On Tuesday, Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals held a press conference to speak publicly for the first time about allegations in an Al Jazeera America documentary linking him to performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).
Zimmerman filed a defamation suit against Al Jazeera, which released a documentary in December quoting pharmacist Charlie Sly saying he provided Zimmerman with Delta-2, last month. But on Tuesday, the first day position players reported for spring training for the Nationals, Zimmerman fiercely denounced the allegations, noting that filing the lawsuit left him open for a complete investigation.
It’s really, really hard to win these suits, but I think it’s my responsibility not only to clear my name but if I do this and whether I win or lose on the defamation suit whatever it is, even if it gets to a trial, I sort of felt a responsibility because I am able to fight it that maybe if this stops this from happening to just one person after me, then it’s worth it … I don’t really think there’s much of a stronger … action for me to take than saying: “Here you go. Come look at me legally.” A lot of people have said certain things when they’re accused of these but have never taken these actions, so by taking these actions I’m basically letting them into all aspects of my life, unfortunately, that nobody should have access to but now they do. Whether that’s right or wrong, that’s for everyone else to decide. It’s one of those things where privacy is really not privacy anymore for me, and it’s unfortunate that I have to do that, but that’s the steps I’m willing to take to show people that I have nothing to hide.
I’ve never done any of that. I’ve never thought about doing any of that. It’s a tough spot. You do everything the right way. You work. You think something like this will never happen, and then, for some reason, it does. We’re taking the right steps to ultimately clear my name, which is the most important part. Unfortunately, nowadays the public opinion is one of the things that matters the most. I trust that my teammates and the people that, I guess you can say, matter — not that some people don’t matter — the people who really know me, know the truth.
Commenting on Sly, Zimmerman asserted:
I’ve never met that guy. I’ve never heard of that guy. The guy that supposedly helps me train in the offseason. So, yeah, none of that stuff is true. I’ve never done any of that. I’ve never thought about doing any of that. It’s a tough spot. You do everything the right way. You work. You think something like this will never happen, and then, for some reason, it does. We’re taking the right steps to ultimately clear my name, which is the most important part.”
Zimmerman speculated that the link to Sly involved trainer Jason Riley, with whom Zimmerman has trained for “years.” Ryan Howard, who was also named in the documentary and has also filed a defamation suit against Al Jazeera, has also worked with Riley, of whom Zimmerman said:
His reputation is, one of, if not the cleanest reputation trainers have. I can’t speak for what happens with who he’s involved with, things like that, but Jason’s always been great with me and obviously has never given me or I’ve never taken any of those things that they’ve talked about. I would assume that that’s the link. It’s kind of reckless. A lot of people have worked with trainers and things like that. It’s hard to just throw peoples’ names out there without really having any sort of proof.”
Zimmerman recalled his agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, calling him before the documentary aired to let him know his name had been mentioned. He said, “I don’t want to say it was a laughable conversation, but we know each other almost like brothers, so it was a conversation we thought we’d never have to have.”
What followed was anger, Zimmerman said:
After that all wears off, you realize everything that this entails, and it becomes real, real fast, I guess is the best way to put it. After the first week or two, when all the shock and the media and all that wears off and now you just have to live with it and go through it when there’s no attention really, it becomes part of your daily life, which I would say at the beginning it almost consumed me because you’re so upset about it and you’re so worried about making it right. Also, that’s kind of the personality I have. I’m a very type-A person. I’m very scheduled and regimented and to have something like this happen, it was almost to the point where I just wanted to do whatever I could to show people my innocence, to the point where my wife had to tell me to take it easy.
In the end, Zimmerman was driven to file the lawsuit by two factors: to set the standard for others who have been defamed, and to use the lawsuit to delineate what the standards should be for investigative reporting.
He concluded, “We need reports, we need investigations, because I’m one of the biggest advocates for getting things out of sports. I think people need to be a little bit careful before they just start throwing peoples’ names out there, I guess, is the way I feel. I know that’s a fine line. But, in my case, and that’s the only case I’m talking about personally, to do things right your entire life and to have something like this just kind of happen out of the blue, it’s frustrating.”