David Vobora knows what it feels like to be Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks. Vobora allegedly used a Florida company’s “Ultimate Sports Spray,” in June of 2009 without knowing it contained methyltestosterone. Methyltestosterone is a banned substance that showed up in an NFL drug test and it led to his four-game suspension in 2009 for violating the NFL’s drug policy for a banned substance. This was all after Vobora called the NFL hotline to make sure this substance was OK by league standards, and he was assured there was nothing that could trigger a positive test. Fast forward to 2012. Seattle starting cornerbacks Browner and Sherman are both facing four-game suspensions for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs based on testing positive for Adderall. Here’s Vobora’s advice to the two defensive backs for the Seahawks. David Vobora joined 710 ESPN in Seattle with The Kevin Calabro Show to discuss being suspended in 2009 for violating the NFL’s performance enhancing drug policy, the disreputable Florida supplements company that he bought supplements from that caused him to fail a drug test without even knowing it, the NFL appeals process not being that receptive, the stigma attached to his name after being involved in the situation and his advice to Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman of the Seahawks.
Was it 2009 when you were suspended for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy?
“Yeah it was. I actually got the letter that I had failed an offseason test and … when it comes out in the media, the guys have known about it for awhile. You get the appeal process. Everybody has the right to appeal and it was. I was very careful to make sure I was calling the hotline and speaking about whatever was put into my body. … I was smart. I sent all my stuff in and got it tested by a credible lab and paid a lot of money out of my pocket to know that it was credible. … It’s really hard. You could call in today and say, ‘Hey I have this broccoli supplement and I am taking broccoli.’ They would say, ‘Well, there’s nothing we can find in the broccoli that could trigger a positive test,’ but ultimately you are responsible for what’s in your body and if it triggers a positive test, it’s on you.”
So you called the NFL hotline to check the supplement and they said it was OK before you got suspended?
“Correct. You gotta realize the supplement world is the wild west. … There’s no FDA regulations on these things. You could go pick up some of your buddies and get some rice, flour and creatine and mix your own supplement and put a label on it and throw it on [a shelf] with it. I followed it through to the very bitter end, saying, ‘Hey, I am innocent and this is why.’ ”
How receptive is the NFL appeals process?
“Zero. Zero. I can boldly say zero. You have to always stand by the comment that I said earlier that, hey, you are responsible for what’s in your body — no matter where it came from. That’s why it’s very, very sketchy to be taking it and putting it in your body because you just don’t know, and it’s really unfortunate for guys that end up in that situation. And I wish, after my lawsuit and getting everything turned over, my agent and myself, we went to the NFL and we said, ‘Hey, not only do I want to be taken off the first-offenders list, so that I can’t be on that first-offenders list,’ but we tried to challenge for some repayment for those four games. They wouldn’t listen to it. It was completely dismissed from the get-go.”
Was the stigma attached to your name the toughest part of the appeals process?
“No question. No question. Your name is really what you hang your hat on, and when that’s tainted and you get labeled as a cheater and you do everything I really have prided myself on hard work and doing things by the book. I feel like my work ethic has taken me as far as it has, and when something like that gets tainted, I mean, to the outside world, you look guilty. You hear guys saying all the time that they didn’t do it. Well that’s why I was so adamant on following it through until the bitter end, to make sure I was able to prove it and we were able to do that in the largest professional lawsuit in federal court history. Yes, it wasn’t so much about getting the money as just redemption and clearing my name, but yeah, it suck s man. It really does. It’s part of the time in my career where I was up and coming. I was named the starter and I was playing really well. It was a setback. It’s something that’s given me a platform and I am going to continue to use it for positive in my career and in my life, but it was a wrench in the system for sure.”
What advice would you give Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman of the Seahawks?
“Well, their team needs them and if they are stringing out the appeals process, that might sort of be their advantage right now to win these games. They have to take it. But the season is running out. They are going to have to take the suspension. They have got to take it to be back if the Seahawks do end up making the postseason run, so I would say, ‘If you know the truth, live up to the truth, own the truth and stand by it. If you are in fact innocent then fight it; fight it at all costs. Stand up for who you are and what you do and what you’ve done on the field and put your stamp on it.’ That’s probably my best advice.”