Cleveland Browns star wide receiver Josh Gordon has been suspended the entire NFL season for another violation of the league's substance abuse policy.
The league announced Wednesday that arbitrator Harold Henderson upheld Gordon's indefinite suspension for a failed test for marijuana. The Pro Bowler had appealed the ruling and met with league officials in New York on 4 August
Gordon's suspension is effective immediately and the league said in its statement that his "eligibility for reinstatement will be determined following the 2014 season." In the meantime, Gordon is not allowed to practice with the team, attend meetings or other club functions.
Gordon served a two-game suspension for a drug violation last season but still led the league in yards receiving and emerged as one of the game's top players.
"I'd like to apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Cleveland Browns organization and our fans," Gordon said in a statement. "I am very disappointed that the NFL and its hearing office didn't exercise better discretion and judgment in my case. I would like to sincerely thank the people who have been incredibly supportive of me during this challenging time, including my family, my agent, my union, my legal team, and the Cleveland Browns staff."
The Browns have been waiting four months for a resolution to Gordon's case, which hung over him and the team. He continued to practice and played in Cleveland's first three exhibition games.
Gordon fought the suspension, hiring attorney Maurice Suh to represent him at the appeal hearing. Suh, who had successfully gotten a suspension reduced for Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, argued that Gordon tested positive for marijuana due to secondhand smoke. Gordon's representatives also said test results of his samples were inconsistent and should be thrown out.
There was speculation the league might go softer on Gordon following the public outcry after Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was suspended for two games on a domestic violence charge. Instead, the league is putting Gordon on the sideline for all 16 games and will wait to see how he behaves before deciding whether to let him play again.
Gordon didn't help his cause with two legal issues as his case dragged on. He was charged with drunken driving after his arrest in Raleigh, North Carolina, on 5 July. In May, he was stopped for speeding in Strongsville, Ohio, and one of the passengers in his car was cited for marijuana possession.
The talented 23-year-old led the league with 1,646 yards receiving last season despite being banned for the first two games for a failed drug test. It was his second known violation and Gordon said he had inadvertently taken codeine contained in a prescription cough syrup.
Gordon's loss is a crippling blow to Cleveland's offense, depriving the Browns of their best big-play threat. He averaged 18.9 yards per catch in 2013 and became the first player in league history to record consecutive 200-yard games.
The Browns took a risk in selecting Gordon in the 2012 supplemental draft, forfeiting a second-round pick to take the speedy 6-foot-3, 225-pounder who failed at least three drug tests in college for marijuana abuse.
The team has vowed to do all it can to help and support Gordon, who recently posted a photo on Instagram of him catching a pass from rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel. Gordon captioned the photo, "Only place I can find peace."