Mathis' agent: NFL being unfair

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Robert Mathis' agent on Monday accused the NFL of misleading the public with its statements on the drug his client used that resulted in the Indianapolis Colts linebacker's four-game suspension and questioned the league's unwillingness to adjust the penalty.

Agent Hadley Engelhard said in an interview with ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" that Mathis has "never once denied" using Clomid for the sole purpose of helping to impregnate his wife but that the NFL's attack on the drug is unfounded.

"Saturday they released a statement, which the NFL never does. And even in their statement they're misleading the public in things that they said," Engelhard said. "'It's not FDA-approved for fertility in males, and it's a performance-enhancing drug prohibited by the league.' First of all, there's many drugs that are not FDA-approved for certain things and are used for other things. And the doctor in direct cross-examination even talked about that. He's been using this as a fertility drug for 20-plus years."

He said Mathis would have been fine with paying a fine, but the NFL went public against his client's wishes when it issued the suspension last week.  

"If they would have said, 'Hey Robert, here's a four-game fine,' which is a lot of money, Robert would have accepted that. He just felt that the league did not take his case as a case-by-case. They looked at it and said, 'Hey, you failed the drug test, end of story, no ifs ands or buts.'

"And that's not how our system has worked in the past. They have made adjustments to fines and disciplines. And in this case there's not one shred of evidence that says contrary to what Robert did."

The NFL responded Monday on ESPN Radio, with Adolpho Birch, the league's senior vice president of labor policy and government affairs, telling "Mike & Mike" that Mathis could have avoided this whole scenario if he had just reached out to the league before taking the drug.

"I don't understand [why] there's more to the story than the player had the opportunity -- several sources that he could have contacted, all of which would have advised him not to take this substance and that the failure to do so has certain consequences," Birch said. "Those are clearly enumerated under our policy. To us there's not really much dispute here."

Engelhard agrees that Mathis' mistake was not to check with the right people, including him, before taking the drug. But he maintains that the league went overboard with its punishment, which also might cause fans to question whether Mathis cheated in order to register a career-best 19.5 sacks in 2013.

"Disciplining him at this level when the facts say totally opposite of what the league is now saying publicly is unfair to Robert and it's not the message you want to send to kids because people are saying that Robert cheated, Robert did this," the agent said.

Engelhard said Mathis' increase in sacks was due to a position change from defensive end to outside linebacker and had "nothing to do with" his use of Clomid.

"It has nothing to do with this because Robert changed positions. If anyone knows football, he's now in a position to have more sacks because he's playing that one position that he's never played before."

Engelhard said that three years ago he had a client who was suspended for using Adderall but successfully appealed the punishment, resulting in the rescinding of a suspension and fine because the league "realized the player was taking a medicine that had nothing to do with to be advantageous on the field."

But Birch said the NFL adjusts penalties only in "rare circumstances" when "there is a question as to the applicability or the interpretation of the policy itself," which doesn't apply in Mathis' case.

Engelhard said Mathis took Clomid for only 10 to 12 days and stopped once his wife learned she was pregnant. 

"There is not one shred of evidence that he used it for [anything] other than fertility," he said.

Dr. Steven Morganstern, the urologist who prescribed the drug to Mathis, also backed up Mathis' claim he took the drug only for fertility purposes.

"There was pure intent, and the intent was helping Robert Mathis and his wife have another baby," Morganstern told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

When Morganstern started treating Mathis last year, he said he had no idea his client played in the NFL. Nor did he know Clomid was on the NFL's list of banned substances.

"I have hundreds of men who come through this clinic who are treated in this fashion," Morganstern told ESPN. "He was treated just like any other man coming into my office. I did find out later that he was part of the NFL, and I felt a little embarrassed because I enjoy football and I didn't know his name -- shame on me. And I didn't know about the suspension until Friday.

"Originally I was happy he was having a baby, the medication worked -- until these other aspects occurred."

Morganstern said he never told Mathis that Clomid would not pose a problem for NFL drug testing, but he did not fault the player for thinking that.

"People take out of doctors' offices 10 percent of what is said," Morganstern said. "You could be in the trucking industry, or any line of work, and that would be something and Robert would go check. I don't know what is banned in the NFL and what is not. But that's not the point. The point is that he received medication that was not utilized as a performance-enhancing drug. His wife became pregnant, and that's the beauty of it."

Birch, however, said Monday that the NFL's drug policy makes it "crystal-clear that the player is responsible for what goes in his body." That is by design, he said, because the league wants to be able to treat every player consistently.

"We don't want to have to make different decisions for different players because one is, let's say, All-Pro and the other is the No. 53 man on the roster," he said. "The consistent application and interpretation of our policy is one of the cornerstones of it, and frankly it's one of the reasons that the union signed on to the policy in the first place."

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