Al Jazeera’s “The Dark Side” shows the dark side of sports journalism

The Dark Side, an investigative documentary by Al Jazeera that “links” some of the world’s top athletes to doping, is professional sports’ next high-profile witch hunt.

For those who want to watch 50 minutes of inconclusive hearsay, the documentary can be found here.

That hyperlink sends you to a ridiculous Huffington Post article that asserts Al Jazeera’s “explosive” new documentary links the likes of Peyton Manning, Clay Matthews, Ryan Howard, Mike Tyson, and other professional athletes to a doping ring led by pharmacist Charlie Sly. Also named in the documentary for supplying PEDs to professional athletes are pharmacist Chad Robertson and Dale Guyer of the Guyer Institute in Indianapolis.

The entire premise of the documentary is drivel. Al Jazeera, using British hurdler Liam Collins, took undercover video of Sly and other distributors who claim they supplied drugs like growth hormone, Delta-2, and other banned substances, to many of the athletes listed above.

Sly tells Collins that while working at the Guyer Institute in 2011, he worked on the staff that treated Manning after undergoing neck surgery that kept him out of the 2011 NFL season. The regiment, Sly says in the undercover video, included growth hormone and after-hour visits to the facility. He also added that shipments of growth hormone were sent to Ashley Manning, Peyton’s wife, to keep Peyton’s name clean.

However, as part of his undercover façade, Collins was acting as a buyer in his meetings with Sly and other suppliers, inquiring about which athletes they’ve serviced before, expected results, and other questions that allowed Sly to aggrandize his operation – which he admitted to.

After news of the Al Jazeera documentary broke, Sly immediately recanted his statements, saying that his claims were “false and incorrect” and that there’s “no truth to any statement of mine that Al Jazeera plans to air.”

This didn’t stop Al Jazeera from airing the documentary though, or other ignorant outfits like Huffington Post from proliferating ignorance. Additionally, Dale Guyer has denied Sly’s employment at Guyer in 2011, stating that Sly was an unpaid student intern at the institute for a three-month period in 2013.

Perhaps Al Jazeera didn’t do all of their homework.

I don’t understand how this “story” was published. Of course Sly is going to tell Collins that he supplies all of the world’s best athletes, he wants to sell his drugs! How is obtaining video of a crooked drug dealer saying he supplied anyone with banned substances worthy of the accusations that have been levied at these athletes? And when in sports journalism do we stop it with these slanderous headlines, especially when no hard proof of wrongdoing exists?

Collins travelled from Vancouver to Austin, Texas, chasing down suppliers and athletes in search of tangible evidence. Luckily for him and Al Jazeera, they did come away with something tangible, however it’s much less media friendly than the headlines they are currently writing. In the documentary, former Chicago Cubs catcher Taylor Teagarden is seen meeting with Sly to pick up drugs, and openly admits on camera to using a growth hormone regiment that evades the testing processes implemented by professional baseball.

But Teagarden is, of course, an afterthought in comparison to some of the athletes Sly named. Who cares that a journeyman catcher, who has never done anything worth noting in his professional career, is caught on camera admitting use of PEDs, when the guy who supplied him said that he gave growth hormone to Peyton Manning? That is the logic employed by Al Jazeera.

They also proved that you can find and use PEDs as a professional athlete – all you have to do is travel back and forth from Vancouver and Texas a handful of times disguised as a British hurdler. There’s no doubting that crooks like Sly can get their hands on these drugs for professional athletes, but no evidence exists, or even logically suggests, that he actually supplied any of the athletes he named in the undercover video.

Perhaps more will be unearthed of this scandal, but as for now, I honestly can’t believe this story even exists.

Jacob Posik

About Jacob Posik

Jacob Posik, of Turner, is the editor of The Maine Wire, an online news and opinion service offered by the Maine Heritage Policy Center. His blog covers local and national political topics.