This post has been updated.
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning defended his reputation Sunday, vehemently denying an Al Jazeera report that he obtained human growth hormone from an anti-aging clinic through his wife as he was recovering from multiple neck surgeries in 2011 as a member of the Indianapolis Colts.
In an interview Sunday morning, a breathless Manning, whose throwing workout was interrupted, told ESPN’s Lisa Salters: “I think I rotated, Lisa, between being angry, furious…but disgusted is really how I feel, sickened by it. I’m not sure I understand how someone can make something up about somebody, admit that he’d made it up and somehow it gets published in a story. I don’t understand that. Maybe you can explain it to me, somebody else can.
“It’s completely fabricated, complete trash, garbage — there’s more adjectives I’d like to be able to use. It makes me sick that it brings [his wife] Ashley into it, her medical history, her medical privacy being violated. That makes me sick. I don’t understand that.
“I’m in the middle of my throwing workout, which I enjoy doing that. I have to interrupt this workout to come talk about this. It’s not right. I don’t understand it.”
Salters asked Manning if he had ever used HGH.
“Absolutely not. Absolutely not,” he said. “What hurts me most about this is whoever this guy is, this slapstick trying to insinuate that in 2011 when I more or less had a broken neck — I don’t know, four neck surgeries, I’m sure there’s a difference in there, but I had a bad neck — I busted my butt to get healthy. I put in a lot of hard work. I saw a lot of doctors. I went to the Guyer clinic to the hyperbaric chamber that our coaches, trainers and doctors thought might be good for me. I thought it might help. Don’t know if it helped. Time ended up being probably my best medicine along with a lot of hard work. It really stings me, whoever this guy is, insinuating that I cut corners, I broke NFL rules. It’s a freaking joke.”
Manning said he didn’t know Charlie Sly, the pharmacist at the center of the report.
“I don’t know this guy. I never heard of this guy up until this report. Any medical treatments that my wife received, that’s her business. It has nothing to do with me. Nothing that has ever been sent to her or that my wife has used have I ever taken. Absolutely not. I have my treatments that I do. She may have hers and that’s her business. There’s no connection between the two.
“I’d love to understand why this guy is saying this, why he is making it up and then he admits he made it up and it still becomes a story.”
Manning specified that he went with Indianapolis Colts doctors and trainers to the Guyer Institute, where he used a hyperbaric chamber, “something called ECCP, which is supposed to create blood flow in your muscles,” and nutrient intravenous therapies. That treatment takes 35 days and, “I did all 35 days, watched Hoda and Kathie Lee [on the ‘Today’ show] during my treatment because I was there during normal business hours at 9 a.m. Eastern time.” (ECCP, according to Guyer’s website, stands for enhanced external counterpulsation therapy, which uses blood-pressure cuffs strapped to the legs and buttocks and synched to an individual’s heartbeat to push blood through the body in an effort to speed healing.)
Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary who now heads a sports communication company and has been hired as an adviser to Manning, told the Denver Post on Saturday night that the report, which was part of a probe into doping in international sports, was “junk journalism.”
Meanwhile, both Major League Baseball and the NFL have indicated they will investigate the claims in the report, which also names baseball players Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals and Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies, as well as NFL players James Harrison, Clay Matthews, Mike Neal and Julius Peppers.
Manning wouldn’t speak to accusations against any others, but added, “I know what I’ve done. I know how hard I’ve worked during my 18 years of playing in the NFL. There are no shortcuts in the NFL. I’ve done it the long way, I’ve done it the hard way. Anything otherwise is a complete and utter joke. It’s defamation and it really ticks me off.”
The report, which was shared in advance with the Huffington Post, alleged that Manning received HGH, which has been banned from the NFL since the 2011 collective bargaining agreement went into effect, from an Indianapolis anti-aging clinic, and had it delivered to his wife to keep his name off the shipments. The accusation came from British hurdler Liam Collins, who, working undercover, spoke with Sly, an Austin, Tex., pharmacist who worked at the Guyer Institute. Sly allegedly named Manning and other high-profile athletes as recipients of HGH.
Sly has since recanted, saying Collins secretly recorded him without his knowledge or consent and telling ESPN that Collins had used information he had “made up.” On Sunday, he told ESPN that “I was trying to pull one over on Collins to see if he had any idea of what he was talking about.”
Sly disputed the dates he was at the clinic, according to Fleischer, and he confirmed that to ESPN on Saturday night, saying he was a student intern at Guyer in 2013, not 2011. Al Jazeera, in an email to The Washington Post, said it confirmed with the clinic that Sly worked there in 2011 as an unpaid intern. Manning, Fleischer said, was a Guyer patient in the fall of 2011 and has not been a patient since.
“There’s no truth to it,” Fleischer told the Denver Post. “What they have is a well-known con man from England who secretly recorded a former intern.”
Manning, 39, missed the entire 2011 season as he recovered from the surgeries and signed with the Broncos after being released in the offseason. During that time, he sought a number of treatments, including a reported stem-cell transplant in Europe.
“Yes, I have been a patient under Dr. Guyer,” Manning told ESPN on Saturday night. “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 p.m. because their office closed at 5.”
Manning, who is recovering from torn plantar fascia in his left foot, has not played since Nov. 15.
“Peyton is rightfully outraged by the allegations, which he emphatically denied to our organization and which have been publicly renounced by the source who initially provided them,” the Broncos said in a statement. “Throughout his career, particularly during his four seasons with the Broncos, Peyton has shown nothing but respect for the game. Our organization is confident Peyton does things the right way and we do not find this story to be credible.”