For an athlete caught using steroids, the four-game suspension is nothing compared to the scarlet "S" that gets applied to their permanent P.R. record.
The player never will be viewed the same way. If he succeeds, cynics will say it's because he's using steroids. If he becomes average or worse, the fact that he's not using steroids any longer will be identified as the reason.
But since the league says nothing publicly about the reason for a suspension imposed under the NFL policy regarding anabolic steroids and related substances, the player who is suspended can say whatever he wants — and the league never will correct the record.
Previously, players popped for steroids blamed a spiked over-the-counter supplement. Even if anyone ever bought that excuse, no one does anymore.
And so it could be that the new non-steroid alibi arises from Adderall, a prescription ADD medication.
Giants safety Tyler Sash blames his four-game suspension on Adderall. Previously, Packers defensive end Mike Neal did the same thing. Both claim they were using it with a prescription.
If they're telling the truth (and we're not saying they aren't), why didn't the NFL reduce or eliminate their suspensions?
Giants running back Andre Brown was using Adderall with a prescription but without advance approval from the league. He tested positive, he appealed, and his suspension was lifted. Ditto for Texans punter Brett Hartmann, whose four-game suspension was cut to three — and who now has approval to take Adderall.
If Neal and Sash are telling the truth, the NFL's procedures seem to be horribly inconsistent. (Then again, even if Neal and Sash aren't telling the truth, the fact that Brown got no suspension and Hartmann received three games makes no sense.)
Either way, Adderall provides players with a convenient strategy for avoiding the stigma of steroids. The fact that league can say nothing about the facts and circumstances surrounding the suspension allows the players to say whatever they want.