Rumors of failed drug tests started on Thursday with Boston College's B.J. Raji and continued Friday in grand fashion.
Problem is, say some agents, coaches and insiders, those rumors aren't true.
The hottest rumor of the day was that USC linebackers Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews – both likely first-round picks -- had tested positive for steroids at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February. The rumor was reported first by an outfit called the NFL Draft Bible and spread like wildfire on a host of crackpot sports sites with stories written by uncredentialed writers.
"Our office represents Clay Matthews," Athletes First vice president and general counsel Mark Humenik told NFL Draft Bible in an e-mail provided to Scout.com. "Your website is reporting, via unnamed sources including one NFL team, that Clay tested positive for steroids at the NFL Combine. As I'm sure you know, the NFL Policy on Anabolic Steroids and Related Substances clearly states that ‘any Club or Club employee that publicly divulges, directly or indirectly, information concerning positive tests or other violations of this Policy (including numerical summaries or specific names of persons) or otherwise breaches the confidentiality provisions of this Policy is subject to a fine of up to $500,000 by the Commissioner.'
"Further, neither Clay nor our office has received notification of any positive test, whether for steroids or any banned substance. I also have been informed by an attorney at the NFL League Office that they have not received notification from the Independent Administrator of any Draft-eligible players testing positive for steroids during the pre-employment drug testing conducted at this year's Combine, and likewise, that they have not informed the member NFL clubs of any drug testing results. Govern yourself accordingly."
USC coach Pete Carroll also went on the offensive in defending his players and, in essence, his program.
"These rumors are absolutely false," Carroll said on the blog on USC's official Web site. "If they were found positive, Clay and Cush would have been notified three weeks ago, which they weren't, and all of the NFL teams would have been notified too, which they weren't."
According to Carroll, he spoke with the NFL testing service and verified that neither Cushing nor Matthews had tested positive. Cushing denied using steroids when meeting with reporters at the Combine, and there have been whispers regarding Matthews because of his rise from 190-pound walk-on to 240-pound standout.
"They're both men of outstanding character and they never tested positive for anything here," Carroll said. "This is an major example of irresponsible reporting, and the site that published this report should be ashamed of themselves."
The NFL weighed in, as well. In a statement issued Friday evening, the league said: "Neither the 32 clubs nor the league office know the results of drug or steroid tests taken at the 2009 Combine. The independent medical advisors who administer the tests have notified in writing those players and only those players who tested positive at the Combine. Unfortunately, rumors about draft eligible players, including rumors about test results, begin to circulate every year at this time. Many of these rumors are circulated for self-serving reasons and they are terribly unfair to the players and their families."
Todd France, the agent for Illinois cornerback Vontae Davis, also refuted a report that his client tested positive for marijuana at the Combine. France told Scout.com's Baltimore Ravens insider, Aaron Wilson, that neither he nor Davis had been notified of a positive result.
Meanwhile, a source familiar with the Raji situation told Packer Report on Friday night that he didn't believe Raji had failed his drug test. Raji's alleged positive test was reported by SI.com on Thursday.
Packer Report learned of the Raji rumors three weeks ago but decided to sit on the story because it failed to get adequate confirmation. All or none of the rumors may wind up being true, but these athletes' livelihoods are at stake and unshakable evidence needs to exist before such stories are written and spread around the Internet.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport