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NFL apparently had no proof of PED use beyond the claims of Charles Sly

The NFL cleared Clay Matthews, James Harrison and Julius Peppers from their PED allegations, but Mike Florio believes the NFL is going to continue to fish for potential violations.

The statement clearing Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and James Harrison admits that the NFL found “no credible evidence” of a PED violation by the players. Which confirms that the NFL insisted that the three players submitted to interviews without “credible evidence” that they had done anything wrong.

And that leaves an important question unresolved about the circumstances that allow the NFL to compel players to provide evidence that could be used against them under the PED policy -- apart from the agreement that they periodically will provide a urine sample. How much evidence is needed to require a player to show up and sit down and answer questions? Can it be a tweet from someone who makes the claim of PED use? A Facebook post? A tip provided to the league office, either anonymously or with a name attached to it?

Like so many other things the NFL does (and doesn’t) do, this one seems to be driven by P.R. Because the Al Jazeera report implicated Peyton Manning and in turn became a national sensation, the NFL felt compelled to explore the rabbit hole even after determining that the person making the accusations, former Guyer Institute intern/employee/whatever Charles Sly, was not credible as to Peyton Manning.

For the league, which justified its four-game suspension of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady by comparing an arguable equipment violation (for which there would have been only a fine) to a PED violation, failing to interview the players would have given those who think the Patriots were railroaded a large helping of raw meat for making persuasive claims of inconsistent treatment. If the Al Jazeera report hadn’t become such a big deal, the NFL could have looked the other way, regarding Sly’s claims as hollow and unsupported. But because everyone knew about the allegations made against Matthews, Peppers, and Harrison due to the attention given to the allegations made against Manning, the league felt compelled to check the boxes before closing the books in order to sidestep a claim that they weren’t investigating potential cheating with the same zeal they did when the Patriots were accused of it.

In this case, it all worked out for the players. But what about in future cases? What if the league has no credible evidence of guilt, but the player actually has violated the policy is forced to incriminate himself based on a whisper or a whim? That’s why the NFL Players Association resisted the interviews for so long, and it’s why at some point the question of whether the PED policy allows the league to mandate player interviews without hard evidence of a PED violation eventually needs to be resolved by an arbitrator, a special master, or a judge.

Without a standard being established, the NFL can bring a guy in for a PED interview pretty much whenever it chooses to do so. And one of these times, a fishing expedition may end up catching a fish.