Robert Mathis' agent on Monday accused the NFL of misleading the public with its statements on the drug his client used that resulted in the Indianapolis Colts linebacker's four-game suspension and questioned the league's unwillingness to adjust the penalty.
Agent Hadley Engelhard said in an interview with ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" that Mathis has "never once denied" using Clomid for the sole purpose of helping to impregnate his wife but that the NFL's attack on the drug is unfounded.
"Saturday they released a statement, which the NFL never does. And even in their statement they're misleading the public in things that they said," Engelhard said. "'It's not FDA-approved for fertility in males, and it's a performance-enhancing drug prohibited by the league.' First of all, there's many drugs that are not FDA-approved for certain things and are used for other things. And the doctor in direct cross-examination even talked about that. He's been using this as a fertility drug for 20-plus years."
He said Mathis would have been fine with paying a fine, but the NFL went public against his client's wishes when it issued the suspension last week.
"If they would have said, 'Hey Robert, here's a four-game fine,' which is a lot of money, Robert would have accepted that. He just felt that the league did not take his case as a case-by-case. They looked at it and said, 'Hey, you failed the drug test, end of story, no ifs ands or buts.'
"And that's not how our system has worked in the past. They have made adjustments to fines and disciplines. And in this case there's not one shred of evidence that says contrary to what Robert did."
The NFL responded Monday on ESPN Radio, with Adolpho Birch, the league's senior vice president of labor policy and government affairs, telling "Mike & Mike" that Mathis could have avoided this whole scenario if he had just reached out to the league before taking the drug.
"I don't understand [why] there's more to the story than the player had the opportunity -- several sources that he could have contacted, all of which would have advised him not to take this substance and that the failure to do so has certain consequences," Birch said. "Those are clearly enumerated under our policy. To us there's not really much dispute here."
Engelhard agrees that Mathis' mistake was not to check with the right people, including him, before taking the drug. But he maintains that the league went overboard with its punishment, which also might cause fans to question whether Mathis cheated in order to register a career-best 19.5 sacks in 2013.
"Disciplining him at this level when the facts say totally opposite of what the league is now saying publicly is unfair to Robert and it's not the message you want to send to kids because people are saying that Robert cheated, Robert did this," the agent said.
Engelhard said Mathis' increase in sacks was due to a position change from defensive end to outside linebacker and had "nothing to do with" his use of Clomid.
"It has nothing to do with this because Robert changed positions. If anyone knows football, he's now in a position to have more sacks because he's playing that one position that he's never played before."