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NFL takes rare step, answers to Robert Mathis' claims about suspension

The NFL generally doesn't offer any meaningful comments on player suspensions because of the drug policy, which means players can give any excuse and it goes unchecked.

Robert Mathis and his agent Hadley Engelhard must have crossed some line with the NFL regarding the Colts linebacker's four-game suspension, because the league gave a lengthy statement that poked holes in Mathis' story.

Mathis, an All-Pro last season after picking up a career-best 19.5 sacks, was suspended for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing drugs. Mathis said he was taking fertility drugs, reportedly Clomid, the drug that baseball star Manny Ramirez was suspended for using in 2009. Engelhard said the NFL suspending Mathis "gives the wrong message" because Mathis and his wife were trying to have a child.

The NFL's statement on the matter, via TheRedZone.org, makes it clear that the league wasn't too pleased with the story Mathis was peddling:

“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 NFL's statement 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.”

It's certainly interesting that the league responded in such a way, even pointing out that the drug was not approved by the FDA for fertility in males. That's a pretty accusatory tone for a league that rarely comments at all on such matters for confidentiality reasons. 

Perhaps the NFL was sending a message that going over the top on the excuses isn't going to be met with silence any longer.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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