Giants receiver Golden Tate may indeed have been telling the truth when he explained that he began taking a fertility drug, that he realized in a matter of days that the drug is a banned substance under the PED policy, and that in the interim he was randomly tested under the PED policy. Like Tate, nearly every player who gets caught violating the PED policy has a plausible (or at least semi-plausible) excuse that softens the stigma of using PEDs for cheating.
Indeed, apart from receiver Julian Edelman (who didn’t bother to offer an excuse at all), every player who ever has tested positive for PEDs has had an explanation that didn’t involve using Performance Enhancing Drugs to actually enhance performance. Most often, the player took a supplement that unbeknownst to him contained PEDs. On other occasions, it was a fertility treatment. Most recently, Cowboys defensive end Robert Quinn claimed that otherwise permitted medication was tainted at the pharmacy with a banned compound.
From the NFL’s perspective, it doesn’t matter. And it shouldn’t; as a wise man once told me, “I may have a perfectly reasonable excuse for showing up to work without pants on, but that doesn’t change the fact that I showed up to work without pants on.”
From the perspective of court of public opinion, it’s much easier to sell a semi-plausible excuse than to embrace the stigma of cheating, especially since so few players who test positive for PEDs ever embrace that which for some of them has to be the truth. Still, the constant steam or semi-plausible excuses means that only innocent and well-meaning players have ever found themselves ensnared by a positive PED test — and that the PED testing process has never caught cheating a deliberate, premeditated cheater. Other than Edelman.