Jim Irsay suspended six games

Jim Irsay

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay has been suspended six games and fined $500,000 after pleading guilty to one misdemeanor count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

The NFL announced the penalties Tuesday, stating that Irsay violated the league's personal conduct policy. The suspension takes effect at 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday, and Irsay will be eligible to return after Indianapolis' game against the Houston Texans on Oct. 9.

Hours prior to the NFL's announcement, Irsay was in an Indiana courtroom, pleading guilty to a misdemeanor account of driving while intoxicated. The 55-year-old Irsay admitted to a judge he was under the influence of the painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone when he was arrested on March 16 near his home in the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel.

Irsay's toxicology report also showed he had alprazolam, which is used to treat anxiety, in his system when he was arrested. Alprazolam, which goes by the trade name Xanax, can be habit-forming and is a schedule IV controlled substance. It is used to treat anxiety disorders and panic disorder and sometimes used to treat depression, among other symptoms.

"I acknowledge the mistake I made last March and stand responsible for the consequences of that mistake, for which I sincerely apologize to our community and to Colts fans everywhere," Irsay said in a statement released shortly after the NFL announced the penalties. "Even more importantly, though, I am committed to do everything in my power to turn this whole experience into a positive event for myself, my family, and the community."

Under the terms of the suspension, Irsay cannot attend any games or practices and is not allowed to be present at the Colts' facility.

The NFL also has barred Irsay from representing the Colts at any league-affiliated event, including league committee meetings. Irsay, who is active on social media, is also forbidden from discussing the Colts or NFL on his Twitter account.

The NFL owners will meet Oct. 7-8 in New York City, and Irsay will be banned from those meetings as part of his suspension.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell opted against the forfeiture of a draft pick or any other competitive penalty against the Colts because Irsay's conduct did not have competitive consequences.

According to the NFL's constitution, Irsay cannot be fined more than $500,000 unless Goodell goes to all owners to request heavier penalties. The collective bargaining agreement says that a player with a first-offense DUI misdemeanor would receive no suspension and a maximum fine of $50,000.

"I have stated on numerous occasions that owners, management personnel and coaches must be held to a higher standard than players," Goodell said to Irsay in a letter, which was attached to the league's statement. "We discussed this during our meeting and you expressed your support for that view, volunteering that owners should be held to the highest standard."

The fine matches the fourth-largest in NFL history and is the heftiest handed down by Goodell since 2007, when New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick also was fined $500,000 for his role in the infamous "Spygate" scandal.

The case was closely watched around the NFL -- not least among players -- because there are few examples of the league punishing an owner like Irsay. Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand was suspended for 30 days and fined $100,000 in 2010 for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy following his guilty plea to driving while impaired.

Irsay will be on probation for a year and is prohibited from drinking or possessing alcohol during that time. Ninety days was added to his year-long suspension of his driver's license.  Judge J. Richard Campbell asked Irsay about his history of prescription drug troubles.

"Yes, I've had it in the past ... when I was dealing with the effects after having surgery,'' Irsay said in court. He left the courtroom with his attorneys once the hearing ended and didn't immediately speak with reporters.

Irsay acknowledged in 2002 he had become dependent on painkillers after several years of orthopedic operations. He said then that he had overcome the problem.

Less than 48 hours after his March arrest, the Colts said Irsay had entered a treatment facility. He was back with the Colts management at the NFL draft in early May.

Carmel police said Irsay was arrested after an officer spotted him driving slowly, stopping in the roadway and failing to use a turn signal. Officers said he had trouble reciting the alphabet and failed field sobriety tests. Various prescription drugs were found in his vehicle, along with more than $29,000 in cash.

"In retrospect, I now know that the incident opened my eyes to issues in my life that needed addressing and helped put me on the path to regain my health," Irsay said in his statement Tuesday. "I truly hope and pray that my episode will help in some small measure to diminish the stigma surrounding our country's terrible and deadly problem of addiction. It is a disease like other progressive, terminal diseases -- one that can only be successfully treated by understanding, committed hard work, and spiritual growth. I am deeply grateful for the tremendous outpouring of love and support during these past few months from my family, friends, care-givers, and our great community. Please know I am firmly committed to staying on my path to good health and I look forward to a great season."

Irsay told the judge he is still under the care of a doctor and an orthopedic specialist who prescribe medications for him. Under terms of his probation, Irsay must provide officials with all current medication prescriptions.

Irsay became the Colts owner in 1997 after the death of his father, Robert Irsay, and a lengthy legal battle with his father's second wife. Forbes magazine has estimated Irsay's net worth at $1.6 billion.

He has helped build the Colts into a top NFL team over the past decade behind quarterback Peyton Manning, now with Denver. He is working with some success to rebuild the team behind young quarterback Andrew Luck while coping with a divorce that follows a decade-long separation from his wife of 33 years.

ESPN.com Colts reporter Mike Wells and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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