New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram was suspended for four games on Tuesday after violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Mark Ingram suspension
Mark Ingram, seen here running against the Atlanta Falcons on January 1, 2017, faces a four game suspension for a violation of the NFL’s performance-enhancing substance policy. (Image: Kevin Cox/Getty)

On Wednesday, agents for Ingram released a statement saying that the running back had “vigorously challenged” the suspension, and that his violation was for a substance that could be allowed under the right conditions.

“At the end of the 2017 season, as a result of a NFL mandated random drug test, Mark Ingram tested positive for a substance that was not a performance enhancing substance, nor an illegal substance, but a substance in fact permissible with the proper use exemption with the NFL,” read the statement written by agents Paul Bobbitt and David Jones.

NFL Says Suspension is Final

However, the NFL responded only to say that an arbitrator had already made a final determination on Ingram’s appeal. A full opinion from the arbitrator will be released by May 16.

Interestingly, neither Ingram’s team nor the NFL has released any information related to what substance the player took that led to the suspension.

Ingram’s agents say that once they see the full arbitrator opinion, they will explore further options to appeal the suspension. But ESPN reported that NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy clarified that there is no further appeal process available, at least through the league itself.

Assuming the suspension stands, Ingram would miss the first four games of the regular season, including contests against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns, Atlanta Falcons and New York Giants. He would still be eligible to participate in all preseason games and activities with the team.

The “proper use exemption” has come up in some notable cases in the past. In 2013, cornerback Richard Sherman was suspended after testing positive for the ADD medication Adderall, but later had that suspension overturned.

Saints to Rely on Kamara Until Ingram Returns

Ingram has been in the league for seven years, and has played for the Saints his entire career. Last year, he played in all 16 games, starting 13. He ran for 1124 yards and 12 touchdowns, both career highs, on the way to his second Pro Bowl selection.

In Ingram’s absence, the Saints will likely rely on second-year running back Alvin Kamara to take on a bigger role in the team’s offense.

Kamara, last year’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, received more touches as the season went on, meaning the Saints are used to relying on him. Kamara finished the year with 1,554 total yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns, emerging as the team’s primary pass-catching back.

That may be way news of Ingram’s suspension hasn’t had much of an impact on New Orleans’ Super Bowl odds. Paddy Power still lists the Saints as a 16/1 pick to win the 2019 Super Bowl, putting them solidly in the second tier of contenders behind the Patriots (6/1), Eagles (9/1), and Steelers (9/1).

But the suspension could still have severe personal consequences for Ingram. He will lose $1 million of his $4 million contract, and missing four games could also cost him potential bonuses. Ingram is also in the final year of his current contract, meaning the suspension could impact his attempts to sign a new contract extension.

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