Indianapolis, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - Star Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis has been suspended four games by the NFL for violating the league's policy on prohibited substances and says the ban is for taking a fertility medication prescribed by a doctor.
The NFL and Colts announced the suspension Friday. It will keep the five-time Pro Bowler off the field for the first quarter of the 2014 regular season.
Mathis said in a statement posted on social media that he did not consult with the NFL or NFL Players Association about medication given to him by a doctor as he and his wife faced "fertility challenges."
Mathis said after he took the drug "very briefly" at the end of last season, his wife became pregnant.
"I specifically asked the doctor if the medication he prescribed for me would present a problem for NFL drug testing, and unfortunately, he incorrectly told me that it would not," Mathis said in the statement.
"I made the mistake of not calling the NFL or NFLPA to double check before I took the medication at the end of last season."
Mathis said he worked closely with the union to ask the NFL to consider discipline that didn't include a suspension, but commissioner Roger Goodell refused their request.
"I am deeply saddened that this situation will prevent me from contributing to my team for four games, and I regret that I didn't cross check what my doctor told me before I took the medication," said Mathis. "I hope that my fans will understand the unique circumstances involved here and continue to know that I am a man of integrity who would never intentionally circumvent the performance enhancing substance policy agreed to by the NFL and my union."
Mathis, 33, won the inaugural Deacon Jones Award after leading the NFL with a team-record 19 1/2 sacks in 2013. He ranks 20th on the NFL's all-time list with 111 career sacks in 11 seasons, all with the Colts.
The Colts said they recognized "the extreme seriousness" of the suspension but "nevertheless wish to assure Robert and our fans that he remains an honored and cherished member of the Colts family and that we support him as he deals with this difficult challenge."
The NFLPA said is was disappointed in Goodell's decision not to consider a punishment other than suspension.
"Given the set of facts that Robert, medical experts and our union presented, upholding this suspension shows a lack of compassion and perspective," the union said in a statement.