The Al Jazeera story is back again, as several NFL players face a ban from the league should they refuse to cooperate in the investigation involving reports of them using performance-enhancing drugs. Green Bay Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers are two of the more prominent players implicated in the report, but their former teammate Mike Neal and vagabond Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison are also two NFL players who face a potential ban.
Rumors of PED use have surrounded Matthews since he was in college at USC, while Peppers and Harrison have always just been thought of as freaks of nature in a league filled with those types of athletes. If none of these guys are able to refute what’s been reported by Al Jazeera, the NFL should have more than enough ammunition to conduct its own investigation into the matter and potentially ban the players implicated.
Perhaps the most prominent name from this Al Jazeera report that came out back in December was future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. His involvement essentially allowed these transgressions by lesser-known players to slide under the rug as far as the general public is concerned, but the NFL has been trying to pin down all of those players facing bans for an interview over the last several months to further investigate the issue.
“For those players whose interviews do not take place on or before [Aug. 25], or who fail meaningfully to participate in or otherwise obstruct the interview, their actions will constitute conduct detrimental and they will be suspended, separate and apart from any possible future determination that they violated the steroid policy,” the league’s vice president of labor policy and league affairs, Adolpho Birch, wrote in a statement on those players facing a ban, according to ESPN. “The suspension for each such player will begin on Friday, August 26 and will continue until he has fully participated in an interview with league investigators, after which the Commissioner will determine whether and when the suspension should be lifted.”
While the league continues to poke around the edges of this story with the NFL players who face a ban in this particular instance, the most interesting man accused of using HGH from this report remains Manning, who Al Jazeera said used the substance to recover from neck surgery prior to winning the Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos. The story mentioned a specific pharmacist by name, Charlie Sly, who was said to have sent HGH to Manning’s wife, Ashley, by an Indianapolis anti-aging clinic. Upon Sly backtracking on his story, the quarterback threatened to sue Al Jazeera before reconsidering after the NFL closed its case against him in July.
While threatening to ban players due to noncompliance is certainly a tactic the NFL is familiar with from the days of Brett Favre and his illicit photos sent to a New York Jets employee, it seems like the league’s tyrannical behavior is going a bit overboard. Here’s a video one of those implicated in the investigation recently posted to Twitter.
I posted a new video to Facebook https://t.co/W1Mk7LlZVY— James Harrison (@jharrison9292) August 16, 2016
It’s hard not to think there’s a vendetta here with these NFL players who face banishment. Showing up for a so-called “random” drug test has been tried many times for many different reasons. It’s hard to forget Pat McAfee’s litany of “random” drug tests.
When you tweet ???? on 4/20.. Can't make this up pic.twitter.com/6hoasLoGML— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) April 21, 2016
Though the NFL conducts its business in a somewhat shady manner, the fact remains that the shield is the judge, jury, and executioner on all things punishment related in the league. The NFL’s current collective bargaining agreement may say that this is fine and dandy according to the rule of law, but if you ask the majority of the players—especially guys like Harrison—then you may get a drastically different response. These players currently under investigation and subject to a ban from the NFL will have to make a big decision between now and the deadline of August 25.
[Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images]