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Dec. 27, 2015 — A drug investigation may snare another icon

This evening, the al-Jazeera network is scheduled to run a documentary indicating that a number of prominent North American athletes, including quarterback Peyton Manning, received and used human growth hormone through an intermediary at an anti-aging institute called The Guyer Institute in Indianapolis.

The report follows former British hurdler Liam Collins with a hidden camera, looking to expose performance-enhancing drugs in American team sports.

But in start contrast to the pervasiveness of some of the other drug scandals that have hit the sports pages in recent years such as the BALCO scandal and the UCI cycling scandal, what was actually found in the documentary was actually somewhat scanty. Collins received only one phone call from someone willing to steer him to a chemist willing to provide performance-enhancing drugs.

And the intermediary, a man called Charlie Sly, rattled off names of North American team sport athletes alleged to have received human growth hormone.

The timing of this story is interesting. First of all, it’s several months before the Olympics, and what Collins found was drug distribution in North American professional team sports — not amateur boxers, runners, and jumpers.

Also, the allegations of Manning’s receipt of HGH occurred four years ago. During the period in question, the National Football League had locked out its players and, at the time of the alleged shipments to Manning’s wife, there was no drug policy to enforce because there was no collective bargaining agreement between labor and management.

But what is also curious is how human growth hormone could have helped Manning recover from a delicate, complicated surgery that involved the neck and the spinal areas. Given the congenital narrowing of the spine that ended older brother Cooper Manning’s football career, using HGH on the neck area is, to my reckoning, a foolish thing to do rather than to let the neck heal naturally.

Now, I have my doubts about Manning’s situation. His quick, forthright denial certainly qualifies as an example of “the right thing to say at the right time.”

But given previous denials by players later caught in the web of PED scandals, you do wonder if the story will change under questioning by someone other than a broadcast reporter.

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