have mentioned the link, but really it just makes for a huge headline grab. Without Manning attached, the story would fall to the background and nobody would be talking about it. That said, it's ethically wrong to accuse somebody of something so huge, and if Manning has a case suing would make a point. With the evidence presented, I don't think it is likely that Peyton took HGH, and there are many other explanations for a link to his wife that are nobody's business but her's.
For now, it seems as if Al Jazeera’s report is pretty sensational when it comes to Peyton Manning, though it does shed light into the world of illegal PED dealing in sports, and indisputably incriminates one MLB athlete. The report shouldn’t be focused on Peyton Manning, it should be focused on the drug business in general. Making Manning the focus of the report seems like nothing more than a clicbait tactic, one of which he is not deserving.
If you've watched "The Dark Side," please give us your take in the comments.