Major League Baseball has cleared Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman of any wrongdoing in its investigation of an Al-Jazeera America report on performance-enhancing drugs, saying that neither player violated the sport's drug program.
MLB announced Friday that it has completed its investigation, which "did not find any violations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program by either Howard or Zimmerman."
Al-Jazeera America reported in a December documentary that Howard and Zimmerman, along with several other professional athletes, allegedly received shipments of performance-enhancing drugs.
The Al-Jazeera America report, titled "The Dark Side: Secrets of Sports Doping,'' was based on secret recordings of former Indianapolis anti-aging institute worker Charles Sly, who named Zimmerman and other high-profile athletes as having received steroid-like Delta-2 hormone supplement shipments from him while he worked at the Guyer Institute.
Sly later recanted the story and told Al-Jazeera that the statements attributed to him "are absolutely false and incorrect."
Howard and Zimmerman filed lawsuits against Al-Jazeera America in January, claiming that the report contained false statements and was inaccurate, unsubstantiated and reckless.
Howard and Zimmerman both "fully cooperated" with baseball's investigation, but Sly did not agree to speak with MLB or provide requested information, according to Friday's statement.
Howard, 36, has 376 home runs and 1,178 RBIs over a 13-year career spent entirely with the Phillies. He was the National League's Rookie of the Year in 2005, was the league's MVP in 2006 and helped the Phillies to a World Series championship in 2008, their first title in 28 years.
"The accusations from Al Jazeera came out of nowhere, and I was shocked and outraged by their false claims," Howard said in a statement released shortly after MLB's announcement. "I welcomed the investigation by Major League Baseball as an opportunity to clear my name. I was fully cooperative and transparent in the process, and MLB's findings validate what I have said publicly. I am glad that this part of the process has concluded, and I look forward to holding the responsible people accountable for these false and defamatory claims in my ongoing litigation against Al Jazeera and its reporters."
Zimmerman, 31, has played his entire 12-year career with the Nationals and is fourth on the franchise's all-time list with 212 homers. He also indicated Friday that he will continue to pursue the lawsuit against the now-defunct Al-Jazeera America.
"I understand why Major League Baseball found it necessary to explore this matter, and I appreciate that MLB, after a thorough investigation, was able to publicly affirm my innocence," he said in a statement. "Throughout my life and career, I have been true to myself, my family, the Nationals organization and my community. It is not right that a so-called news organization and its personnel can publicly make false accusations that damage my reputation and call into question my integrity without any consequences whatsoever. As I said in January when I filed my lawsuit, I am determined to hold Al Jazeera and its reporters accountable for their defamatory actions."
Zimmerman also said before Friday night's game at Atlanta: "The whole point of the lawsuit was to not allow people to basically smear your name without any evidence or without any proof. So that will go on."
"I'm just glad it's behind me," Howard said Friday in the clubhouse before the Phillies-Cardinals game. "That's about it. The process is the process. I'm glad it's behind me and I can move forward and just focus on playing baseball."
"Over the course of their long and distinguished careers, both men have earned their stellar reputations as tremendous players and authentic ambassadors in their respective communities. Major League Baseball's rulings are important steps in clearing their names and securing their legacies," said Brodie Van Wagenen, the agent for both Howard and Zimmerman. "The result of MLB's seven-month investigation strengthens the players' resolve to seek justice in their ongoing legal battle with Al Jazeera and its reporters."
Former major league catcher Taylor Teagarden, another player implicated in the Al-Jazeera America report, was suspended for 80 games in April.
The report also implicated NFL players Peyton Manning, Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, James Harrison and Mike Neal. Manning, now retired, was cleared by the NFL after an investigation. The NFL is still investigating Matthews and Peppers, who play for Green Bay, Pittsburgh's Harrison and Neal, a free agent.
Information from ESPN's Jerry Crasnick and The Associated Press was used in this report.