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Al Jazeera reporter stresses that no allegation is being made against Peyton Manning

CORRECTS THE DATE TO MARCH 7 - Quarterback Peyton Manning, who will be released by the Indianapolis Colts, speaks during a news conference in Indianapolis, Wednesday, March 7, 2012.. Manning, 35, who missed all of last season after a series of operations on his neck, has been the staring quarterback for 13 season, won a record four MVP’s and the 2006 Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)


The media company that shook up the Sunday NFL news cycle is suddenly working hard to backpedal from the thrust of its report.

Appearing on NBC’s Today, the Al Jazeera reporter primarily responsible for the story that included a claim of HGH use by quarterback Peyton Manning argued that the report doesn’t actually claim that Manning used HGH.

“We have not said that in the program,” Deborah Davies said, via SportsBusiness Daily. “The only allegation in the program from Charlie Sly is that growth hormone was sent repeatedly from the Guyer [Institute] to Ashley Manning in Florida. We’re not making the allegation against Peyton Manning.”

Added Davies elsewhere in the interview: “Let’s make it clear what the allegation is. The allegation in the program is very simple, that when Charlie Sly worked in the Guyer [Institute] doing part of his training . . . the clinic was sending out not one shipment but repeated shipments of growth hormone to Ashley Manning in Florida. That’s it.”

But that’s not the impression Sly created in the documentary.

“All the time we would be sending Ashley Manning drugs,” Sly said, via the original (and now updated) Huffington Post item on the matter, which touched off a firestorm. “Like growth hormone, all the time, everywhere, Florida. And it would never be under Peyton’s name, it would always be under her name.”

Given the context, as crafted by the Huffington Post article that flowed from Al Jazeera giving exclusive advance access to the documentary, the allegation that the Guyer Institute was sending HGH to Ashley Manning is part of a broader (albeit implied) allegation that the drugs were meant for Peyton.

While no one has denied that Ashley Manning received HGH, the entire point of the story is to suggest that it was for Peyton, not Ashley.

The tactic (essentially, “we’re not saying/we’re just saying”) isn’t a surprising strategy, especially with Peyton Manning suggesting that he may sue for defamation. But while it’s a subtle shift on the surface, it’s a very real change in the tone of the report.