NFL Players And PEDs: League To Probe Report

NFL players and PEDs, or performance-enhancing drugs, is a real hot-button issue in the NFL these days. In late 2015, Al Jazeera America released an investigative report on PED use in professional sports. The backlash from that report seemed to blow over, but the NFL is apparently not ready to move on from the controversy.

According to Fox Sports, the NFL plans to interview several prominent players who were named in the Al Jazeera report on PEDs. Linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers of the Green Bay Packers, and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison are expected to be interviewed by the league. The NFL plans to conduct interviews with these players when they arrive for training camp later this summer.

The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) does not like the precedent that is set by this investigation and has released a statement in defense of players’ rights when such allegations are made.

“On behalf of its players, the NFLPA made numerous inquiries of the NFL through (VP of labor policy and legal affairs) Adolpho Birch asking whether the basis of the NFL’s investigation of players is entirely predicated upon recanted statements to a person used by Al Jazeera to make secret recordings. The NFL has not provided any other evidence, nor has it informed the NFLPA or players that any such evidence exists.”

“As of today, the only additional response from the NFL has been to demand interviews, and apparently to provide correspondence to the media. The NFLPA will continue to represent and advise its players of their rights, and to communicate the players’ decisions to the NFL.”

Clay Matthews is a six-time Pro Bowler who was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. Matthews has been one of the more accomplished and visible players in the NFL since coming into the league seven years ago, tallying 67.5 career sacks, as well as earning numerous commercial endorsement deals.

Julius Peppers was the second player chosen in the 2002 NFL Draft by Carolina. He had eight productive years for the Panthers before moving on to the Chicago Bears, where he spent the next four years. Julius Peppers has been a member of the Packers for the last two seasons as he nears the end of his outstanding football career. Peppers has been selected to the NFL Pro Bowl nine times.

James Harrison was unheralded coming out of Kent State but signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2002 as an undrafted free agent. It took him several years to make an impact, but Harrison became one of the most feared players in the league from 2007-2011, earning NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2008. Harrison has been named to five Pro Bowls during his career.

None of these players, however, come close to the notoriety of another (now former) NFL player named in the Al Jazeera investigation. Superstar quarterback Peyton Manning was also included in the list of players associated with PEDs. Manning denied any wrongdoing at the time the report was made public, and the NFL seemed satisfied with his response late last year…but we may not have heard the last of Peyton Manning being linked to PEDs.

The Boston Globe is reporting (via USA Today) that an unnamed source has indicated that an NFL investigation into Manning’s possible involvement with PEDs is ongoing. If Peyton Manning is found to have used PEDs during his career, it would not only be a huge blow to his personal legacy, but to the NFL as a whole.

One other player, linebacker Mike Neal, was also named in the Al Jazeera report. He is currently an unsigned free agent, but the NFL plans to interview him this summer as well.

The NFL has seemingly been in damage control mode for some time now. The PEDs scandal has been a black eye for the league, and the continuing controversy over concussions has been a dark cloud hovering over professional football since the public became aware of Dr. Bennet Omalu’s findings and the NFL’s reaction to them, as detailed by the Inquisitr.

The link between NFL players and PEDs appears to be an issue that will not be resolved anytime soon; much to the detriment of the league, its players, and its fans.

[Photo by Jack Dempsey/AP Images]