When Chargers tight end Antonio Gates was suspended four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, he said he “never knowingly ingested” a banned substance and suggested that a supplement with incomplete ingredients triggered the violation.
His longtime teammate Philip Rivers said this week that he believes Gates is being honest and that it was “tough knowing” that Gates’s reputation might take a hit in the wake of the news. Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe thought that Gates was a “slam dunk” to join him in Canton before last Thursday’s suspension, but he thinks Gates’s whole career is up for reconsideration now.
During an appearance on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Bob Papa and Vic Carucci, Sharpe said that he isn’t buying the latest explanation from a player that they accidentally took a banned substance and that he thinks Gates “cheated the game.”
“It calls into question everything that he’s ever accomplished,” Sharpe said. “If he does it at the beginning of his career because he was an undrafted free agent, people are gonna say he did it to get in the league. Now he did it Year 13, Year 14 — People are going to say he did it to remain in the league. It does, it makes you question everything someone has ever accomplished.”
If Gates were a baseball player, this suspension would likely leave him outside of the Hall alongside Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and others who were tarred by admitted or suspected PED use. The NFL hasn’t seen Hall of Fame candidates at Gates’s level in the same boat unless you’re making room for Ray Lewis and his deer antler spray.
Voters will weigh the positive test along with the rest of Gates’s career when his name does come up for consideration in the future. The rest of that career hasn’t seen Gates suspended for violating league policies, but that might not matter if Sharpe’s view is shared by a wide audience.