Seattle cornerback Sherman wins his appeal

PED suspension overturned after hearing in St. Louis, argument that leaking cup tainted collection of sample

eric.williams@thenewstribune.comDecember 28, 2012 

RENTON — The Seattle Seahawks will have their top cornerbacks available for the upcoming playoff run after all.

In a stunning development, Richard Sherman’s alleged violation of the NFL’s performance-enhancing substance policy was reversed after his appeal hearing in St. Louis last week.

Sherman maintained his innocence throughout the month-long ordeal – a confidential proceeding that was leaked to the media – and learned of the news Thursday morning.

And like any person in their early 20s, Sherman took to Twitter to tell his 40,000-plus followers: “I won.”

A spokesperson for the NFL said the league was reviewing the decision but declined to comment because of the confidentiality provision of the program.

“The results were corrupted and that is why they came out to be positive,” Sherman said. “It is what it is. Justice was finally served.”

The reversal of the league’s four-game suspension through an appeals process is a surprise because players rarely have the results of performance-enhancing drug violations overturned.

Now the Seahawks will have both starting cornerbacks in Sherman and Brandon Browner available for the postseason.

Sherman remains eligible to play in Seattle’s final regular-season game against St. Louis on Sunday, and the playoffs.

Browner will complete his four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy when the game against the Rams is over.

Sherman said he had some anxiety about the process, even though he thought his case was strong.

“It was just great to finally get it over with, and get the win,” he said. “And to just have that burden off your shoulders, and to be able to move on and try to make this playoff run with my guys.”

Sherman and his representatives argued that his tested urine sample was contaminated as a result of a second cup.

“Mr. Sherman provided honest testimony about a severely flawed process, and the hearing officer found him to be a credible man,” said Sherman’s attorney, Maurice Suh. “We couldn’t be happier for Richard, and we were thrilled to help him and the union present a very strong case.”

According to the written decision obtained by The Associated Press, Sherman was tested on Sept. 17, the day after Seattle’s win over Dallas, at team headquarters.

Sherman was notified of a positive test on Nov. 12, a day after his team’s win over the New York Jets.

According to the written decision, during the testing of Sherman’s initial urine sample the cup had a leak, so the tester grabbed another cup and transferred the sample.

Documentation of the leaking cup was not submitted with the report following the test, and only when asked by a supervisor in October did the tester acknowledge the sample being transferred from the original cup.

The tester later testified that he’d never experienced a leaking cup before, yet didn’t feel the situation rose to the level of needing to be included on his report.

Bob Wallace, a former NFL executive who presided over the hearing, wrote the omission of the leaking cup from the report was a “big deal,” and that, “insuring a sample is collected properly is the cornerstone of the program and when an event occurs that does not happen routinely or that the collector has never experienced while collecting the sample it is incumbent upon that collector to note what happened.”

Seattle fullback Michael Robinson, the team’s union representative to the NFL Players Association, said it was important for the players to have an appeal go in their favor.

“From more of a holistic point of view, it was big,” Robinson said. “The players need an appeal won like this, personally. It just showed that justice can be done for us in our favor, when all of the facts are laid out. As a player you just feel like the league is against you when it doesn’t work in our favor. But this time it did.”

Robinson also raised questions about how a process such as drug test that is supposed to be confidential under the league’s collective bargaining agreement was leaked to the media before Sherman could go through his due process.

“Those people that let that information out, I think there should be consequences for that,” Robinson said. “What if that information being leaked would have really affected Sherman’s outcome, or him getting a new contract, or going to the Pro Bowl? You just don’t know how that information affected him, and you just don’t like to see that.”

One positive for the Seahawks is that young cornerbacks Jeremy Lane, Byron Maxwell and Ron Parker earned important game experience, and veteran corners Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond bought time to get healthy.

“It was a great opportunity for them,” Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “They played in some big games.”

And things returned to normal for Sherman, with the NFL showing that it has a wry sense of humor.

Sherman was “randomly selected” by the league to take a urine test before heading out to practice on Thursday.

“That’s the way it works,” Sherman said as he came out of the bathroom. “You can bet I was paying attention today.”

Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 @eric_d_williams

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