In most cases, NFL players simply deny an allegation made against them. In some cases, an NFL player regards an allegation as sufficiently severe to require something more.
In the case of Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who issued a personal statement on Saturday night calling the report from Al Jazeera regarding secretly-taped claims that he used HGH in 2011 “complete garbage,” Peyton isn’t content to rely simply on his denial. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer also has been enlisted to speak on Manning’s behalf.
“There’s no truth to it,” Fleischer said of the report, via Troy E. Renck and Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post. “What they have is a well-known con man from England who secretly recorded a former intern.”
The former Guyer Institute intern, Charles Sly, reportedly has recanted the claim that Manning used HGH. Sly was caught on tape (unbeknownst to him) making the allegations by Liam Collins, a British hurdler who went undercover in an effort to expose PED use in sports. Sly told Al Jazeera that the statements attributed to him are “absolutely false and incorrect,” and that Collins took advantage of Sly during a vulnerable period following the passing of his fiancé. Sly separately told ESPN that he lied to Collins to test his legitimacy. (At some point, the sheer volume of alternative explanations from Sly makes each of them curious, at best.)
Peyton supplemented his Saturday night statement with comments to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, who has a long relationship with the Manning family and has broken many Manning-related stories, including Peyton’s selection of the Broncos in 2012. (Patriots fans will appreciate — or not — the irony of Mortensen’s early involvement in the life cycle of this specific story.)
“For the record, I have never used HGH,” Manning told Mortensen. “It absolutely never happened. The whole thing is totally wrong. It’s such a fabrication, I’m not losing any sleep over it, that’s for sure.”
He may not be losing sleep over it, but Manning or someone close to him is sufficiently concerned about the donut hole that emerged on Saturday to retain the services of someone who helps high-profile people put out P.R. firestorms for a living.
“The treatment he received at the Guyer Institute was provided on the advice of his physician and with the knowledge of team doctors and trainers,” Manning’s agent told Al Jazeera in connection with the original story on the matter. “Any medical treatment received by Ashley [Manning] is a private matter of hers, her doctor, and her family.”
Some have interpreted the explanation regarding Ashley Manning, who according to Al Jazeera acquired the HGH in her name for Peyton’s use, as being sufficiently vague to account for the possibility that evidence eventually will emerge showing that she had indeed obtained HGH from the Guyer Institute. (There’s no evidence of that at this point, beyond Sly’s recanted claims.) At a minimum, the knowledge of Fleisher’s involvement justifies the analysis and parsing over every word uttered on Manning’s behalf — because that’s precisely what folks like Fleisher, who now specializes in media strategies for sports figures and organizations, are paid to do before any words are ever uttered on a client’s behalf.
“Yes, I have been a patient under Dr. Guyer,” Manning told Mortensen. “I have had nutrient therapy, oxygen therapy and other treatments that are holistic in nature but never HGH. My wife has never provided any medication for me to take. Ashley and I never attended the clinic together after hours. There were times when I went in the morning and there were times when I went after practice so this thing about ‘after hours’ is so misleading because it may have been 5:15 pm because their office closed at 5.”
It’s odd that Manning would quibble over the notion that he and Ashley went to the clinic “after hours” with a precise explanation of when they arrived there, presumably to account preemptively for the possibility that other current or former employees of the Guyer Institute will decide to provide details regarding Manning’s situation, on or off the record. It’s also noteworthy that, despite Fleischer presumably providing a comprehensive media strategy for dealing with the situation, Ashley Manning has not yet issued a statement denying the purchase or receipt of HGH.
With so many statements and reports and developments emerging in a fairly short time frame, it’s fair to wonder what the next statement, report, or development will be. Either way, the story has quickly mushroomed into something that could potentially be far more damaging to Manning’s legacy than his on-field performance from what could be his last NFL season.