KRAVITZ: If allegations against Manning are true, another sports icon takes a fall

Published:
Updated:

No icon goes unscathed, or so it seems. We’ve seen it all throughout sports, the steroid scandals that ensnared Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez and so many others. We’ve seen it with Lance Armstrong, the cycling mega-champion who, after years of denials, finally came clean about his performance-enhancing drug use. To a lesser extent, we saw it with Tom Brady, who was accused of scheming to deflate footballs before the AFC title game, only to earn exoneration in a court of law. (An appeal is now pending). Tiger Woods took his hard fall from grace.

Now…Peyton Manning.

Seriously, Peyton Manning?

A story in Al-Jazeera and previewed in the Huffington Post this weekend accuses Manning of procuring and using human growth hormone (HGH) while he was recovering from his multiple neck surgeries in 2011. The story, or at least the preview that was published by the Huffington Post, quotes sources as saying that Manning had the drug mailed to his home under his wife’s name so he would avoid detection.

Manning responded late Saturday to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen: "For the record, I have never used HGH. It absolutely never happened. The whole thing is totally wrong. It's such a fabrication, I'm not losing any sleep over it, that's for sure.

“The allegation that I would do something like that is complete garbage and is totally made up. It never happened. Never. I really can't believe somebody would put something like this on the air. Whoever said this is making stuff up."

Related content: Peyton Manning adds Ari Fleischer to HGH allegation P.R. effort

What you should know is, HGH was banned by the NFL in 2011, the same year Manning is alleged to have begun using it. The NFL didn’t start testing for it until 2014 after a protracted fight over the issue between the NFL and NFLPA. Since testing began, not a single player has tested positive for the drug, which suggests to me that the testing lacks efficacy.

  • Read Peyton Manning's interview with ESPN here: "What hurts me the most about this, whoever this guy is, this slapstick trying to insinuate that in 2011, when more than less I had a broken neck -- I had four neck surgeries. ... It stings me whoever this guy is to insinuate that I cut corners, I broke NFL rules in order to get healthy. It's a joke. It's a freaking joke."

Several years ago, I wrote a column and quoted former Colt Anthony Gonzalez, who is now out of football, insisting that HGH use was common in NFL locker rooms and the league and the NFLPA needed desperately to come to an agreement on testing. Gonzalez couldn’t, or wouldn’t, provide a percentage of players using the drug, which is used medically for various ailments including wasting from AIDS. But, he said, it was significant, and needed to be removed from the game.

I’m going to share something with you: About a decade ago or more, I was dealing with several health issues and, in desperation, went to see Dr. Guyer at the Guyer Institute on 82nd Street. Guyer, and his practice, are currently at the center of this growing scandal. My primary complaint was overwhelming and relentless fatigue, and after trying several different remedies, Guyer put me on HGH for a couple of months. He told me it would help with my energy and basically bring me back to the land of the living. Unfortunately, it had zero impact – except on my bank account.

I quit using it, and years later, doctors eventually discovered what my issues were and addressed them properly.

It’s safe to assume that if Manning did, in fact, receive HGH from Dr. Guyer, he used it in an effort to recover from the multiple neck surgeries that sidelined him the entire 2011 season and put his career in peril. This was a time when Manning was desperate to return to the field, even going overseas to try some procedures that are not yet accepted in the United States.

If it’s true, though, Manning cheated. No, he wasn’t trying to gain an edge from performance-enhancing drugs, as so many athletes do. He was simply attempting to return to the football field.

But no matter.

Whatever it was allegedly used for, it was wrong, and if proven, Manning has a major issue on his hands.

At this early point in the process, it’s hard to get a sense of how the NFL might move on all of this, but it seems to me they are duty bound to take a very hard look at what may have happened here. Cheating is cheating, whether it involves the use of performance enhancing drugs or deflating footballs. Realistically, it’s hard to imagine the NFL will come down terribly hard on Manning, if at all, especially given the fact that even if it’s true, he’s never tested positive for the drug – no surprise since testing began three years after his alleged use.

As much as New England fans would love to see Manning drawn-and-quartered in the public square, as was their beloved quarterback who has issues of his own now with this Dr. Guerrero, I tend to doubt a lot is going to come of this.

That said, this has the potential to put a serious dent in Manning’s reputation. He is not only one of the great quarterbacks of this or any other era, he is one of the most marketable, if not THE most marketable, athlete on the planet. You can’t watch TV for 15 minutes without hearing him sing the Nationwide jingle. Or sell pizzas. Or whatever. As a pitchman, he has become downright iconic.

Nobody spends very much time atop the athletic pedestal, not anymore. Has another athletic idol fallen, or at least begun to take a fall? If this is true, it’s very sad, and very damaging for Peyton Manning.

Related stories:

Peyton Manning calls report of 2011 HGH use "complete garbage"

REPORT: Peyton Manning allegedly took HGH while a Colt; QB strongly denies

Nationally recognized surgeon explains Peyton Manning's neck surgery