MLB clears Howard, Zimmerman in PED probe

Major League Baseball has cleared Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman of any wrongdoing in its investigation of an Al Jazeera report on performance-enhancing drugs, saying that neither player violated the sport’s drug program.

MLB announced Friday that it has completed its investigation, which “did not find any violations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program by either Howard or Zimmerman.”

Howard, Zimmerman file suits against Al Jazeera

Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Howard have each filed suits claiming they were defamed in an Al Jazeera report that alleged they received HGH shipments.

Al Jazeera reported in a December documentary that Howard and Zimmerman, along with several other professional athletes, allegedly received shipments of performance-enhancing drugs.

The Al Jazeera report was based on secret recordings of former Indianapolis anti-aging institute worker Charles Sly, who named Zimmerman and other high-profile athletes as having received steroid-like Delta-2 hormone supplement shipments from him while he worked at the Guyer Institute.

Sly later recanted the story and told Al Jazeera that the statements attributed to him “are absolutely false and incorrect.”

Howard and Zimmerman filed lawsuits against Al Jazeera in January, claiming that the report contained false statements and was inaccurate, unsubstantiated and reckless.

Howard and Zimmerman both “fully cooperated” with baseball’s investigation, but Sly did not agree to speak with MLB or provide requested information, according to Friday’s statement.

“The accusations from Al Jazeera came out of nowhere, and I was shocked and outraged by their false claims,” Howard said in a statement released shortly after MLB’s announcement. “I welcomed the investigation by Major League Baseball as an opportunity to clear my name. I was fully cooperative and transparent in the process, and MLB’s findings validate what I have said publicly. I am glad that this part of the process has concluded, and I look forward to holding the responsible people accountable for these false and defamatory claims in my ongoing litigation against Al Jazeera and its reporters.”

Zimmerman also indicated Friday that he will continue to pursue the lawsuit against Al Jazeera.

“I understand why Major League Baseball found it necessary to explore this matter, and I appreciate that MLB, after a thorough investigation, was able to publicly affirm my innocence,” he said in a statement. “Throughout my life and career, I have been true to myself, my family, the Nationals organization and my community. It is not right that a so-called news organization and its personnel can publicly make false accusations that damage my reputation and call into question my integrity without any consequences whatsoever. As I said in January when I filed my lawsuit, I am determined to hold Al Jazeera and its reporters accountable for their defamatory actions.”

Howard, 36, has 376 home runs and 1,178 RBIs over a 13-year career spent entirely with the Phillies. He was the National League’s Rookie of the Year in 2005, the league’s MVP in 2006 and helped the Phillies to a World Series championship in 2008, their first title in 28 years.

Zimmerman, 31, has played his entire 12-year career with the Nationals and is fourth on the franchise’s all-time list with 212 homers.

“Over the course of their long and distinguished careers, both men have earned their stellar reputations as tremendous players and authentic ambassadors in their respective communities. Major League Baseball’s rulings are important steps in clearing their names and securing their legacies,” said Brodie Van Wagenen, the agent for both Howard and Zimmerman. “The result of MLB’s seven-month investigation strengthens the players’ resolve to seek justice in their ongoing legal battle with Al Jazeera and its reporters.”

Former major league catcher Taylor Teagarden, another player implicated in the Al Jazeera report, was suspended for 80 games in April.

The report also implicated NFL players Peyton Manning, Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, James Harrison and Mike Neal. Manning, now retired, was cleared by the NFL after an investigation. The NFL is still investigating Matthews and Peppers, who play for Green Bay, Pittsburgh’s Harrison and Neal, a free agent.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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