When the news broke of Peyton Manning being linked to PED use, I—probably like the rest of Football America—was skeptical, but hurt. How could football’s favorite son, such a likable figure be linked to something so damning? My attention immediately turned to “well, it’s not impossible…is it?”
I remember when Lance Armstrong was linked to doping, and the ridiculous amount of baseball players who were, too, linked to PED’s. I remember how they vehemently denied ever using anything that would give them an unfair advantage over their peers and the fallout that happened after they were found guilty (legally or in the court of public opinion).
Particularly, I remember Lance and how he wanted to bury everyone in every interview, knowing that he cheated his ass off. With that in mind, I knew Peyton Manning’s statement and how he approached the situation would be paramount in whether or not I could forgive him if he took PED’s. If he admitted to taking HGH to recover from neck surgery, I’d be okay with that. I wouldn’t be happy to learn that the greatest quarterback ever took a short cut, but considering where he was in 2011, could you really blame him?
So when Manning was interviewed by ESPN, which aired today, I eagerly awaited his denial of any wrongdoing. That’s not what I saw. I saw an emotionally hurt and distressed Peyton Manning. I saw a guy who, against all odds, worked his ass off to get back on to the football field when his career was in doubt and the pain that comes from having your hard work questioned by someone you don’t even know.
Even if he took HGH to recover from those four neck surgeries that nearly ended his career, calling Manning a “cheater” is so far out of line. What particular advantage did he gain over an opposing defense? We all watched the decline of Manning. How he could barely throw the ball 30 yards down the field. Throwing “ducks.” How the offense was tailored to fit his declining arm strength but superior intellect? Tell me where did this “advantage” come into play?
HGH was banned by the NFL in their Anti Doping policy (as well as the USADA), but didn’t begin testing for it until 2014 because the NFL/NFLPA agreed to in their new CBA. A lot of your favorite players probably took HGH too, because guess what: they weren’t going to get caught because no one was watching them.
Maybe I’m speaking too much from the heart—wouldn’t you if one of your sports heroes had his integrity questioned after being the undeniably most credible athlete of our generation? If the dust settles and Manning has indeed taken HGH, there’s no way we can equate that to cheating. It’s not Lance using it for nearly his entire cycling career, it’s not Conseco or McGwire testifying to Congress for “roiding up.” I don’t really know what this is, but this ain’t that.