Typically, the NFL says nothing about the suspension of a player for violating the policy regarding performance-enhancing substances. As a practical matter, this allows the player and/or his agent to offer up to the public a dog-ate-my-homework-style excuse that would then be unchallenged by the NFL.
In the case of Colts defensive end Robert Mathis, the NFL has departed from its usual policy, responding to the statement issued by agent Hadley Englehard.
Englehard called the suspension “unjust and unfair,” explaining that Mathis was taking a fertility drug in order to have another child. The drug is on the list of banned substances.
“As Mr. Mathis’s agent acknowledged today, his client failed to follow the protocols in the policy that the NFL and NFLPA agreed upon to address precisely these kinds of claims,” the league said. “That policy also prescribes the disciplinary consequences of a positive test. The policy does not provide — nor should it provide — for the Commissioner to override the policy’s procedures and assess discipline on an after-the-fact, ad hoc basis. Here Mr. Mathis actually withdrew his appeal and accepted discipline at the union’s suggestion. His hearing took place only after the Players Association requested that the appeal be reinstated.
“The drug for which Mr. Mathis tested positive is not approved by the FDA for fertility in males and is a performance-enhancing drug that has been prohibited for years. Importantly, Mr. Mathis did not consult with the policy’s Independent Administrator, a physician jointly approved by the NFL and NFL Players Association. Nor did he consult with his team doctor, the team’s training staff, the NFLPA, the league office or the hotline established under the policy to give confidential information to players. Each of these sources would have warned against using this substance.
“A cornerstone of the program is that a player is responsible for what is in his body. Consistent application of the policy’s procedures is critical to the integrity of the program.”
With players and/or their agents consistently attempting to win the P.R. battle that necessarily accompanies a suspension for using performance-enhancing substances, it’s good to that the league finally is willing to set the record straight (even if doing so potentially runs afoul of the spirit of the confidentiality provision). Without that clarification, any player (and, as it seems, every player) can offer up a self-serving explanation that creates the impression the player didn’t actually break the rules.
Even if, you know, he did.