The NFL announced Wednesday it has cleared the names of three of the players who were named in the Al Jazeera PED report. In a statement, the league says it has no evidence that Green Bay Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, along with Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, used performance-enhancing drugs. Free agent Mike Neal remains under review, according to USA Today's Tom Pelissero.
"The NFL found no credible evidence that Pittsburgh's James Harrison and Green Bay's Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers were provided with or used substances prohibited under the NFL-NFLPA Policy on Performance-Enhancing Substances following a comprehensive investigation into allegations made in a documentary by Al-Jazeera America, it was announced today," the league's statement read.
All four players agreed to be interviewed in August after the NFL informed them they would be suspended if they didn't cooperate with its inquiry. The league sent a letter to the NFL Players Association on Aug. 15, saying commissioner Roger Goodell would invoke Article 46 of the collective bargaining agreement and deem their conduct to be detrimental.
Though Harrison eventually capitulated, he gave the league the most public blowback. A frequent critic of Goodell -- he's called the commissioner "the devil" -- Harrison originally challenged league investigators to conduct the interview at his house. It wound up being held at the Steelers' facility. The NFL found no new evidence during the interviews.
The accusations stem from an Al Jazeera America documentary titled The Dark Side, which features pharmacist Charlie Sly alleging he provided PEDs to a wide swath of American professional athletes. The biggest name Sly mentioned was Peyton Manning, whom Sly said received shipments of human growth hormone to his house under his wife's name in 2011 while he was recovering from neck surgery.
After Manning cooperated with the league investigation, the NFL announced in July it couldn't find any credible evidence that ties Manning to HGH or other banned substances.
Though Sly recanted his statements shortly after the video was released, the NFL still felt compelled to go forward with an investigation. It sets a scary precedent for players, who may now be forced to answer rumors at the behest of the league if they want to avoid disciplinary action. Yet in the wake of the NFL's DeflateGate victory over Tom Brady, Goodell's authority has never been stronger.