Cam Cole: And if Peyton Manning was on HGH? I’m just about OK with that

 

Super Bowl-bound Broncos quarterback will be braced for a bellyful of questions on the issue

 
 
 
 
Then-Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (left) in 2011 while sidelined for the entire season with a severe neck injury, meets rookie quarterback Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers after an NFL game in Indianapolis. The two will face each other in Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, Calif., on Feb. 7, 2016.
 

Then-Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (left) in 2011 while sidelined for the entire season with a severe neck injury, meets rookie quarterback Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers after an NFL game in Indianapolis. The two will face each other in Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, Calif., on Feb. 7, 2016.

Photograph by: AJ Mast, AP

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VANCOUVER — We’re inside 200 days until the Rio Olympics, and it can’t come soon enough, for we need something to reignite our white-hot outrage in case some obscure Bulgarian weightlifter gets nailed for steroids during the Games.

Which will add to our sense of moral superiority, vis-à-vis the scores — probably more — of Russian athletes who’ve been caught out for doping under cover of their government for years, and the steady stream of other amateur (more or less) dopers whose names we recognize for 10 minutes every four years and then forget ever existed.

Meanwhile, in the multi-millionaire category, the National Football League is launching a full investigation — and you know what that means (cough, Roger Goodell) — into allegations, first reported by Al Jazeera, that Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, or his wife, received human growth hormone (HGH) from an Indianapolis anti-aging clinic in 2011.

Also, the Anaheim Ducks’ Shawn Horcoff has been suspended 20 games without pay by the National Hockey League for a performance-enhancing substance he says he unwittingly used to help recover from an injury. Whether this was a steroid or HGH or something else, we do not know, only that Horcoff will lose $357,000 and change for his transgression.

He becomes the fourth NHL player in history, not one of them even remotely a star, to be caught in the league’s airtight (insert laugh here) drug-testing net.

That tells you all you need to know about the NHL’s level of commitment to stamping out illicit use of performance enhancers. (Sportsnet.ca’s Mark Spector wrote a hell of a column on this very topic, if you want to go all the way down that rabbit hole.)

It also establishes that double standards are at work, and not only in the NHL, but elsewhere in pro sports, too. And although Major League Baseball has mended its ways and refused to pick its spots in nailing many a big-name star over the past decade, it is not much of a leap to suspect that your favourite NHL stars, taking advantage of the league’s inattention, may have ingested a little of this or a little of that along the way to make them bigger, stronger and increase their endurance.

It’s a much smaller leap to suspect that NFL players, as a species, may be closer to the WWE end of the muscle-building spectrum than the Bulgarian weightlifter is.

The question is: do you care?

This is the issue at play heading into Super Bowl 50, where the feel-good, sentimental favourite was certain to be the 39-year-old Manning, rag-armed and surviving on guile and experience … until the Al Jazeera report and the NFL’s promise to investigate guaranteed that he’ll be answering a bellyful of HGH questions, and not so many about the game.

And now we face a dilemma. Or I do, anyway.

Personally, I’m having great difficulty working up the usual degree of umbrage. This is very inconsistent, I realize, for it is a great sin to be selective in one’s recriminations on such an important topic, but there it is.

If the Denver (or Indianapolis at the time) quarterback did indeed receive shipments of HGH while rehabbing a neck injury that was so severe, few thought he would ever play again … and if the result of using HGH is that he not only came back, but came back to be great for four more years at the end of a Hall of Fame career, then I’m just about OK with that.

Maybe it’s because I’m to the point of not worrying any more about what football players put in their bloodstreams, because it’s quite apparent that they understand going in that they are choosing a path that will half-destroy their bodies and, as they now surely realize, possibly their brains, too.

And I’m starting to think that perhaps this should be the real dividing line the Olympics needs to promote: amateur (sort of) versus professional. Ours pure, theirs tainted.

We’ll give it more thought, and keep you posted.

Manning has denied the Al Jazeera story uncategorically, but he hasn’t sued yet for defamation, and the network has since ceased operating in North America, so the NFL has its work cut out, even if it pursues the allegations in earnest and not just for show.

But even if he used the HGH, if it looks to the public to have been therapeutic in nature, and quite different from the steroid cases of Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds and Marion Jones and Ben Johnson and on and on and on …

Then how do we feel about that?

Manning is a big, funny galoot and more likeable, to the power of infinity, than Bonds or Clemens, or the others named above.

Should likeability colour one’s judgment in such weighty matters? Probably not.

Is it willful blindness on my part? Very likely.

So sue me.

ccole@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/rcamcole

 
 
 
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Then-Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (left) in 2011 while sidelined for the entire season with a severe neck injury, meets rookie quarterback Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers after an NFL game in Indianapolis. The two will face each other in Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, Calif., on Feb. 7, 2016.
 

Then-Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (left) in 2011 while sidelined for the entire season with a severe neck injury, meets rookie quarterback Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers after an NFL game in Indianapolis. The two will face each other in Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, Calif., on Feb. 7, 2016.

Photograph by: AJ Mast, AP

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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