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August 19, 2016

MLB clears Ryan Howard of any wrongdoing in Al Jazeera's PED claims

Two days after Christmas, Ryan Howard (and soon-to-be multiple Super Bowl champion quarterback Peyton Manning, among others) was implicated in a doping ring on Al Jazeera America’s “The Dark Side” documentary.

Less than a week later, Howard filed a lawsuit against Al Jazeera. And Major League Baseball began conducting their own thorough investigation into the claims, which alleged that Howard and Washington Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman had used performance-enfacing drugs.

Nearly eight months later, MLB completed that investigation and announced Friday that Howard and Zimmerman were cleared of any wrongdoing. Howard and Zimmerman "fully cooperated" with the MLB commissioner's investigation; Charlie Sly, who made the allegations in the Al Jazeera documentary, did not cooperate, according to MLB's statement.

Ryan Howard issued the following statement through his agent:

"The accusations from Al Jazeera came out of nowhere, and I was shocked and outraged by their false claims. 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."

Howard faced the possibility of serving a suspension when MLB began its investigation in January. But Howard cooperated from the outset; he met with MLB investigators in early March during spring training.

Upon reporting to spring training, Howard said he was "shocked and surprised" by the allegations. He went as far as to call it "garbage" before reporting to camp. 

On Friday, Howard was vindicated.

Here is the announcement MLB released at noon on Friday:

Howard, the 2006 National League MVP and one of two members of the 2008 World Series team, along with Carlos Ruiz, that still remains on the Phillies roster, is hitting .198 with 19 home runs in 87 games with the Phillies this season. 

But in the last two months, Howard has rebounded from a dreadful start to hit .314 with a .359 on-base percentage, a .686 slugging percentage, nine home runs, and five doubles in his last 30 games (since June 22). Howard, who leads all major leaguers (min. 50 plate appearances) in slugging percentage since the All-Star break, has homered in three of his last four starts in the last week.

Howard, 36, will become a free agent for the first time in his career this winter. Although the Phillies hold a $23 million club option for 2017, it's nearly a foregone conclusion that they instead will opt to exercise the $10 million buyout in that contract instead. 

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21