When training camps open, the NFL plans to interview Packers linebackers Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews and Steelers linebacker James Harrison about allegations that they used performance-enhancing drugs.
Tom Pelissero of USA Today reports that the league informed the players’ union that officials will be there on the first day of training camp to question the three players, who were named in an Al-Jazeera America documentary about PEDs. An interview with free agent Mike Neal, also named in the documentary, is also expected to take place within the next four weeks. But the biggest name in the documentary, Peyton Manning, was not named in a letter from NFL V.P. Adolpho Birch to the players’ union.
“On January 11, 2016, the league notified Messrs. Peppers, Neal, Matthews and Harrison that it had initiated an investigation following the airing of the Al-Jazeera America documentary, which raised serious issues concerning their possible violation of the NFL/NFLPA Policy on Performance-Enhancing Substances,” Birch’s letter said. “The players were further advised that, with their full and timely cooperation, the investigation would be conducted expeditiously and with minimal disruption.
“While the investigation has proceeded, we have yet to interview the players. We have attempted since early April to work through the NFLPA to schedule them, but despite multiple requests the NFLPA has failed to respond, except to seek reconsideration of the basis for the investigation. This continuing delay and avoidance has obstructed our ability to conduct and conclude the investigation.
“In fairness to all, including the players involved, we must move forward with the interviews. Accordingly, this will advise that the interviews of Messrs. Peppers, Matthews and Harrison will be scheduled for the first day of their respective training camps, and the interview of Mr. Neal (free agent) will take place on or before July 22. The players will be advised of the specific scheduling details by separate correspondence on which the NFLPA will be copied, and of course an NFLPA representative may attend each interview should the player so request.”
The NFL is also investigating the allegations against Manning, although any league discipline would be meaningless now that he’s retired. If the NFL finds that Peppers, Matthews, Harrison or Neal violated the league’s PED policy, that could result in suspensions even if they’ve never failed a drug test. It is unknown whether the four players plan to answer all of the NFL’s questions — and whether the league would discipline the players if they don’t fully cooperate.