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Golden Tate hoped for leniency, but that was never going to happen

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Tate thought the NFL “would be understanding,” but that wasn’t the case

New York Jets v New York Giants
Golden Tate
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I sympathize with New York Giants wide receiver Golden Tate. I really do. He seems genuinely hurt by his four-game suspension, and genuinely surprised that his appeal fell upon deaf ears.

“I just thought after we looked at the facts and the situation that the NFL would be understanding,” Tate told media on Wednesday. “It’s kind of a non-tolerance policy.”

I guess the biggest surprise in all of this is that Tate, or anyone for that matter, can be surprised that the league stood by the four-game suspension.

I said three weeks ago that I didn’t think Tate’s appeal would get him any leniency. Here is part of what I wrote, including the league’s stance on performance enhancing drugs:

From the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing drugs:

“Players are responsible for what is in their bodies and a positive test will not be excused because a Player was unaware that he was taking a Prohibited Substance.”

That, as clear as day, tells players they better know exactly what is in any medication you are prescribed before they take it. Tate, who has to know better after nine seasons in the league, didn’t do that.

There is also this — not a single PED suspension by the NFL to start the 2018 season went for less than four games. I did not look up the circumstances of each one, but you can bet several of those players also thought they had good reasons to appeal.

Tate said the drug he took was Clomiphene, commonly known as Clomid. Yes, it’s a fertility drug. It is also a known masking agent for steroid users. If Clomid rings a bell, that might be because it showed up in a Barry Bonds’ urine sample back in 2003, back in the days of baseball’s BALCO investigation.

There is also an NFL precedent, with the league having handed Robert Mathis of the Indianapolis Colts a four-game suspension for Clomid use in 2014.

“We’ll just keep moving forward,” Giants’ coach Pat Shurmur said on Wednesday. “It is what it is. This isn’t the first time a player has been suspended. He went through the process to try to appeal it and all. We just won’t have him for four weeks, so you move on. You make adjustments, and then wait for him to get back in Week Five.”

There are so many questions.

The first is a personal, uncomfortable one. Tate and his wife, Elise, married in 2017, have two children. The last was born in February of this year. No one wants to pry into anyone else’s bedroom, but why, two months later, did Tate need to take a fertility drug to conceive another child?

He didn’t want to answer that on Wednesday.

“That’s pretty personal,” Tate said. “Very, very personal, so I don’t want to get into it.”

The other basic question is how could Tate, in his 10th season in the NFL, make this mistake?

He knew the policy.

“Players are responsible for what is in their bodies and a positive test will not be excused because a Player was unaware that he was taking a Prohibited Substance.”

Yet, Tate did not go to the league, did not go to doctors for teams he had played with, or did not even go to the NFLPA web site where the entire list of banned substances is available for players (and yes, Clomiphene is on the list). He just took the drug “because the doctor had said no, it’s not a banned substance and I have prescribed it to other NFL guys.”

Sorry, but simply trusting the doctor isn’t being responsible for what you are putting in your body.

It’s hard to criticize the NFL here. The league comes in for all kinds of justified criticism in the way it zigs and zags in handing out punishment for some offenses. It is crystal clear and consistent here, and that’s how it should be.

Tate said he is “kind of examining” suing the doctor and said in his Tuesday statement that he hopes to help reform the league’s zero tolerance policy.

That doesn’t help him, or the Giants, now. I believe Tate when he says he self-reported after realizing his mistake.

I believe Tate when he expresses his feelings by saying the situation is “crushing” him.

“It’s very frustrating. I have no problem with accepting the punishment. I’m responsible for what’s put into my body, ultimately. The tough thing I am dealing with is I’m letting down a lot of people. My family, the guys in the locker room, the people in the organization that brought me here. That’s kind of what’s been crushing me with this whole situation,” Tate said on Tuesday. “I’m taking it day by day, the Giants have been overly supportive of this situation and worked with me throughout. I’m just ready to move on and get back to playing football. I guess my wife put it into perspective for me, although these times are very, very hard on me because I love this game and I take it very, very seriously. I think I’ve had a clean slate for the majority of my career. She put it into perspective yesterday. She said I played 182 games in my career, four games is a small part of that. Although right now it’s very hard to swallow and hard to deal with, she kind of put it into perspective.”

I believe Tate is a good man who made a mistake. Whatever the reason was.

I can’t believe he didn’t know better. Or that anyone ever realistically thought the league was going to show mercy.