Al Jazeerah recently aired an investigative report named “The Dark Side: Secrets of the Sports Dopers” that connects several athletes including Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and former legendary boxer, Mike Tyson, to a doping ring.
Amid the allegations represented in the film, accused doper, Ryan Howard, a slugger for the Philadelphia Phillies, is suing Al Jazeera America for defamation. On Dec. 30th, Howard’s attorney, William Burck, sent a letter to Al Jazeera demanding the retraction of its report, which named Howard in connection with performance-enhancing drugs.
“Al Jazeera tried sneaking out a correction which acknowledges major errors in their story about our clients Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Howard. The original defamatory “report” connected our clients to the use of HGH, but Al Jazeera has not admitted this defamatory accusation was wholly false and unsubstatiated. Al Jazeera’s acknowledgement confirms their unforgivable sloppiness and the recklessness of its publication of this false story. Al Jazeea must retract the remaining false allegations against our clients immediately.” -William Burck
Denver Bronco’s quarterback Peyton Manning has already refuted the claims presented in the report saying that he is “disgusted” and “sick to his stomach.” The report had indicated that shipments of HGH had been addressed to Manning’s wife, Ashley Manning. Al Jazeera has since recanted this report.
When it comes to proving defamation, there are different requirements for proving it for a public figure versus a private person. When trying to prove defamation of a public figure, the plaintiff must prove that their was actual mailce on the defendant’s part when they made their defamatory statement. Actual malice can either be defined as knowing that the statement is false or acting with reckless disregard for the statement’s truth of falsity. Once this requirement is met, all of the other requirements must obviously be met such as publication, falsity, dissemination, statement made to a third party, and harm to one’s reputation.
In this current lawsuit, it appears that the athletes named in the report will have a good chance of winning since Al Jazeera has already admitted some falsity on its claims. The hard part is proving that Al Jazeera acted with “actual malice” in its report.