By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- On Wednesday afternoon, after much ballyhoo, the NFL announced that it had concluded its "comprehensive investigation" into allegations of three players accused of taking PEDs.
The league made the announcement to show how seriously it takes allegations of PED use in its league. Instead, the league exposed something else.
The announcement reads: "The NFL found no credible evidence that Pittsburgh's James Harrison and Green Bay's Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers were provided with or used substances prohibited under the NFL-NFLPA Policy on Performance-Enhancing Substances."
"No credible evidence" -- which is to say, none of the players who were forced to submit to an NFL interrogation openly admitted to taking PEDs.
But the lack of credible evidence here is a black mark for the NFL, which had no right to force the players to be interrogated unless the league already had credible evidence.
The collectively bargained drug policy explains that in black and white. The drug policy states that players are subject to discipline if they are believed to have used or possessed drugs based on "credible documented evidence."
In this instance, the only documented evidence was the claim of Charlie Sly, a man who didn't know he was being filmed in an Al Jazeera America documentary. As James Harrison argued, anyone in America can claim that any player has taken PEDs; that shouldn't subject the player to an NFL investigation.
Unless, of course, the NFL has obtained evidence on its own. If that were the case, then the players should be subject to an investigation and, possibly, discipline.
(There's also the issue of a complete lack of transparency. After the NFL threw millions of dollars and hundreds of pages into Ted Wells-led investigations into alleged "bullying" and alleged ball deflation, it has now cleared four star players -- including the reigning Super Bowl-winning quarterback -- in a grand total of 232 words. This is most peculiar, especially considering the NFL was accused of not properly pursuing the case in the first place. Alas, this is the NFL, which only lets you know exactly what it wants you to know.)
But if the league has collected no evidence on its own, then it has absolutely no right to threaten players with indefinite suspensions for damaging "the integrity of the game" if they refuse to be interviewed.
Yet that's exactly what happened in this case.
The short version: The NFL could only have threatened suspensions of the players and forced them into being subjects of an investigation if it had gathered credible evidence against the players. The NFL had none of that evidence but made the threats regardless. If the players had refused to submit to the interrogation, then they'd be suspended right now at this moment for an offense which the NFL does not believe they committed.
In fact, the unsigned Mike Neal still faces the threat of a suspension -- even after Peyton Manning, Harrison, Peppers and Matthews were all cleared by the NFL's "investigation."
Ain't it rich?
Roger Goodell flexed his muscles and, once again, came out victorious. The players may be the actual people who are responsible for the NFL existing and thriving as a multi-billion-dollar business, but Goodell remains the man who continues to abuse his power and suffer no repercussions.
The peasants remain powerless.
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