NFL players union wants to see evidence in league probe

The NFL has played three games each season in London since 2014 to sellout crowds, staging matches at both Wembley and Twickenham and will play four there during the 2017 season (AFP Photo/RONALD MARTINEZ)

Washington (AFP) - The NFL Players Association wants to see evidence supporting the league's investigation into charges of dope cheating made in a December report by Al-Jazeera America on performance-enhancing drugs.

The union's formal request was revealed Wednesday in letters sent to Adolpho Birch, the NFL vice president who sent letters to the union last week asking to investigate the four remaining active NFL players mentioned in the report -- Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, Green Bay Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers and free agent linebacker Mike Neal.

"On behalf of Mr. Harrison, we have repeatedly requested that the NFL inform him and the NFLPA whether the NFL possesses any credible evidence (e.g., verified documents or verified testimony of witnesses) that warrants an interview of Mr. Harrison regarding a potential violation of the Policy on Performance Enhancing Substances (PES Policy)," the union's letter on behalf of Harrison said, according to a copy obtained by USA Today.

"The NFL's June 3rd response to our most recent written inquiry about this matter did not provide copies of any such credible evidence, nor did you inform us that the NFL possesses or is even aware of the existence of any such credible evidence. Thus, it appears that the entire basis for the NFL's investigation of Mr. Harrison consists of verbal remarks that appeared in a report broadcast by Al Jazeera and were subsequently recanted.

"Especially in a business where the mere mention of a player-employee's name can generate ratings for a broadcaster, the NFLPA and Mr. Harrison do not believe that unsupported, unsubstantiated verbal remarks provide 'sufficient credible evidence' to initiate an investigation of, and require an interview with, an employee."

The union asks if any credible evidence beyond rmarks in the report exists, that it be presented to justify talking to players, saying, "please share or describe that information so that he can reassess his obligations as an employee in light of any such information."

Harrison wrote Sunday on Instagram that he would meet with the NFL in his home before the start of pre-season training but only if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell attends. The NFL wanted to speak with him on the eve of the start of Steelers training camp.

Peyton Manning, who retired from the NFL last March after leading Denver over Carolina in Super Bowl 50, was the biggest name player in the report. Manning has vehemently denied any accusations he took any performance-enhancing drug or human growth hormone.