Golden Tate said he didn’t know, and the Giants – led by Pat Shurmur – believe him.
In his first interview since getting suspended four games for testing positive for a banned substance, Tate said on Wednesday that the doctor who prescribed him the fertility drug told the Giants wide receiver that the substance was not banned by the NFL and that he’d prescribed the same drug to other NFL players. Tate said he was considering legal action against the doctor and appeared surprised that the league rejected his appeal.
Tate tested positive for clomiphene citrate, a fertility drug that, in men, stimulates testosterone production. He and his wife, Elise, had their second child at the end of February, but Tate said they were trying for another. He was tested in April.
“I’ve lost a lot of sleep and it’s hurt me to my core,” Tate said. “You look at me. I’m not trying to cheat . . . I hope this doesn’t smear the reputation that I worked so hard for.”
Shurmur said Tate was forthcoming as soon as he realized he had taken a banned substance and characterized Tate’s four-game suspension as another challenge the Giants will simply navigate.
“Absolutely, I totally believe him,” Shurmur said of Tate. “He told me exactly what happened, the timeline of things and was very open and honest when anybody asked him any questions behind the scenes, and I do believe him.”
Tate said that he didn’t ask team doctors about the drug because of the assurances he heard from his prescribing doctor. Due to HIPAA laws, Tate said he doesn’t know what other players have taken the drug.
“The doctor had said, no, it’s not a banned substance and I have prescribed it to other NFL guys,” Tate reiterated. “If the doctor says, 'I’m not sure,' I 100 percent would have looked into it. If the doctor said he’d never given it to any NFL players, I 1,000 percent have looked into it.”
When asked why he was taking a fertility drug immediately after having had a child, Tate said the issue was personal. Later, when answering another question, he did clarify it was to have a third baby.
Tate said he hopes to work with the NFL ahead of the next collective bargaining agreement to find a better way to deal with its no-tolerance banned substance policy. He didn’t say what specific ways he’d like to change the current system but acknowledged it could be a slippery slope. Allowances for cases like his could lead to abuse.
“It’s very frustrating,” Tate said. “I have no problem accepting the punishment. Ultimately, I’m responsible for what’s put in my body. I guess the tough thing that I’m dealing with is that I’m letting down a lot of people – my family, the guys in the locker room, the organization that brought me here and that’s kind of what’s been crushing me with this whole situation.”
Tate said it took weeks for him to suspect he might’ve taken a banned substance. Weeks, even, after his test. He said he was out to dinner with an employee of his, and the two were talking about players who had been suspended for different reasons.
“A light went off in my head,” Tate said. “Let me just call the doctor and make sure just to make myself feel better. I asked him what the active ingredient was, and we looked it up right then and there and sure enough, it was a banned substance.”
The league banned him, but Tate appealed the decision. The appeal was rejected earlier this week.
Shurmur said he has different receivers who can try to compensate for Tate’s skillset – no short order, considering Tate was signed to a four-year, $37.5 million contract specifically to fill the gaping hole left by Odell Beckham Jr. Sterling Shepard works well both outside and in the slot, Shurmur said, and T.J. Jones impressed during the Giants' first preseason game. Shepard is nursing a broken thumb, and Jones was just brought on at the end of July.
Jones said that he was looking to “make the best of the opportunity,” but is not thinking about how Tate’s suspension will affect him future. “I’m not looking it that way because I’m not the decision-maker,” he said. “I’m keeping my head down, focusing on what I control and making sure that I’m doing everything right.”