Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis has been suspended for four games for violating NFL policy on prohibited substances.
The team issued a statement regarding the suspension Friday afternoon.
"We recognize the extreme seriousness of this matter and will honor the confidentiality requirements of the League’s program. 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," the statement read.
Mathis claims the failed test was due to confusion over fertility drugs prescribed by his doctor. He says he took the drug Clomid with a doctor's okay, only so he and his wife could have a baby - not to enhance his game performance.
"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," he wrote in a tweet.
"If you take it, then you know you are going to get nailed," said sports attorney Milt Thompson.
Thompson says players need to check with their team doctors before taking any medicine.
"True, there may have been some embarrassment because of the nature of it and the confidentiality of some of the medical issues that surround his family," Thompson said. "(But) you are the ultimate decider of what goes in your body. You have an opportunity to disclose those things with doctors and make sure you get medical clearance."
Colts fans voiced their opinion on the suspension Friday, largely saying the league should go easy on Mathis.
"It's not like a couple of players out there that are actually taking steroids," said Gene Howard.
"If the league says it's illegal, it really doesn't matter what you're taking it for. It's against the rules," said Colts fan Clayton Thomas. "He's doing it for the right reasons, but it's still wrong."
"I'm sure there's a list he should have looked at before he took it," said Kevin Coey, a Cleveland Browns fan.
Eyewitness News asked if the Browns t-shirt he was wearing colored his opinion about Mathis.
"No we got a guy that just was suspended all next year for marijuana. Everybody knows that's on the list," he said.
"I fully support him," said fan Laurie Butler. "I've never heard him do anything negative. He's a man of integrity."
"If they're taking it for fertility, come on," said Howard. "Where's any harm in that?"
Mathis has played his entire 11-year career with Indianapolis. He recorded a career-high 19.5 sacks to lead the NFL in 2013. Mathis has totaled 111 sacks and 487 total tackles in the NFL.
He will be eligible to return to the Colts' active roster on Monday, September 29 following the team's September 28 game against the Tennessee Titans. Mathis is eligible to participate in all off-season and preseason practices and games.
Coach Pagano responds
On Saturday, Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano talked about the suspension.
"It's going to hurt in a lot of different ways for him and for all of us," he said.
Pagano says his loss will take a toll on the team.
"Anytime we're faced with circumstances and you have adversity and setbacks, it doesn't matter, you come together and you regroup and we take care of one another and we've got each other's back and we'll find a way to get through it," Pagano said.
The team is supporting the eleven year Colts veteran during his four game suspension. Pagano said he's spoken to Mathis since the suspension came down.
"He's a proud, proud guy and a prideful guy and like I said he's a horseshoe guy and we're here to support him and we've got his back and he knows that," Pagano said Saturday.
Instead of dwelling on the past, the team is instead pushing ahead to the future and say it's too soon to tell how it will impact the line-up.
"We're a long ways away from the September 7th Opening Night for us in Denver, Colorado against the Broncos so we'll have it figured out by then," Pagano said.
Mathis statement from Twitter
"It is difficult for me to address the circumstances surrounding this suspension because they involve very personal medical information, but it is very important to me that my fans, particularly young people, understand what did and did not occur. Like many families, my wife and I faced fertility challenges, and I sought medical assistance. 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.
The union has worked very closely with me to present all of the facts and medical records for consideration of discipline that does not include a suspension because of the unique facts of my case, but the Commissioner refused the request. 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 agreed to by the NFL and my union.
The incredible blessing of this very upsetting situation is that, after I took the medication very briefly at the end of last season, we learned that my wife is expecting a baby. We are thrilled that we will be welcoming a new member in several months, but I apologize to my teammates, coaches and Colts fans that I will not be able to contribute to my team for the first four weeks of the 2014 season. I will work extremely hard during that time to stay in top football shape and will be prepared to contribute immediately upon my return."