A six-month-old Al-Jazeera America report alleging the use of performance enhancing drugs by several NFL players has sparked the latest public spat between the NFL and NFLPA.
The NFL wants to interview Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, retired quarterback Peyton Manning, Green Bay Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers and free agent linebacker Mike Neal, who were linked to the report. But the NFL Players Association contends there's no evidence to merit an investigation.
Charlie Sly, who made the accusations to Al-Jazeera, has recanted his statements about the players, including Manning, who was central to the report.
"It's not exactly grounds for confidence that they are approaching this investigation with anything other than smoke. They have not provided anything beyond the report to substantiate doing a full-blown investigation. The dance goes on."NFLPA's George Atallah, to NBC Sports Radio's "Pro Football Talk Live"
"It's not exactly grounds for confidence that they are approaching this investigation with anything other than smoke," NFLPA assistant executive director of external affairs George Atallah told NBC Sports Radio's "Pro Football talk Live" on Tuesday morning. "They have not provided anything beyond the report to substantiate doing a full-blown investigation. The dance goes on."
In citing "shared responsibility" by both sides to explore allegations that "could impact the integrity of competition," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy says the league has reviewed records and conducted multiple interviews on the matter. "We have made no such conclusions but the report merits a review, including interviews with the players named," McCarthy said.
The NFLPA hasn't received the NFL's records and interviews from the probe because the league is still in the phase of gathering information.
Atallah told PFT Live the NFL has notified the NFLPA that Major League Baseball and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency are looking into the matter. Free agent catcher Taylor Teagarden, who was also linked to the report, is serving an 80-game suspension for violating baseball's drug policy.
The sticking point: While the NFLPA awaits facts, the NFL is trying to determine if the allegations are indeed factual, which it believes is sufficient reasoning for a review. While the NFLPA has cited numerous times that Sly -- a former unpaid intern at the Indianapolis-based Guyer Institute of Molecular Medicine -- has changed his story, the league wants to know if Sly was telling the truth originally and had motives to recant.
At the center of the probe is Harrison, who said on Instagram this week that he's willing to be interviewed, on his terms: at his house, before training camp, with commissioner Roger Goodell present. Harrison has denied he took a drug called Delta-2, which Sly lists in the report. Harrison has pointed out he's passed multiple offseason drug tests administered by the NFL. The league -- which was prepared to conduct these interviews months ago -- notified Harrison in a letter that it would like to interview Harrison at training camp in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
Failure to cooperate with a league investigation could result in a suspension for the players.
The next step, according to Atallah, is making a recommendation to its players on how to proceed, but the NFLPA needs more information before doing so.
After the contentious DeflateGate investigation that's still floating in the U.S. Court of Appeals system nearly 18 months from when allegations surfaced, the union won't take the league for their word in this case.
"If this was a league office that had a shred of integrity left, then there would not be this issue at the moment and we would have figured out a way to resolve this," Atallah told PFT Live. "They are not in the business of resolving issues quietly, amicably and in a way that's best for business. They just are interested in imposing their will any which way they want and we're always going to stand up for our players' rights."