New England Patriots star Tom Brady must serve a four-game suspension imposed by the NFL over claims he cheated by using deflated balls, a federal appeals court has ruled.
Monday’s 2-1 decision by the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York is a boost to the league in its battle with the players’ union.
It overturns last September’s ruling by a Manhattan judge that went against the league, allowing the 38-year-old quarterback to play the whole season.
The appeals court said that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had properly exercised his discretion under a collective bargaining agreement when he imposed the suspension.
The NFL welcomed the ruling, but there was no immediate response from Brady.
It is the latest twist in a saga that has dogged Brady, one of the highest-profile athletes in the US and a record-equalling four-time winner of the Super Bowl.
The controversy, dubbed Deflategate, centred on footballs used by the Patriots in their 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game in January 2015.
Brady’s team went on to win the Super Bowl.
An NFL-hired investigator determined in May last year that Brady was probably aware of a plan by locker room staff to deflate the footballs below league standards, making them easier to grip in cold and wet conditions.
Days later the NFL imposed the four-game suspension against Brady, a decision the league upheld in July.
The NFL also fined the Patriots $1m over the under-inflated footballs.
The scandal reportedly put a strain on Brady’s seven-year marriage to supermodel Gisele Bundchen, with whom he has two children.