Major League Baseball concluded its investigation and on Friday cleared Ryan Howard of any wrongdoing regarding Al Jazeera's December report that the Phillies first baseman used performance-enhancing drugs.
Howard had vehemently denied using PEDs and sued the network for defamation, claiming Al Jazeera "publicly smeared" him. Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, also named in the Al Jazeera report, filed a defamation suit, too.
"The accusations from Al Jazeera came out of nowhere, and I was shocked and outraged by their false claims," Howard said in a statement. "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."
The Al Jazeera documentary, which focused mostly on NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, aired in late December. The report centered on the claims of Charles Sly, who at one time was affiliated with an Indianapolis-area anti-aging clinic. Sly made his claims while being secretly videotaped by a representative of the network. Sly began backpedaling from his comments even before the report aired and has since recanted his statements.
The report alleged that Manning received PEDs as he was recovering from neck surgery in 2011. Manning has strongly denounced the report and denied any wrongdoing.
The report also stated that Howard received PEDs. Howard denied those allegations to the network before the documentary aired. According to the suit, Howard's legal team warned the network not to broadcast lies about its client. The network stood by its report, which included the allegations against Howard. William Burck, a member of Howard's legal team, called the allegations “outright lies.” Burck followed up with a letter to Al Jazeera demanding a full and immediate retraction of the report. A week after the letter was sent, Howard filed lawsuit.
"We believe Al Jazeera deliberately ignored the facts and relied on people they knew to be unreliable to report the story for its sensationalist value," Burck said in a statement. "Al Jazeera didn't care about the truth or the harm they caused by broadcasting their false story."