Thomas' asthma medicine causes drug policy violation

The Saints suffered a big blow to their defense Tuesday when they found out defensive tackle Hollis Thomas, who is having a career year, is being suspended for four games because he violated the league's steroid policy due to asthma medication he takes.

Thomas has been challenging the positive steroid test and had the support of the Saints. Thomas is a 335-pound defensive tackle who has struggled to keep his weight down and doesn't have the body that normally would be linked to steroids.

Losing defensive tackle Hollis Thomas for four games because of a steroid suspension from asthma medication is going to hurt an already struggling run defense that is giving up 133 yards a game on the ground. Thomas, the Saints' main run stuffer, was having his best year and was doing a good job of bringing pressure to the quarterback in passing situations.

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During his appeal, John Amoss, who is the Saints' team doctor and an assistant professor at the LSU Health Science Center, sent a letter to the league in support of Thomas. Amoss said Thomas has severe asthma problems and requires a high dose of inhaled steroids to breathe. According to the doctor, Thomas needs a long acting beta agonist and a short acting beta agonist to control his asthma.

During his August drug test, the defensive tackle was taking an asthma product called Advair twice a day while also using an inhaler four times a day.

"Advair contains both the steroid fluticasone and the long acting beta agonist galmeterol," wrote Amoss, who thought the possibility of a false positive might have happened.

After taking the information under consideration, the league ruled Thomas was in violation of the policy and he will be lost to the team for the remainder of the regular season.

If New Orleans makes the playoffs, Thomas would be eligible to
play. He can be added to the active roster on Jan. 1, 2007, the day
after the regular season ends.

Senior writer John Clayton covers the NFL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.