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Nats infielder Ryan Zimmerman is seeing red, and he’s taking media network Al Jazeera to court over it.
Along with Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, the Washington Nationals veteran has sued Al Jazeera America for allegedly defaming him in a documentary called “The Dark Side” that it released in December. The documentary reported that both players (and football celebrity Peyton Manning, who has denied the film’s accounts) used performance-enhancing drugs. A spokesperson for Al Jazeera said it had “no comment.”
In his complaint—filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for D.C.—Zimmerman’s lawyers allege that the network “publicly smeared [him] with false and unsubstantiated allegations of performance-enhancing drug use, based on uncorroborated accusations by a third party that had been unequivocally recanted” before the film’s publication. Al Jazeera “knew full well that their ‘source'”—an ex-pharmaceutical intern named Charles Sly—”had recanted his scandalous and untrue allegations against Mr. Zimmerman, but, abdicating all journalistic responsibilities, Defendants nonetheless chose to publish their defamatory story in attempt to stir scandal and increase Al Jazeera’s low ratings, no matter the cost to Mr. Zimmerman,” the 24-page suit states.
The complaint goes on to note that the documentary’s claims regarding Zimmerman’s purported use of human growth hormone and a PED known as Delta 2 are “categorically untrue”: “Zimmerman has never received any banned substances from [Sly] and has never ‘been coached’ [by] him [on it].”
(There’s some media criticism within the suit, too: “The allegations as to Mr. Zimmerman lack any specificity. ‘The Dark Side’ does not identify when Mr. Zimmerman is alleged to have started taking such performance-enhancing substances or for how long, or how he received and paid for the drugs. It does not include any details on when, where, or how Sly supposedly met Mr. Zimmerman or how they communicated with each other. Despite six months of undercover work, [AJ] failed to uncover a single reported piece of evidence corroborating Sly’s outlandish claims about Mr. Zimmerman.”)
In a statement, Zimmerman says: “I have always taken pride in my personal conduct. While I am not a litigious person, I felt it was necessary to file this suit to restore my reputation and to hold Al Jazeera accountable for its actions. The suit speaks for itself, and I have no plans to discuss this any further.”
If he succeeds in the case, Zimmerman could win damages determined at trial, attorneys’ costs, and an injunction requiring Al Jazeera to retract its reports.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery