In an intense and emotional denial Sunday morning, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning appeared on ESPN and said that he never used HGH or any banned substances to aid in his recovery from neck surgery back in 2011.
Manning's name was unearthed by an Al Jazeera report that suggested the legendary quarterback had HGH sent to his wife, Ashley, for his personal use. Manning's agent, Tom Condon, did not deny that Ashley received the supplements, and Manning confirmed he was a patient at the Guyer Institute, where Charlie Sly worked. Sly was an intern pharmacist who was cited in the Al Jazeera report and later recanted his claims. Manning said that he was only there to use the Hyperbaric chamber and to receive blood flow treatment.
"Between being angry, furious, disgusted is how I really feel, sickened," Manning said during his first televised comments since Al Jazeera's findings were released Saturday night. "I'm not sure I understand how someone can make something up about somebody. ... And yet somehow it's published in a story," Manning said. I don't understand that. Maybe you can explain that to me. So it's completely fabricated, complete trash, garbage -- there's more adjectives I'd like to be able to use. It really makes me sick. It makes me sick that it brings (my 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. I enjoy doing that. I have to interrupt this workout to come talk about this."
Manning was clearly upset during the interview and stammered at times. It was a radical departure from the polished, commercial voice of one of the league's best players. If nothing else, he was enraged at the accusation that he took any shortcuts in recovery. Manning has cited how difficult the rehab was for him personally multiple times throughout the years.
"Absolutely not," he said, when asked point blank if he ever used HGH or any other performance-enhancing drugs. "What hurts me the 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. Four neck surgeries. Broken neck, I'm sure there's a difference in there but I had a bad neck. I busted my butt to get healthy through a lot of hard work, I saw a lot of doctors. I went to the Guyer clinic. He had a hyperbaric chamber that trainers and doctors thought would be good for me. That ended up being part of my best medicine along with a lot of hard work. It really stings me that this guy is insinuating that I cut corners, that I broke NFL rules in order to get healthy."
The "slapstick" Manning is referring to is British hurdler Liam Collins, who went undercover at the Guyer Institute during an investigation that also linked Packers linebacker Clay Matthews to the use of painkillers like Percocet and Toradol. Chad Robertson, another pharmacist that appears in the story said he provided Packers defensive end Julius Peppers, linebacker Mike Neal and Steelers linebacker James Harrison with Delta-2, a substance banned in the NFL.
Matthews denied knowing anything about the painkillers or his accusers in a statement to FOX Sports.
As for Sly, Manning says he has never met him.
"I don't know this guy," Manning said. "I've never heard of this guy up until this report. I've never met this guy. Any medical treatments that my wife received -- that's her business. It has nothing to do with me. Nothing that's ever been sent to her or my wife has used have I ever taken. 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's making it up. He admits he's making it up and it still becomes a story."
Manning's current and past teams also came to his defense Sunday morning. The Broncos issued a statement addressing claims in the Al Jazeera report and the Indianapolis Colts also showed their support for Manning in a statement:
"We've been made aware of the recent Al Jazeera report concerning Peyton Manning and find it utterly ridiculous. We are thoroughly familiar with Peyton's tireless work habits, his medical history, and, most importantly, his integrity. Peyton played the game in Indianapolis for 14 years the right way. He never took any shortcuts and it would be absurd to suggest he would have taken prohibited performance enhancing drugs. We also note that the 'source' of this allegation has since recanted his story. The entire Indianapolis Colts organization and the Irsay family hope this crude effort to besmirch Peyton's reputation will not be permitted to tarnish the legacy of a great Colt."
UPDATE: An NFL spokesman told NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport that the league is looking into the accusation against Manning:
"We are reviewing the matter. Our procedure is to follow up on any information that potentially involves a violation of this nature."