Nationals Player Sues Al Jazeera Over Doping Claims in Documentary

Washington Nationals player Ryan Zimmerman filed a lawsuit against Al Jazeera America on Tuesday arguing the television network defamed him by falsely claiming in a recently aired documentary that he used a performance-enhancing drug.

Attorneys for Zimmerman say in the lawsuit, filed in D.C. District Court, that an Al Jazeera America program about doping in sports included false statements about the athlete.

"Mr. Zimmerman has never taken Delta 2, human growth hormone, or any other steroid or other performance-enhancing substance banned by [Major League Baseball]," the suit says.

"[Al Jazeera America] publicly smeared Mr. Zimmerman with false and unsubstantiated allegations of performance-enhancing drug use, based on uncorroborated accusations by a third party that had been unequivocally recanted prior to Defendants’ publication," the suit says.

Philadelphia Phillies player Ryan Howard filed a similar lawsuit Tuesday, which, like Zimmerman's suit, includes one count of libel and another count of invasion of privacy.

The allegations against the athletes were made in a program that aired Dec. 27 called "The Dark Side: Secrets of Sports Dopers." Al Jazeera America declined to comment on the suits Tuesday.

In the program, Liam Collins, a British hurdler, went undercover for the program and spoke with Charlie Sly, who said he worked at an anti-aging clinic in Indiana in 2011. The program said Sly named multiple high-profile athletes as having received performance-enhancing drugs from the clinic.

NFL quarterback Peyton Manning was another of the atheletes identified by the Al Jazeera report, which he quickly and vigorously denied, calling the allegation "complete garbage."

Sly backtracked in a subsequent statement to Al Jazeera, saying Collins secretly recorded his conversations without his knowledge or consent.

"The statements on any recordings or communications that Al Jazeera plans to air are absolutely false and incorrect," Sly said. "To be clear, I am recanting any such statements and there is no truth to any statement of mine that Al Jazeera plans to air. Under no circumstances should any of those recordings, statements or communications be aired."

Al Jazeera reporter Deborah Davies has stood by her report.

In a statement provided after the program aired, a spokesman for Zimmerman and Howard called Al Jazeera "irresponsible" for providing a platform to broadcast "outright lies" about his clients.

“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," William Burck said.

Neither Zimmerman's nor Howard's lawsuit specifies an amount of money sought.

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