It wasn’t the first standing ovation of Richard Sherman’s athletic life, but it might have been the most gratifying. When he told his Seahawks teammates Thursday in the locker room that he had been cleared of using a stimulant banned by the NFL, they cheered.
“I just said I won, and then everybody was happy, clapping hands and all of that stuff,” he told reporters after he tweeted to the world in the morning: “Thank you nfl for upholding the truth! To the 12s Thank you your faith is rewarded! Thank you lord.”
He continued: “It was just a sigh of relief from the whole team just to know that everything was done and over with, and we could move on from it.”
Sherman appealed Friday a potential four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s anti-drug policy handed down in late November for testing positive for a banned stimulant, reportedly Adderall, in September. Sherman’s fellow cornerback, Brandon Browner, is serving the last of his four-game suspension for the same violation Sunday against the St. Louis Rams in the regular-season finale, and will be available for the playoffs.
Sherman, who had been his usual upbeat self publicly throughout the appeals period after the story of his positive test became public, admitted the episode weighed on him.
“There was obviously a good amount of stress, because you just don’t know,” he said. “You know how strong the case is, you know how strong everything is, but it was just great to finally get it over with . . . just have that burden off of your shoulders and just be able to move on, and try to make this playoff run with my guys.”
In his appeal, Sherman charged a chain-of-custody violation regarding his urine sample. He claimed the cup leaked, and the tester collecting the sample used a second cup underneath the first one. Since the seal of the second cup was broken, the policy was violated.
“Yeah, it was a weird day,” he said of the September test. “It was a weird testing procedure. A lot of things went wrong on that day. That is why the results came out the way it did, because he made a mistake and did things wrong. If it wasn’t for that, there wouldn’t have been a positive test, everything would have went normal.”
Asked if he was surprised about the positive test, given what he saw, Sherman said, “I was still surprised, but I knew that it had something to do with (the botched handling).”
Before the appeal was upheld, Sherman was resolute in his belief that mistakes were made and that he was willing to go through the appeals process to prove it.
“That’s why we’re sitting here right now because there were a lot of mistakes made on top of me never taking anything,” he said. “That’s kind of the big one.”
Because appeals of the NFL drug-abuse policy are rarely upheld, Sherman heard from those who said it would be best if he served the suspension in time to return for the playoffs, as Browner is doing.
“Yeah, a lot of people said that,” he said. “There were always people that said that the chances are slim to none. My chances have always been slim to none, and I’ve always found a way to win those. You don’t make it this far without having some kind of adversity and getting through that adversity. This is just another phase.
“I have great teammates and great coaches who have supported me through it, and
the great fans we have supported me and had faith. I’m very appreciative of that.”
The NFL is prohibited by collective-bargaining rules from commenting on the reasons behind rulings, and is permitted only to announce suspensions. As far as is known publicly, only a few positive tests have been overturned — a disclosure that can come only from players or their agents.
The entire public disclosure of the tests should not have happened, according to the CBA rules between the NFL and players’ union. But espn.com broke the story of the positive tests, citing anonymous sources, and the players later confirmed it.
The reversal was made by former NFL executive Bob Wallace. A copy of his decision, made after Sherman flew to St. Louis last week for his appeal, was obtained by The Associated Press. In his explanation, Wallace wrote the collection of Sherman’s urine sample on Sept. 17, the day after Seattle beat Dallas in Week 2, was not ordinary.
Sherman’s sample cup began leaking. The tester grabbed another cup and transferred the sample. Documentation of the leaking cup was not on the submitted report following the test. Only when asked by a supervisor in October did the tester acknowledge the sample was transferred from the original.
The tester later gave testimony that he’d never experienced a leaking cup before, yet didn’t feel the situation rose to the level of inclusion on his report.
Wallace 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.
”Accordingly, Mr. Sherman’s appeal is granted and the discipline is reversed,” Wallace wrote.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email the league is reviewing the decision, but was declining comment due to confidentiality provisions.
Sherman said he has been in touch with Browner.
“I hear from him every day, and he was happy for me,” Sherman said. “‘He’s excited to get back and we can’t wait to have him back. It’s like my right hand has not been here with me for four weeks so it’s kind of been tough on me.”