Ryan Howard files lawsuit against Al Jazeera

Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard has filed a defamation lawsuit against Al Jazeera.

The statement from Howard reads:

Today I authorized my attorneys to file suit against Al Jazeera and its reporters. Their irresponsible reporting forced me to take this action to protect my name and to fight back against the spreading of these lies. I will have no further comment, as the filing itself contains all I need to say.

Last week, Al Jazeera aired a documentary listing Howard as one of several prominent professional athletes who were supplied illegal performance-enhancing drugs from an Indiana-based anti-aging clinic.

Washington Nationals Ryan Zimmerman and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning were also named. Zimmeran also filed a lawsuit Tuesday.

Zimmerman claims the Al Jazeera report on doping, titled "The Dark Side," contained false statements and was inaccurate, unsubstantiated and reckless in nature.

The amount of the general and punitive damages sought by Zimmerman will be determined at a trial.

Shortly after the documentary's release, Action News obtained the following statement from William Burck of Quinn Emanuel, the attorney for both Howard and Zimmerman:

It's inexcusable and irresponsible that Al Jazeera would provide a platform and broadcast outright lies about Mr. Howard and Mr. Zimmerman. The extraordinarily reckless claims made against our clients in this report are completely false and rely on a source who has already recanted his claims. We will go to court to hold Al Jazeera and other responsible parties accountable for smearing our clients' good names.

Howard was among those who "emphatically denied" the allegation of taking any PEDs to Al Jazeera, the network says in the video.

The Philadelphia Phillies released the following statement last week:

Ryan Howard has vigorously denied the allegations contained in tonight's airing of Al Jazeera's report titled 'The Dark Side.' Ryan has spent his whole career with the Phillies and, during that entire time, has been an extremely well respected member of our team and an outstanding contributor to our community. We will fully cooperate with any investigation conducted by Major League Baseball and will refer all further questions to them concerning the Al Jazeera report.

MLB tells 6abc they plan to conduct a full investigation into the report.

The Al Jazeera report was based on secret recordings of former Indianapolis anti-aging institute worker Charles Sly, who named Zimmerman and other high-profile athletes as having receiving steroid-like Delta-2 hormone supplement shipments from him while he worked at the Guyer Institute.

Sly has since recanted the story and told Al Jazeera the statements attributed to him "are absolutely false and incorrect."

Zimmerman's attorneys claim the "defendants knew full well that their 'source' had recanted his [Sly's] scandalous and untrue allegations against Mr. Zimmerman but, abdicating all journalistic responsibilities, defendants nonetheless chose to publish their defamatory story in an attempt to stir scandal and increase Al Jazeera's low ratings, no matter the cost to Mr. Zimmerman," according to the filing.

In a statement released Tuesday night, Zimmerman said "I felt it was necessary to file this suit to restore my reputation and to hold Al Jazeera accountable for its actions."

Al Jazeera reporter Deborah Davies told MSNBC after the report aired on Dec. 28 that she stands by her story.

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was the most prominent name mentioned in the Al Jazeera report, which said that Manning's wife, Ashley, had received shipments of HGH. Manning called the charge "a freaking joke."

Asked on Dec. 30 if he intended to file a suit over the report, Manning said: "No, I haven't decided that. I don't want to deal with that until after the season."

The report also linked several other athletes to HGH and other drugs, including Green Bay Packers linebacker Mike Neal, who allegedly introduced teammates Julius Peppers and others to Sly. It also mentions Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, Peppers and Neal as athletes who received shipments of the Delta-2 performance-enhancing drug from Sly. The report went on to say that Sly furnished Clay Matthews with painkillers.

ESPN & AP contributed to this report.
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