By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist

(CBS) Whether it was a coordinated strategy or not, we may never know. But however it worked, the massive effort to exonerate Peyton Manning from allegations of performance-enhancing use has proved mostly effective.

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With help from private crisis PR manager Ari Fleischer, Manning appeared to call in favors from around the league, with both his current and former teams releasing official statements defending his virtue and friends across the multimedia landscape vouching for him. He weathered the onslaught of the initial news cycle thanks to the breadth and intensity of the push-back, and the story has receded to make room for on-field matters.

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera has stuck to its reporting the entire time, even pointing out credible sources beyond those shown in the documentary that detailed shipments of HGH to Manning and others from a shady clinic in Indianapolis.

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Washington Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman has sued the network for defamation in its revelation that he took steroids from the clinic, and Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard says he plans similar action for similar claims. Both face an uphill battle to prove actual malice, however, and must endure the discovery process because the truth is a defense.

Manning initially threatened legal action, too. We’ll see if he goes through with it, but it’s telling that we haven’t heard anything more from him even as others involved have been more aggressive.

It’s possible he’d rather not have people taking sworn depositions to discover what’s real and what’s not.

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Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s “Boers and Bernstein Show” in afternoon drive. You can follow him on Twitter  @dan_bernstein and read more of his columns here.