I realize there have been a number of stories, posts, and comments on Robert Mathis' suspension, but I just had to take a moment to type up a few ideas as to why this story really grinds my gears, so to speak.
I think the thing that is the biggest disappointment for me in all of this is the public relations position in which the NFL has chosen to entrench itself. I, for one, BELIEVE Mathis' story but I ALSO BELIEVE that his suspension is the appropriate - and only - response for the league (as much as it saddens me to say). The slope for exceptions/circumstances is too slippery, and if Mathis needs to be made an example of in order to show the NFL's consistent interpretation and enforcement of its PED policy - which was also agreed on by the NFLPA - then so be it.
Where I start to really deviate from the NFL's actions, however, is the statement they felt they needed to release following Mathis' own statement regarding his suspension.
For one, in circumstances such as this, the NFL hardly ever issues a statement which is in RESPONSE to a player’s initial statement regarding their suspension. The fact that the league felt they needed to issue anything at all smacks of defensiveness. Let me put it another way: If Goodell/the league were confident in their decision in this matter, why not take the high road and simply respond as it has in the past in similar situations, which basically amounts to no response at all?
For another, the context/wording of the NFL statement could be considered "sharp" at best, but frankly seems to be soaked with incredulity, as though the NFL doesn't believe Robert Mathis’ story/circumstances and/or simply doesn't care. For example, the status of Clomid as an unapproved FDA drug is irrelevant. The fact that it is on their PED list (though it is technically not a PED itself, but is used to mask the use of other PEDs) should have been enough to warrant the suspension. Why go to the lengths to include language which casts doubt on Mathis’ reasoning to use Clomid, when it has nothing to do with why the suspension was enforced?
I'll take the wording of the NFL’s statement one step further – would it have been all that difficult to acknowledge the positive circumstances/outcomes of Mathis’ story while still being steadfast on the application of the PED enforcement policy? I’m not a PR expert, but I guess it would have been nice to see something to the effect of the following somewhere in their statement:
"…while the league is happy for the Mathis family and their pending new edition, the league's stance is clear on the conditions and consequences surrounding a positive test for drugs on our PED list. Had Mr. Mathis checked with league sources prior to his use of Clomid, perhaps a different drug – or a limited use arrangement under close league supervision – could have been arranged."
Ultimately, I guess I don’t appreciate the league seemingly going out of their way to fuel the opinion of doubters out there who will only see/hear "PEDs", "no FDA approval", and "suspension" and immediately think that Mathis’ production last year was a result of him cheating the system. It's like that damn line from the Dark Knight - you either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain....and Robert Mathis is no villain.
In an attempt to sum up, I don't have an issue with the league holding everyone to the same standard of punishment. Mathis F'd up and should have contacted someone associated with the league so he would have received the proper information/guidance, but he didn't, and now he must face the consequences. However, that doesn’t mean that we have to presumably lump Mathis – one of the league’s most upstanding players, a future Colts Ring of Honor member, and perhaps a future Hall of Famer – in with the equivalents of the Lance Armstrong’s of the world, which is what I believe is the veiled in the NFL's public response.