GREEN BAY - It took months for the NFL to finally get Green Bay Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, as well as Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, to meet with its investigators looking into a possible performance-enhancing drug scandal.
A week after finally meeting with all three, the NFL has cleared them of any wrongdoing.
The three players sent the NFL affidavits claiming no connection to an intern at an anti-aging clinic who claimed he had provided illegal substances to them, but the NFL insisted on meeting with all three and Commissioner Roger Goodell threatened to suspend them indefinitely if they didn't take part in the interrogation.
Apparently, the NFL agreed with what the players were telling them in the first place.
Here is the statement the NFL released Wednesday:
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 following a comprehensive investigation into allegations made in a documentary by Al-Jazeera America, it was announced today.
The three players participated in interviews last week at their team facilities.
Initiated in January, the investigation was led by the NFL’s security and legal teams with support from expert consultants and other professionals. The investigation involved witness interviews, a review of relevant records and other materials, electronic research, and laboratory analysis and review.
The Packers were traveling to Kansas City for their final exhibition game and neither Matthews nor Peppers were available for comment. The team did not issue a statement from them either.
The NFL Players Association fought to prevent the interviews from happening, arguing that the affidavits were enough for each player to deny his connection with the intern and the anti-aging clinic. But the NFL insisted that its investigators meet with each player individually, leading to a stand-off that lasted four months.
The NFLPA and the players opposed the interviews because they thought Goodell was overstepping his authority in a case where there appeared to be no evidence beyond the statement of the intern, Charlie Sly, who later recanted a story he told to an undercover Al Jazeera reporter.
In a letter to the NFLPA, the league said two weeks ago it needed to speak to the players in person and set a deadline of Aug. 26 for the interviews to occur, threatening immediate suspension for conduct detrimental to the league for Matthews, Peppers, Harrison and one more player accused in the probe, former Packers linebacker Mike Neal.
Matthews and Peppers finally agreed to the interview and met with NFL investigators at Packers headquarters on Aug. 25.
On multiple occasions, Matthews and Peppers both vehemently denied any connection with Sly since the Al Jazeera report came out in late December and maintained they had not violated the NFL’s PED policy. They followed the union's advice not to take part in an interview until backed into a corner with the threat of suspension.
The NFL now has cleared four of the five players named in the Al Jazeera report. Earlier it had cleared retired Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning after he agreed to speak to investigators and let them view personal records.
The only player who has not been cleared is Neal. That investigation remains ongoing.