NFL sacks champion Robert Mathis admits he made a mistake late last season.
Now it's going to cost him -- four games and four paychecks.
The Colts' career sacks leader was suspended Friday by the NFL after violating the league's ban on performance-enhancing substances. The linebacker said in a statement he was seeking fertility assistance. He acknowledged that he and his wife are expecting a baby.
Mathis will be eligible to return to the Colts' active roster on Monday, Sept. 29, following the team's Sept. 28 game against the Tennessee Titans.
Mathis released a statement Friday detailing his explanation for the positive test:
"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."
Denise White, Mathis' spokesperson, said the player's mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 esophageal cancer last August. To help give her another grandchild, Mathis began consulting a physician, Dr. Steven Morganstern in Atlanta, about fertility drugs. His wife, Brandi, was unable to take them due to a health situation, so the doctor recommended Mathis taking Clomid to speed up the process.
He began taking Clomid last November and stopped taking it after he found out his wife was pregnant. Mathis was notified this year that he violated the league's substance policy. He had appealed the decision and lost. His wife is pregnant with a girl and is due this fall.
Mathis' mother is still alive.
The NFL said despite Mathis' claims, the league's drug-testing policy did not provide room for commissioner Roger Goodell, nor should it, "to override the policy's procedures and assess discipline on an after-the-fact, ad hoc basis.
"Here Mr. Mathis actually withdrew his appeal and accepted discipline at the union's suggestion," the league said in a statment. "His hearing took place only after the Players Association requested that the appeal be reinstated.
"The drug for which Mr. Mathis tested positive is not approved by the FDA for fertility in males and is a performance-enhancing drug that has been prohibited for years. Importantly, Mr. Mathis did not consult with the policy's Independent Administrator, a physician jointly approved by the NFL and NFL Players Association. Nor did he consult with his team doctor, the team's training staff, the NFLPA, the league office or the hotline established under the policy to give confidential information to players. Each of these sources would have warned against using this substance.
"A cornerstone of the program is that a player is responsible for what is in his body. Consistent application of the policy's procedures is critical to the integrity of the program."
The Colts said they recognized the seriousness of the incident and will "honor the confidentiality requirements."
"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 Colts said in a statement.
Losing Mathis is a substantial blow to the Colts' defense. He had 19.5 sacks last season, and Indianapolis will miss his presence because its first two games in 2014 are at Denver, which led the league in scoring this past season, and against Philadelphia, which was fourth.
He remains eligible to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games.
Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and ESPN.com Colts reporter Mike Wells was used in this report.