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January 26, 2016

MLB enlists help of USADA in Al Jazeera investigation

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122615_Ryan Howard Gene Puskar/AP

Philadelphia Phillies' Ryan Howard walks in the dugout during a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh, Saturday, June 13, 2015. The Pirates won 4-3.

According to an ESPN report, Major League Baseball has enlisted the help of the United States Anit-Doping Agency in its investigation into the doping claims the television network Al Jazeera made against several of its players, including Ryan Howard, in an explosive documentary last month.

"We've had discussions with USADA and are hopeful that together we can make progress in this investigation," MLB's chief legal officer Dan Halem said in the ESPN story.

According to his bio on, Halem works on many collective bargaining issues with the MLB Players Association, including the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

In the Al- Jazeera report, Charlie Sly, a pharmacist based in Austin, Texas, said he supplied Howard, Washington Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman and former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson with Delta-2, “a hormone supplement that is ‘steroidal in nature’” and also designed to “stay ahead of drug tests.” The report, which aired two days after Christmas, also claimed that NFL superstar Peyton Manning used human growth hormone while recovering from neck surgery in 2011.

Howard and his attorneys wasted little time responding to the claims

They followed up their initial response with a defamation lawsuit against Al Jazeera three weeks ago. Howard also issued his only comments on the topic the night the lawsuit was filed.

"Today I authorized my attorneys to file suit against Al Jazeera and its reporters,” the Phillies first baseman said. “Their irresponsible reporting forced me to take this action to protect my name and to fight back against the spreading of these lies. I will have no further comment, as the filing itself contains all I need to say.”

The 36-year-old Howard is entering his 13th and very likely final season with the Phillies. The former National League MVP has a guaranteed $35 million left on his five-year, $125 million contract. He's owed $25 million in salary for 2016 and, at the very least, will receive a $10 million buyout option in 2017.

Howard’s production has been in steady decline since suffering a ruptured Achilles in October of 2011 — he hit .229 with 23 home runs and a .720 OPS in 129 games in 2015. Last week, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said there was a possibility Howard could see less playing time in 2016.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21