NFL Colts defender Mathis given four-game doping ban
Outside linebacker Robert Mathis of the Indianapolis Colts in action at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 4, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana - by Andy Lyons
Mathis, who led the NFL with a club-record 19.5 sacks last season, will lose $705,882 of his $3 million base salary as a result of the ban.
The league and the Colts announced the violation of the NFL performance-enhancing drug policy, which will bench the Colts' top pass rusher for 25 percent of the season, including a first-game matchup against former Colts star quarterback Peyton Manning and his new team, Denver.
"We recognize the extreme seriousness of this matter and will honor the confidentiality requirements of the league's program," the Colts said in a statement on the team website.
"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."
Mathis and his agent claimed after the ban was announced that they would fight the decision by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell because Mathis was taking the fertility drug Clomid.
"We're just amazed that the commissioner and the NFL have levied this punishment against Robert," Mathis' agent, Hadley Englehard, told ESPN.
"Robert did not follow some of the proper protocol but to suspend Robert for four games does not send the correct message."
Mathis, the Colts' main pass rusher, will be eligible to return to the team's active roster on Monday, September 29 -- a day after the Colts play host to the Tennessee Titans.
Mathis will also miss the Colts' season opener on September 7 at Denver, when Indianapolis will go against Manning, who guided the Broncos into last season's Super Bowl only to have the team routed by Seattle.
It was Mathis, whose team-record 111 career sacks rank 20th on the all-time NFL list, that inflicted a pivotal sack of Manning last year when the Colts upset Denver in a regular-season contest.
Mathis will also miss games on September 15 when the Colts entertain Philadelphia and September 21 when Indianapolis will visit Jacksonville.
- 'I am a man of integrity' -
In a statement, Mathis blamed the positive result on the fertility drug, saying he regretted not contacting the league or players union before taking it.
"Like many families, my wife and I faced fertility challenges and I sought medical assistance," Mathis said. "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.
"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."
Mathis, who says his wife is pregnant, said that Goodell refused to consider the medical records the union wanted to present to him before punishment was imposed.
"We are disappointed in Roger's decision," NFL Players Association president Eric Winston said. "Given the set of facts that Robert, medical experts and our union presented, upholding this suspension shows a lack of compassion and perspective."
The first game in which Mathis would be eligible to play would be when the Baltimore Ravens visit Indianapolis on October 5.
Mathis, 33, will be allowed to take part in all pre-season practices and games under NFL rules.