|Wednesday, March 26
Updated: March 27, 1:09 PM ET
Free agent Cloud must serve four-game suspension
By Len Pasquarelli
Unrestricted free agent tailback Mike Cloud, who played all previous four seasons of his NFL career with the Kansas City Chiefs, has been suspended four games for violation of the league's policy against anabolic steroids.
Two league sources, and one source close to Cloud, on Wednesday confirmed the suspension.
The suspension dates back to December of last year, and Cloud has already failed in his appeals bid, league sources said. Cloud will serve the suspension during the first four games of the 2003 season, even if he is not signed with a new team at the time.
Cloud, 27, tested positive for the steroid Nandrelone after using a protein supplement. His representatives argued Nandrelone was not listed on the label, and that Cloud only unwittingly breached the policy. But as has been the case in similar situations in the past, the league ruled that the player is ultimately responsible for what goes into his body, and denied the appeal.
The sanction has cost Cloud at least one job during the free agency period. Cloud reached a recent agreement in principle with an AFC team, but that franchise backed off when apprised by the player and his agents about the suspension. Likewise, an NFC team that recently demonstrated some interest in the former Boston College star halted talks because of the sanction.
While the suspension has not been officially announced, Cloud and his representatives agreed to notify any team interested in the tailback about the suspension.
There is some irony in the Cloud situation. He considered serving the first two games of the suspension at the end of the 2002 campaign, but ended up playing, essentially because Kansas City needed him to fill in for the injured Priest Holmes. But the Chiefs, even with Holmes' status uncertain because of a hip injury, have indicated no interest in re-signing Cloud for the 2003 season.
A second-round draft choice in 1999, Cloud has 121 career carries for 381 yards and four touchdowns in 56 appearances and six starts. He also has 11 catches for 89 yards.
There is a possibility that Cloud will bring legal action against the manufacturer of the supplement.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.