The media drags Derek Jeter into the Peyton Manning PEDs story

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Whenever you see a news story in which a figure is “linked” to something, do yourself a favor: figure out who is doing the linking. If a figure within the story with knowledge and facts at his disposal is doing it, sure, it may mean something. If it’s the reporter merely observing some commonalities, it may not. It may just be a coincidental or irrelevant fact.

None of which is to say that this story from the New York Times yesterday (picked up now by the Daily News, so look out) is false in any way or misleading or misguided or even insignificant. It’s just to say that when you start dropping new names into a controversial story about sports doping, one had best be very clear about what is actually being reported and what is not.

Here’s what is being reported: that Derek Jeter’s trainer, Jason Riley, was friends and business partners with Charlie Sly, the pharmacist who told Al Jazeera that Peyton Manning, Ryan Howard, Ryan Zimmerman and others were getting HGH from him. Riley likewise trained Howard, Zimmerman and others. Sly has since recanted those statements (which were taken undercover) and has claimed that he was just boasting and talking big and dropping names. Howard and Zimmerman have sued and everyone named in the report has denied Sly’s claims.

What’s NOT being reported: that Jeter took PEDs or even that someone who has lied at one time or another like Charlie Sly has ever claimed he did. Indeed, if you WERE lying about famous athletes taking PEDs in order to make yourself look like a big shot and get business, you’d probably drop Jeter’s name, wouldn’t you? That’s the biggest fish there is. Even Sly didn’t do that.

All of this could mean something, as links with trainers and supplement companies and the like are how virtually every sports doping story has started. In light of that, there is nothing wrong with the Times or the Daily News running with this, at least cautiously. It’s interesting and could be relevant at some point.

But caution is in order. Based on this report, the Daily News is using “Jeter’s trainer linked” constructions in its headline. If history shows us anything it’s that such headlines will inevitably have the effect of readers saying that Jeter was linked. That’s how these things go. When new names are added to the PED soup, “links” often quickly become “ties” which often quickly become “allegations” which often lead to people’s names being dragged through the mud unjustifiably.

My advice: read carefully and conclude cautiously, especially when someone who has admitted to lying plays a prominent role in the story.