I won— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) December 27, 2012
Richard Sherman has been informed by the NFL that he will not be suspended for reportedly failing a PED urine test earlier this season. Sherman's legal team convinced NFL appeals officials that the chain of custody was broken on the container used in the test and that all results from the test are null and void. This is a huge win for Sherman, professionally and personally, and a huge win for his team, as the Seahawks get set to head to the Playoffs.
After several tense weeks of silence and official 'no comments' from the team, Sherman spoke up following Sunday's game against the 49ers. He divulged some details of his defense and what went down in St. Louis, where the appeal case was heard.
"I think it went well," Sherman said Sunday. "We pleaded our case. We proved that they made procedural errors. That they violated the chain of custody. That the tester grabbed the cup, an unsealed cup, and poured my urine into it. That's a violation, but the league says they can do that and get away with it."
"It should go well." he said. "There was a chain of custody mistake. There were mistakes made by the tester. The league's argument was they're allowed to make mistakes and they're allowed to break the rules and they can get away with it. It's up to them. The appeal officer is paid by the league so if he goes their way, that's what it is. It's not an even playing field in that appeal room."
Sherman followed up these comments this week with threats to sue the NFL if he was indeed suspended, but it looks like he'll be able to avoid all that, thankfully, with this fairly abnormal series of events. Evidently, the NFL took Sherman's defense seriously, and perhaps their willingness to concede errors had to do with the actual testor in question. Sherman tweeted on Tuesday that the person handling the test sample has "a history of errors. [He's had to have had] six other tests thrown out and he has only been testing six months."
It's important to stress just how big of a deal 'chain of custody' really is, because taking a random, unsealed cup and pouring the test sample into it is a sure-fire way to get your 'evidence' thrown out in any court of law. It's nice to see the NFL recognize this, because based on previous reports, it seemed they were pretty obtuse about sticking to their guns even in the face of very good evidence.
The question that may be raised in the coming days is whether Brandon Browner failed his test because of this error-prone official. At first, it was rumored that Browner's defense was what Sherman ultimately won with -- per a USAToday report by Mike Garafolo (which also claimed that Sherman's defense would be that he accidentally drank Adderall from a teammate's bottle, which Sherman immediately denied):
"...a person informed of Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner's appeal of his four-game suspension said Browner insists the officials who performed the test did not follow proper protocol and that he saw one of the officials pour urine from one container into another. That person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation."
So, either Sherman's case got mixed up with Browner's case when it came to Garafolo's informant, or perhaps they both had the same thing happen. Another thing that came up in the whole ordeal is that Browner "is in the NFL's substance-abuse program because of an undisclosed incident while he was with the Denver Broncos in 2005. When Browner returned to the NFL last season after five years in the CFL, he was reinstated in the program, which involves repeat testing. Browner is claiming he never would've knowingly taken a substance banned by the NFL."
The fact that Browner was already in the NFL's substance abuse program makes his failed test and suspension even more fishy, though we'll probably never know whether or not he did actually take the Adderall. It seems unlikely, considering that, per Jason La Canfora, "[Browner]‘s someone who's tested regularly; up to three times a week. So he's told people, ‘look, I knew what I was up against. I don't even drink a beer because I'm so wary of having a positive for anything.' So he's been adamant that ‘I'm not on anything. I've gone out of my way not to put any sort of substance, supplement, or anything other than what you would normally eat and drink.'"
Regardless, Browner is eligible to return after this week, so it's mostly a moot point. It may be a blessing in disguise for the team (but not for Browner's reputation/wallet) that he's missed time, because it's given the Seahawks the chance to develop some of their younger corners, particularly Jeremy Lane, who has looked great, and Byron Maxwell, who has acquitted himself (no pun intended) nicely.
For more on this story, make sure you head over to Yahoo! Shutdown Corner, where Doug Farrar has some really interesting details from the appeal.