Two Major League Baseball stars have sued Al Jazeera America for mentioning them in a report on the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs by professional athletes.
Ryan Howard and Ryan Zimmerman both filed papers in federal court in Washington DC, accusing Al Jazeera of defamation and libel. The suits are seeking monetary damages and a retraction.
The suit by Zimmerman, who plays for the Washington Nationals, claims he was “smeared…with false and unsubstantiated allegations of performance enhancing drug use.”
Several ballplayers were named in the Al Jazeera documentary called “The Dark Side,” including Zimmerman, Howard and football great Peyton Manning.
Manning had indicated last week that he was considering suing Al Jazeera, but as of Tuesday night, still hadn’t acted. “No changes. Peyton will decide after the season is over,” spokesman Ari Fleischer said Tuesday night in an email.
Al Jazeera reporter Deborah Davies said last week that the report didn’t say Manning used the banned drug HGH, only that it was repeatedly sent to the quarterback’s wife. On Sunday she told CNN’s “Reliable Sources” that the network had a second source she couldn’t publicly identify to verify its reporting on Manning.
Howard, who plays for the Philadelphia Phillies, tweeted out a statement saying he authorized the lawsuit.
“Their irresponsible reporting forced me to take this action to protect my name and to fight back against the spreading of these lies,” Howard said.
Al Jazeera America told CNNMoney the news site would have no immediate comment.
The most explosive part of the Al Jazeera report was undercover footage of a man identified as Charlie Sly who was caught offering performance enhancing drugs to the network’s source. During conversations, Sly talked about athletes who used the drugs and said Howard and Zimmerman used drugs, and packages were sent to Manning’s wife.
Sly recanted his statements when he heard about the program, but Al Jazeera stood by the reporting.
Zimmerman’s lawsuit, which cited Al Jazeera’s low ratings, said the network knew Sly had recanted before it aired the show, but went ahead anyway.