The NFL has suspended New England Patriots' star quarterback Tom Brady for the first four games of next season and fined the franchise $1m their role in Deflategate,
The NFL also said the Patriots will forfeit their first-round selection in the 2016 draft and a fourth-round pick in 2017 for using under-inflated footballs in last season's AFC Championship game.
Ted Wells, an attorney hired by the NFL to investigate the allegations, said in a 243-page report that it was "more probable than not" that Patriots personnel "were involved in a deliberate effort" to circumvent rules by using deflated footballs in the team's 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship game.
An underinflated football would likely give Brady a better grip and allow him to throw longer and with more accuracy, especially in the chilly and wet conditions the Colts and Patriots played in to determine who would go to the Super Bowl.
The $1 million fine ties the largest ever for a team in the NFL, equaling the amount the league ordered San Francisco 49ers owner Edward Debartolo, Jr. to pay in 1999 after he pleaded guilty to a felony for his role in a Louisiana gambling scandal.
Brady's agent and Patriots owner Robert Kraft both sharply criticised the punishment, prolonging a turbulent season for the most-profitable US sports league, which has already had to deal with scandals involving domestic violence and child abuse.
"The discipline is ridiculous and has no legitimate basis," said Brady's agent Don Yee, adding that the quarterback will appeal the suspension.
Brady has a guaranteed base salary of $8m for the 16-game 2015 NFL season. If the four-game suspension with no pay is upheld, Brady will miss games against Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Jacksonville and Dallas. Ironically, his first game back on October 18 would be against the Colts.