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Manning calls HGH report “defamation,” so will he sue?

20 May 1998: Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts in action during the Pinnacle NFL Rookie Shoot at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida. Mandatory Credit: Mike Powell /Allsport

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In a Sunday morning interview with ESPN’s Lisa Salters, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning pulled out a legal term of art when discussing the report from Al Jazeera regarding his use of HGH in 2011.

“It’s defamation,” Manning said of the report.

The next question is whether he’ll sue Al Jazeera or anyone else for defamation of character. Manning didn’t say whether he would, and Salters didn’t ask. Still, the mere utterance of the “D” word suggests plenty.

Filing a libel or slander lawsuit carries with it plenty of risks. Apart from the heightened standard of proof that applies to public figures who believe lies have been told about them, a defamation lawsuit opens the plaintiff’s life up for full and complete inspection. The defamation claim arises from the notion that an untruth has harmed the person’s reputation in the community. To determine the damage to the person’s reputation, the person’s pre-existing reputation must be fully explored.

Which would give the lawyers representing the person(s) sued for defamation a license to poke around in the nooks and crannies of the plaintiff’s entire public and private life. For Manning, that process could begin with a revisiting of the whole “naked butt and rectum” incident from his days at the University of Tennessee.

Manning is no stranger to defamation litigation. He was sued more than a decade ago for defaming UT trainer Jamie Ann Naughright in a book Manning wrote with his father, Archie. If Peyton now chooses to sue, he needs to be aware of all potential consequences, intended and otherwise, of that tactic.

To help him become aware of the potential consequences, Manning should explore the manner in which Roger Clemens responded to PED allegations from baseball’s Mitchell report. There’s plenty about the case on the Internet, including something that a certain Internet hack once wrote about the matter for Sporting News.