While the Indianapolis Colts three-day rookie mini-camp got under way Friday morning, the biggest news didn’t come until later in the day.
According to a statement from the National Football League, Pro Bowl outside linebacker Robert Mathis has been suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season for violating the league’s steroid and PED (performance enhancing drug) policies.
“Robert Mathis of the Indianapolis Colts has been suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2014 regular season for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances,” said in a press release. “Mathis will be eligible to return to the Colts’ active roster on Monday, Sept. 29, following the team’s Sept. 28 game against the Tennessee Titans. Mathis is eligible to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games.”
He will miss games against Denver, Philadelphia, Jacksonville and Tennessee.
The responses from both the team and Mathis came quickly.
“We have learned that Robert Mathis will be required to serve a four-game suspension under the League’s policy on prohibited substances. We recognize the extreme seriousness of this matter and will honor the confidentiality requirements of the league’s program,” the Colts said in a prepared statement.
“We nevertheless wish to assure Robert and our fans that he remains an honored and cherished member of the Colts family and that we support him as he deals with this difficult challenge.”
The NFL’s sack leader last season — with a career and franchise-best 19.5 — issued his own response through his agent, Hadley Englehard.
“It is difficult for me to address the circumstances surrounding this suspension because they involve very personal medical information, but it is very important to me that my fans, particularly young people, understand what did and did not occur,” he said.
“Like many families, my wife and I faced fertility challenges, and I sought medical assistance. I specifically asked the doctor if the medication he prescribed for me would present a problem for NFL drug testing, and unfortunately, he incorrectly told me that it would not.
“I made the mistake of not calling the NFL or NFLPA to double check before I took the medication at the end of last season. The union has worked very closely with me to present all of the facts and medical records for consideration of discipline that does not include a suspension because of the unique facts of my case, but the Commissioner refused the request.”
His statement continued.
“I am deeply saddened that this situation will prevent me from contributing to my team for four games, and I regret that I didn’t cross check what my doctor told me before I took the medication. I hope that my fans will understand the unique circumstances involved here and continue to know that I am a man of integrity who would never intentionally circumvent the performance enhancing substance policy agreed to by the NFL and my union,” Mathis explained.
“The incredible blessing of this very upsetting situation is that, after I took the medication very briefly at the end of last season, we learned that my wife is expecting a baby. We are thrilled that we will be welcoming a new member in several months, but I apologize to my teammates, coaches and Colts fans that I will not be able to contribute to my team for the first four weeks of the 2014 season. I will work extremely hard during that time to stay in top football shape and will be prepared to contribute immediately upon my return.”
According to ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter, the suspension has been appealed to the league office but was denied by Commissioner Roger Goodell. NFL Network insider Albert Breer added that the appeal process has been going on for the past couple of months.
Also, Mathis’ family doctor reportedly provided the league with all pertinent medical records. He said that Mathis only took the drug — which has been identified in some reports as Clomid — on a limited basis near the end of the 2013 season.
The Indianapolis Star reported that Mathis was prescribed the drug because his wife couldn’t take it due to health reasons.
“The league and Commissioner Goodell have taken a stance that puts Robert under some strict scrutiny. That is really unjust and unfair,” Englehard told ESPN. “We have given him all the medical data. We are just amazed that the commissioner and the NFL have put this kind of punishment on Robert.”