Ryan Zimmerman at Citi Field on July 31, 2015 in Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.

Before Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper came along, the unquestioned face of the Washington Nationals was Ryan Zimmerman. Long believed to be a player who approached the sport of baseball and his training “the right way”, Zimmerman suddenly experienced what so many stars in sports have had to deal with when he was accused of taking performance-enhancing drugs in a report from Al-Jazeera America this offseason.

Zimmerman finally got a chance to address the report in person, in front of cameras, on Tuesday morning as he met with the media for a press conference at Nationals Spring Training. Needless to say, Zimmerman was defensive about his history, track record, and the report.

“I’ve spent my whole career, my whole life really doing things the right way, so you’re shocked,” Zimmerman said of when he first heard of the charges in December.

“It’s one of those things where you don’t really have an answer. You don’t know why or how this happened. Then, you turn from being shocked to being angry and frustrated. The biggest thing that frustrated me or angered me was not so much what you guys think or baseball players think, but I spend a lot of time I think in the community in D.C. with kids and families and things like that. To think that, I guess my integrity and the person that I really am is questioned by someone who has never met me, doesn’t know what I’m about. I think that was probably the hardest part.”

Zimmerman and Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard each filed a defamation lawsuit against Al Jazeera America and the reporter, Deborah Davies, over the report in early January. By filing a lawsuit against the network, both players open themselves up to having personal information revealed to the public. That information could include email communications, phone records, contracts with business partners and more and it could open up family members to some degree of fallout as well.

Time will tell just what information is learned from this legal battle, but Zimmerman (and Howard) is confident in his track record. For the sake of baseball, let’s hope this is true and not another case that comes back to haunt a player the way it did Rafael Palmeiro or Ryan Braun.

“If you don’t tell the truth when you do that, obviously the consequences,” Zimmerman said Tuesday. “I didn’t go to law school, but the consequences are very big. I don’t really know a stronger way to express myself. I don’t think there is a stronger way to express myself in this country than that.”

The Al Jazeera report, which also included Peyton Manning and James Harrison among others, has come under fire for its credibility. Charlie Sly, a former pharmacy intern at Indiana’s Guyer Institute of Molecular Medicine, recanted his story about supplying PEDs to Manning and others. The founder of the clinic also is on record saying Sly never worked at the clinic until a later point in time that contradicts the original report’s timeline.

[CSN MidAtlantic]

About Kevin McGuire

Contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Previously contributed to NBCSports.com. Host of the Locked On Nittany Lions Podcast. FWAA member and Philadelphia-area resident.