SBD/December 28, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Seahawks' Sherman Wins Suspension Appeal On Irregularities In NFL Drug-Testing Procedure

Result notwithstanding, Sherman (r) maintained he took no banned substances
Seahawks CB Richard Sherman won his appeal of a four-game suspension from the NFL for testing positive for a banned substance because former league exec Bob Wallace said that there were "irregularities in the testing procedure," according to Danny O'Neil of the SEATTLE TIMES. The appeal hearing "took place last Friday, Sherman appearing along with his attorney, Maurice Suh of Los Angeles." Sherman's argument was "based on the fact a second cup was used in the collection of his urine after the initial cup began leaking." The tester "confirmed both the leaking cup and the use of an additional cup." Sherman's argument was that the test "was tainted by the violations in procedure, the league arguing that those deviations from the standard procedure were immaterial to the result." Wallace, the hearing officer, "upheld Sherman's appeal, pointing out specifically that the tester did not note the use of a second cup in the collection process until asked by a supervisor in October." Lost in the "discussions of leakage, second cups and protocol was a bigger issue for Sherman." He said that "mistakes were made in the whole procedure, with the bottom line being he never took banned substances" (SEATTLE TIMES, 12/28). Sherman said, "It was a weird day, a weird testing procedure. A lot of things went wrong on that day and that's why the result came out the way it did because he made mistakes and he did things wrong" (AP, 12/27). USA TODAY's Jeffrey Martin notes despite "maintaining his innocence, Sherman seemed resigned to losing his appeal as recently as Sunday." Suh on Thursday said, "It's the NFL's job to overcome the presumption that everything was done properly. They were unable to do that" (USA TODAY, 12/28).

WIN, LOSE OR DRAW CONCLUSIONS? In Seattle, Steve Kelley writes athletes "hardly ever win these appeals," and when they "do, there is the presumption of guilt, as if they somehow scammed the system and got off on a technicality." Sherman, asked if he cared about the perception of some that he is guilty, said, "The truth has been told today, and people can say what they want. There's always naysayers. There were a lot of mistakes made, on top of me never taking anything" (SEATTLE TIMES, 12/28). However, USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell writes winning in this case "does not mean Sherman is squeaky clean." Sherman won "on a technicality." Bell: "Nowhere in arbitrator Bob Wallace's decision was it stated that Sherman's sample wasn't legit." Sherman "played by the rules of the NFL's drug policy and shifted the burden to the process and the collector, Mark Cook." Sherman won, but to a "larger degree, the league lost on one bad positive test" (USA TODAY, 12/28).
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