Tom Pelissero of USA Today reports that the NFL will suspended James Harrison, Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers and Mike Neal if they don’t agree to be interviewed by August 25 in regards to the PED allegations from the Al-Jazeera report.
According to Pelissero, the NFL informed NFLPA today that these players need to cooperate or will be suspended until they do so.
Here’s the full letter sent to the NFLPA by the NFL:
As you know, the league has been investigating a nationally televised report concerning potential violations of the collectively bargained Policy on Performance-Enhancing Substances. There can be no question that the league has a good faith basis for conducting this investigation; moreover, the league and NFLPA have a shared interest in ensuring that our jointly developed policy is not being violated.
Nevertheless, since the initiation of our investigation in January the league has made at least seven attempts to arrange interviews of Messrs. Harrison, Matthews, Neal and Peppers. On each occasion, the NFLPA has communicated the players’ refusal to participate. Most recently, the NFLPA has attempted to prevent the interviews by submitting for each player a half-page statement, which you advised should be treated as a sworn statement given in a legal proceeding, and which you contend should fulfill the players’ acknowledged obligation to cooperate with the investigation. The statements, however, are wholly devoid of any detail, and we were quickly able to determine that Mr. Neal’s statement includes an assertion that is demonstrably false. Rather than eliminate the need for interviews, the players’ plainly deficient statements simply underscore the importance of obtaining their full cooperation.
You were so advised on July 29, when we again wrote to offer the players another opportunity to participate in an interview, beginning with Mr. Neal. In that letter, you were expressly notified that continued noncooperation could result in discipline up to and including a suspension. In response, you provided a revised statement and letter which acknowledged Mr. Neal’s prior steroid policy violation and that his previous “sworn statement” is in fact untrue. Most important, you advised that Mr. Neal had again refused to cooperate with our investigation by participating in an interview.
There is no dispute that players are obligated to cooperate with the league’s investigation, as you have repeatedly acknowledged. This obligation includes not only the responsibility to submit to an interview but also the duty to provide meaningful responses to the questions posed. Nor is there a dispute that a failure to cooperate or an attempt to obstruct the investigation may result in discipline, including suspension from play, for conduct detrimental under Article 46 of the CBA and the NFL Player Contract.
We cannot accept your unilateral assertion that the cursory, untested statements you have submitted satisfy the players’ obligation. Accordingly, the Commissioner has directed that Messrs. Harrison, Matthews, Neal and Peppers be given until Thursday, August 25 to provide interviews. For those players whose interviews do not take place on or before that date, 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 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.
To avoid this outcome, please promptly contact my office to make arrangements for the interviews. As previously stated, we will make every effort to accommodate the NFLPA’s availability, within the outlined time period.
The Al-Jazeera documentary also named Peyton Manning, but he has already met with the NFL and been cleared of any wrong doing. The NFL actually released a statement about Manning’s cooperation, which appeared to be an attempt by the league to convince the other players to agree to interviews.
The allegations stem from comments made by former anti-aging clinic intern Charlie Sly, who was taped in the Al-Jazeera documentary. It’s worth mentioning that Sly has since recanted his quotes.
There has been some question about whether the NFL’s PED policy would allow them to conduct an investigation, considering that Sly recanted his statements.
The NFLPA has taken issue with the league’s insistence to interview players regarding the report.
“The NFL has chosen to initiate an investigation of these players based upon now-recanted statements that appeared in an Al Jazeera report. The NFLPA requested from the NFL any additional evidence supporting an investigation of the players; the NFL did not provide any such evidence, nor did they inform the NFLPA or the players that any such evidence exists. Instead, the NFL has decided to publicly pressure the players into submission. We will continue to advise our players about their rights and hold the NFL accountable.”
We’ll have more regarding the PED allegations as the news is available.