Major League Baseball has asked the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to help its investigation into whether several players named in an Al Jazeera documentary received banned drugs.
The two groups have shared information before but have never cooperated to such a formal extent.
"We've had discussions with USADA and are hopeful that together we can make progress in this investigation," said Dan Halem, MLB's chief legal officer, who oversees baseball's drug program.
Halem was expected to meet with USADA CEO Travis Tygart Tuesday at MLB's Manhattan headquarters.
Tygart declined to confirm the partnership or the meeting, but he said, "We're happy and honored to assist where we can."
The two groups will not be coordinating with the NFL, however. Two lawyers familiar with the MLB/USADA investigation said the NFL declined to coordinate with the other two organizations. The NFL has begun its own, mostly separate, investigation, although investigators in the two parallel efforts have communicated.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy issued a statement Tuesday, saying: "We are working with MLB and USADA. The review is ongoing and comprehensive. It involves obtaining and reviewing numerous records, conducting multiple interviews and working with other entities. We do not comment on the specifics of these matters until the review is completed."
In the documentary, first broadcast Dec. 27, an Indiana man named Charlie Sly was secretly recorded saying that he helped provide performance-enhancing drugs to numerous NFL and MLB athletes, including Peyton Manning. Manning denied using performance-enhancing drugs, although he said an Indianapolis clinic where Sly once worked had sent undisclosed substances to his wife, Ashley.
Sly released a statement after the documentary saying he had fabricated the information, and two MLB players he had named, the Phillies' Ryan Howard and the Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman, filed lawsuits against Al Jazeera America, which has since declared it will shut down. But the documentary also recorded an exchange with Sly and minor league catcher Taylor Teagarden, who spent eight games with the Cubs last season, in which Teagarden talks about receiving banned substances from Sly. Perhaps Sly exaggerated or fabricated some claims, investigators believe, but clearly not all.
The partnership offers obvious benefits for both MLB and USADA. MLB gets USADA's institutional knowledge of the doping world, along with the quasi-governmental agency's extensive contacts with law enforcement. USADA gets to participate in an investigation that involves the nation's most powerful sports leagues, neither of which is under its jurisdiction.
Both bodies will be watching to see how aggressively the NFL pursues its investigation, however. While MLB gained a reputation as a zealous pursuer of PED users through the Biogenesis saga, the NFL has been widely criticized in anti-doping circles as not doing enough to fight the issue.