The Washington Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman and the Philadelphia Phillies’ Ryan Howard filed defamation lawsuits on Tuesday against al-Jazeera America for linking them in a report to performance-enhancing drugs.
The two MLB players each filed their suits in a US District Court against the cable and satellite media giant, alleging that the report on sports doping was “outrageously false” and included “unsubstantiated allegations.”
“Mr Zimmerman has suffered reputational harm that has affected and will continue to affect him in his main profession — as a professional baseball player — as well as in future sponsorship and other business opportunities and in charitable pursuits,” Zimmerman’s lawyers wrote in the court documents. “The financial impact of this harm on Mr Zimmerman ultimately will be in the millions of [US] dollars.”
The New York-based al-Jazeera America aired a documentary titled The Dark Side last week linking Zimmerman, Howard, Denver Broncos star quarterback Peyton Manning and several other prominent athletes to performance-enhancing drugs from an Indiana-based anti-aging clinic.
Howard released a statement saying al-Jazeera’s “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.”
Zimmerman and Howard are the first two athletes listed in the report to file lawsuits. Manning, who also vehemently denied the allegations, said he would wait until the current season is over before deciding what step to take next.
In the documentary, British hurdler Liam Collins went undercover, using secret recordings to expose the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports.
Collins met with Charles Sly, described as a former pharmacy intern at the clinic. Sly was caught on hidden camera saying Zimmerman and others received Delta-2 hormone supplements from him.
Sly has since recanted his allegations, saying they were “absolutely false and incorrect.”
Al-Jazeera America and Collins are named as defendants in the suit along with reporter Deborah Davies.
Zimmerman’s lawyers said al-Jazeera “recklessly” went ahead with the report in a bid to “boost their own reputations.”
“Defendants knew full well that their ‘source’ had recanted his scandalous and untrue allegations against Mr Zimmerman... Defendants nonetheless chose to publish their defamatory story in an attempt to stir scandal and increase al-Jazeera’s low ratings,” the lawyers said.
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