The league announced its decision in a statement released Monday, saying it “found no credible evidence” of allegations in an Al-Jazeera America report that Manning’s wife received deliveries of HGH in 2011.
Before making its final determination, the NFL interviewed Manning and his wife, Ashley, who were “fully cooperative with the investigation,” according to the league.
The NFL also received medical records pertinent to the case and, after reviewing them and the interviews, determined there wasn’t any evidence that any violation had occurred.
The NFL Players Association also issued a statement later Monday about Manning, who retired earlier this offseason.
“As a former player, Peyton Manning is free to do whatever he believes is in his best interest,” the NFLPA’s statement said. “The Union knows that he understands the rights of players under the Collective Bargaining Agreement and would never do anything to hurt or undermine active players in support of those rights.”
Al-Jazeera America reported in December that an intern at an Indianapolis anti-aging clinic was secretly recorded suggesting that Ashley Manning received shipments of HGH. Peyton Manning, then with the Indianapolis Colts, was rehabbing from neck surgeries. HGH is banned by professional sports leagues and is legal to prescribe for only a few specific medical conditions.
The intern, Charles Sly, recanted his statements, which were recorded without his knowledge. He said they were fabricated in an attempt to impress a potential business partner.
Manning angrily denounced the report, calling it “completely fabricated, complete trash, garbage” and insisting he never took shortcuts in his return to football after missing the 2011 season with neck problems. He said he supported an NFL investigation into the report.
Manning retired after his Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers to win the Super Bowl in February.
While Manning is now in the clear, other players might not be. The league still is planning to interview Packers linebackers Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews when Green Bay’s camp opens Monday, along with former Packers defensive lineman Mike Neal and Steelers linebacker James Harrison — all of whom were mentioned in the Al-Jazeera report.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy on Monday sounded confident that Matthews and Peppers also would eventually be exonerated.
“I have not talked to them recently [about it]; I talked to them back in the season when it first came out, and frankly I don’t have anything else to really report on it,” McCarthy said. “I have no reason to be concerned based on the conversations I’ve been a part of.”
Each of the players sent written affidavits to the NFL, thinking that was sufficient for the league’s investigation. The league thought otherwise and is now demanding that each player meet with NFL security and legal teams. Failure to participate in interviews with the league would be considered as part of the evaluation process for potential discipline.
This is a matter the league’s security, and legal teams have been studying and assessing since Al-Jazeera’s report in December.
During its investigation, the league studied multiple medical records, worked in consultation with what it believed were expert witnesses and conducted laboratory analysis. Commissioner Roger Goodell had vowed to pursue the matter when the Al-Jazeera report broke.
“On January 11, 2016, the league notified Messrs. Peppers, Neal, Matthews and Harrison that it had initiated an investigation following the airing of the Al-Jazeera America documentary, which raised serious issues concerning their possible violation of the NFL/NFLPA Policy on Performance-Enhancing Substances,” the NFL wrote in a letter to the NFLPA last month. “The players were further advised that, with their full and timely cooperation, the investigation would be conducted expeditiously and with minimal disruption.
“While the investigation has proceeded, we have yet to interview the players. We have attempted since early April to work through the NFLPA to schedule them, but despite multiple requests the NFLPA has failed to respond, except to seek reconsideration of the basis for the investigation. This continuing delay and avoidance has obstructed our ability to conduct and conclude the investigation.
“In fairness to all, including the players involved, we must move forward with the interviews. Accordingly, this will advise that the interviews of Messrs. Peppers, Matthews and Harrison will be scheduled for the first day of their respective training camps, and the interview of Mr. Neal [free agent] will take place on or before July 22. The players will be advised of the specific scheduling details by separate correspondence on which the NFLPA will be copied, and of course an NFLPA representative may attend each interview should the player so request.”
ESPN’s Rob Demovsky contributed to this report.