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NFL exonerates Peyton Manning

Following a comprehensive seven-month investigation, the NFL found no credible evidence that Peyton Manning was provided with or used HGH or any other performance enhancing drug.

When Al Jazeera linked multiple NFL players to PED use last December, the report resonated nationally for one of them. And that player has become the first one to be cleared.

“Following a comprehensive seven-month investigation into allegations made in a documentary by Al-Jazeera America, the NFL found no credible evidence that Peyton Manning was provided with or used HGH or other substances prohibited by the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, it was announced today,” the league said in a statement.

“The Mannings were fully cooperative with the investigation and provided both interviews and access to all records sought by the investigators. Initiated in January, the investigation was led by the NFL’s security and legal teams with support from expert consultants and other professionals. The investigation involved witness interviews, a review of relevant records and other materials, online research, and laboratory analysis and review. Separately, the NFL’s investigation continues into the documentary’s allegations made against other NFL players, which involve different lines of inquiry and witnesses.”

The league didn’t disclose exactly what happened during the “seven-month” investigation. Manning, who loudly denied HGH use in multiple interviews given after the story first emerged, undoubtedly denied it loudly during his interview with the NFL.

The only way for the NFL to know definitively whether Manning did or didn’t use HGH would be to receive full and complete records from the Guyer Institute in Indianapolis regarding treatment received by and medication provided to Manning and his wife, Ashley, during the relevant time period. The statement from the NFL doesn’t specifically identify those records, explaining only that the Mannings “provided access to all records sought by the investigators.” If, in theory, the investigators didn’t seek the right documents, the investigators wouldn’t have gotten the right information.

The report comes at a time when the NFL continues to insist that the other players implicated in the report -- Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, Steelers linebacker James Harrison, and free-agent defensive lineman Mike Neal -- must submit to interviews even though the only publicly known evidence of HGH use comes from the Al Jazeera report. It will be hard for some (specifically Patriots fans) to reconcile the league’s ongoing investigation of these four players if the NFL already has concluded that the since-retracted claims of Charles Sly, a former Guyer Institute employee who was recorded without his knowledge, are not credible as to Manning.

If they’re not credible as to Manning, how can they be credible as to anyone else?