By Steven Keys

It’s one of the most notable NFL drug suspensions in recent years.

Back in May, Colts All-Pro linebacker Robert Mathis, in giving a urine sample in accordance with NFL and NFLPA’s joint PED prevention program (Policy on Anabolic Steroids and Related Substances (c.‘10)), tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug and received a 4-gm suspension (“Colts” / NFL.com / Rosenthal / 5-16).

We figure the League and most players are trying to make forward progress in the war on illicit drugs. Then an opportunist, a veteran, looks for an edge in his advancing years, goes his own way and gets the moral-chains moved back ten yards.

Rob, an MVP candidate in 2013 with 19+ sacks to his credit, likely cheated the game, the fans, himself and the drug prevention policy he and membership signed-off on (CBA).

And no one seems to mind, not so’s you’d notice, anyway.

For the Colts, a pre-season playoff favorite, the drug bust is particularly bad news.

Indy’s defense struggled in last season’s playoff run, giving up 44 in a wild card shootout vs Kansas City (45-44) and then suffered a divisional drubbing at the hands of perennial AFC powerhouse New England (22-43).

The suspension was bad enough.

PED people are like roaches, they’re gonna’ get in the house (of game), can’t stop ‘em all, especially when the door’s ajar (antiquated urine test). But you needn’t make ‘em feel at home after they scurry into that Roach Motel®.

But it’s just that homey feeling Bob and other ‘persons in PED’ usually receive when they pull up the driveway at HQ and walk in the front door. No kisses, mind you (this ain’t the Continent), but plenty of hugs & handshakes to say, ’We got your back, brother.’

And there in may lay what’s wrong with our drug war (police action?) on PEDs.

Rather than gettin’ the cold-shoulder or modicum of public castigation, instead, it’s direct support, empathy or a nervous indifference that says, ‘Hope that ain’t me someday.’

Where is the deterrence? Fines & missed games? Bump in the road.

The linebacker turned sack-specialist claims he took a fertility drug but failed to consult with League or union prior to his regimen. There’s an ‘800’ number players are given to check their script or supplement against a banned list: yea or nay. A phone call.

Mathis: “It’s been a long process. It ran its course and I accept its responsibility. I was just following directions (“Suspended” / AP-Fox / 5-22).

Rob’s poor decision-making and implausible family planning excuse for his test result elicited aloof reaction from some media and general support from his Indy club.

NFL’s Ian Rapoport reports the banned substance Rob tested for is Clomid® (“Colts”), or clomiphene citrate, a synthetic, prescribed to induce ovulation in women but also used by men as masking agent for PEDs as it “restores body’s natural production of testosterone.” It’s categorized a prohibited PED by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) (Wikipedia).

The FDA prescribing information: “Indications and Usage for Clomid:

There are no adequate or well-controlled studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of Clomid in the treatment of male infertility. In addition, testicular tumors and gynecomastia have been reported in males using clomiphene. The cause and effect relationship between reports of testicular tumors and the administration of Clomid is not known. ©2013 sanofi-aventis U.S. LLC”

I’m no physician but the word contraindicated pops to mind.

Enough pharmacology, the Monday following his suspension ESPN did its part to sell Mathis’ fertility line, sans that healthy dose of skepticism you’d expect from a network.

When NFL reporter A. Schefter (5/19) was asked of Mathis’ state, he and SC host pitched the fertility story as if it were fact, the NFL ruling inconsequential and acted pretty much like they’d both been old college roomies (or team-managers) of the defensive stalwart.

I’d probably side with players over NFL owners on any number of issues. Something about a closer kinship with millionaires than billionaires? Ugh.

But this is horse of different color.

Because Clomid® is a long-standing no-no in sport supplementation and player denials following bad tests ring hollow today, given NFLPA’s continued refusal to submit blood draws (HGH), a network lending credence to flimsy tales borders on the irresponsible.

But taking sides is becoming standard practice at the new ESPN.

And response from Colts’ family? About what you’d expect.

Cory Redding: “I didn’t need to hear it because I know who he is, you know? I have no doubt the kind of person, the kind of character, the kind of man he is. So I didn’t need to hear it for my betterment (AP-Fox).”

Andy Luck was just slightly more circumspect: “There’s really nothing you can say about it that’s going to change anything…(w)e realize we’re going to be without our best player probably (?) for the first four games, so guys are going to have to step up (AP-Fox).”

While the mollycoddle continues and the message of deterrence remains tepid at best, kids, young adults, are watching & learning from their heroes & mentors.

Each year that passes without good faith PED prevention in place (blood draws) only keeps this sign standing on NFL’s front yard: ‘DO WHATEVER IT TAKES, KID.’

And many will.

And if NFL institutes a new open-door policy on marijuana (THC), one going beyond generally accepted medicinal use in cancer or terminal cases (nausea) and supplements an existing pain-management program for players, watch as Pandora’s Box opens wide.

We know integrity sits low on many people’s ‘totem pole of testaments’ today. Cheaters are the norm.

Since February 2012 there have been 55 NFL steroid suspensions, not including Richard Sherman’s 4-gamer for a positive test result which he successfully appealed (12-12)).

As to health, you might get the impression jocks are serious on this one, with concussion topic trending and now retirees putting the Rx issue on the docket. But then you realize most players care diddly-squat about the serious health risks that are associated with anabolic steroid use and ancillary cover drugs, so we can forget about this one, too.

But you’d think the pros would at least consider the example they’re setting, especially those with families or planning one. The rest, they were kids once too, for awhile.

And what do the kids think? Do they pay any mind to the suspensions? Sure, like they do a homework assignment.

The only things they see are performance, stats, interviews and the media hype.

In the risk – benefit analysis, PEDs must seem, not only a plausible ploy but a necessary tool to the aspiring athlete with limited capacity and corrupt caretakers.

Level that playing field with full testing and the need to cheat declines.

It’s time clubs stopped affording drug-bustees the fast-track to forgiveness, even as most refuse responsibility (intent) for the PEDs they’ve been proven to take.

There’s a time for forgiveness and that’s when responsibility is born.

It’s also time media stopped acting as PR for player unions, at times, giving cover & credence to suspendees as if all the denials were wholly truthful, simply because they flow from a player’s mouth or attorney’s pen.

There’s a well-vetted process in place on drug testing and subsequent appeal to which player’s have signed-on. And they both work, as well as an out-dated urine test can.

And it’s time NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith became an ex-director.

His endless delay-of-game on player blood draws indicates he lacks requisite leadership, vision and maybe the know-how required to persuade the playership that a vote for full testing is in everyone‘s best interest, excepting the pushers. But then it’s the players and their elected reps who are ultimately responsible for doing their part to enhance their own health, professional integrity and ensure the best possible leadership.

It’s time to do the right thing, men. It’s no longer ‘if’ or ‘how’ but when.

Steven Keys
Macro Sport
Photo Credit: Robert Mathis / wc.cca / M. Morbeck – flickr / 8-26-10

Edited: 6-4 @ 10:52 am

Filed under: NFL

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