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Nationals First Baseman Ryan Zimmerman Sues Al Jazeera Over Steroid Documentary

Photograph by Flickr user Mr. T in DC.

Ryan Zimmerman filed a lawsuit Tuesday night against Al Jazeera over a documentary the television network aired last month that included the veteran Nationals first baseman in a list of professional athletes who allegedly received performance-enhancing drugs from a pharmaceutical employee.

In the suit, filed in DC’s federal district court, charges Al Jazeera and two of its reporters with libel for airing the documentary, titled The Dark Side: Secrets of the Sports Dopers, which was based on claims that were recanted by their source, former pharmaceutical intern Charles Sly, before the broadcast.

Defendants knew full well that their ‘source’ had recanted his scandalous and untrue allegations against Mr. Zimmerman but, abdicating all journalistic responsibilities, Defendants nonetheless chose to publish their defamatory story in an attempt to stir scandal and increase Al Jazeera’s low ratings, no matter the cost to Mr. Zimmerman,” Zimmerman’s suit reads.

The broadcast included a segment in which Sly claimed to have known Zimmerman for six years and that the Nationals star had taken a supplement called Delta 2, which is banned by both Major League Baseball and the National Football League. “All of these statements concerning Mr. Zimmerman are categorically untrue,” the complaint reads. “Mr. Zimmerman has never taken Delta 2, human growth hormone, or any other steroid or other performance-enhancing substance banned by the MLB.”

Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, who was also named in the documentary, filed a separate suit against Al Jazeera on Tuesday. In The Dark Side, which aired December 27, Sly is seen offering Al Jazeera reporter and now co-defendant Liam Collins, a former British hurdler, “something to use right now” to improve Collins’s conditioning. The program also featured Sly rattling off his since-disavowed anecdotes about a slew of high-profile US professional athletes, including Zimmerman, Howard, and, most famously, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

The Nationals have been standing behind their 11-season veteran since the program aired. “Ryan has unequivocally stated that these allegations are false,” a team statement read. “The Lerner family and our organization fully support him.”

Zimmerman’s suit seeks compensation for unspecified damages, attorneys’ fees, and a retraction from Al Jazeera printed a newspaper with “nationwide distribution.” Zimmerman’s attorneys recommend the New York Times.

Read the full complaint:

Ryan Zimmerman v. Al Jazeera

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Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.