Former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu is focused on the future as he attempts to make the leap from college football to the NFL after sitting out last season following his dismissal from the LSU football program.
But his future hinges on his ability to overcome the past—a past that, according to USA Today, includes quite a few failed drug tests at LSU.
According to an unnamed assistant NFL coach, Mathieu failed more than 10 tests before being dismissed last August.
"I quit counting at 10," Mathieu said, according to the assistant coach. "I really don't know."
Blame for the number of failed tests falls squarely at the feet of LSU, according to the coach.
"If he [Mathieu] flunked 10 tests before they suspended him, it shows that he got no kind of help," the coach said.
Mathieu responded to the story in a press release issued through the LSU athletic department.
It is irresponsible and shows a lack of integrity for anyone to disclose medical information regardless of how it was gathered. I would expect that conversations regarding my drug testing history during the course of my medical treatment would be private. LSU has a strong drug testing program and LSU went to great lengths to help me in my treatment and recovery. I understand that many people enjoy reading about the negative side of sports, but to publish those second-hand comments without being given a chance to address that comment prior to the publication of the article is irresponsible.
So what does this do to LSU's image?
If we learned anything from last week's ESPN piece on synthetic marijuana at Auburn, it's that there are three sides to every story. Auburn came out swinging last week with some facts about its drug testing program without violating federal laws prohibiting the release of medical information for students.
Unfortunately for LSU, it may not have that luxury in this case since the specifics of Mathieu's drug tests can't be revealed. His statement fights the method, but doesn't address the issue for legal reasons.
Mathieu was one of three players suspended for one game in 2011 for violations of the school's drug policy, according to ESPN.com. Because of Mathieu's history with LSU's policy and his claim that he failed more than 10 tests, the image of the LSU program will probably suffer.
Is that fair?
It's hard to say without knowing what LSU did and didn't do to help Mathieu along the way.
ESPN.com reported at the time of Mathieu's first suspension that it was due to synthetic marijuana. As we found out last week with the Auburn report, universities were still trying to figure out how to get a grasp on the designer drug during the time Mathieu was making his run to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Does Tyrann Mathieu's claim that he failed 10 or more drug tests at LSU hurt LSU's image?
That's not an excuse, but it does provide a little context to what was going on at the time.
Did LSU do all that it could do? Probably not. But let's not throw LSU under the bus and pretend that it's an enabler either. The truth probably lies somewhere in between—the third side of the story.
LSU's image is going to take a hit by the news that Mathieu failed more than 10 tests whether it's accurate or not. It's going to be used by other coaches to negatively recruit against the Tigers on the recruiting trail, and parents of potential prospects are going to be curious about the off-the-field aspects of Mathieu's LSU career.
Is that unfortunate? Yes. Is it appropriate? Probably. Is it LSU's fault? Not entirely.
That probably won't matter in the court of public opinion though.