Al Jazeera Faces Critical Credibility Test Over Peyton Manning Doping Claim
In an effort to build an audience — and credibility — Al Jazeera America has staked its reputation on deep dive investigations and topics that mainstream TV news divisions have largely abandoned amid shrinking news budgets.
And The Dark Side fit squarely in that wheelhouse. It was an undercover probe about doping in sports that fingered several high-profile current athletes including the Denver Bronco's superstar quarterback Peyton Manning. But now AJAM finds itself on the hot seat as the sources of some of the allegations have begun to recant amid furious denials from the athletes.
"The allegation that I would do something like that is complete garbage and is totally made up," Manning told ESPN. "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."
Other athletes fingered in the documentary include the Chicago Cubs' Taylor Teagarden (who was actually caught on camera talking about his fear of getting caught using banned substances), Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, Washington Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison. They also deny the allegations.
Al Jazeera had British hurdler Liam Collins go undercover as part of the report about performance-enhancing drugs. He secretly recorded Charlie Sly, a former student pharmacy intern at Indiana's Guyer Institute of Molecular Medicine that allegedly supplied the drugs to Manning and others. Sly maintains that he dropped Manning's name as a way of smoking out Collins.
"When I realized Al Jazeera was using a secret taping and Collins as a so-called investigative reporter, I was baffled," Sly told ESPN. "I cannot believe that can happen. That’s why I recanted the story. It wasn’t true, and I was trying to pull one over on Collins to see if he had any idea of what he was talking about. I was trying to determine whether this guy [Collins] was legitimate or just trying to steal some knowledge about the business.”