The last pick of the 2008 draft, David Vobora became the first “Mr. Irrelevant” for the St. Louis Rams. It is tough for many drafted rookies, but for the last pick in the draft to make the club, the odds are stacked against them. Vobora was the starter at strong-side linebacker when the league suspended him in September, 2009, and he played in 14 games in 2010.
On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Rodney W. Sippel of the Eastern District of Missouri ruled that Anti-Steroid Program, LLC, also known as S.W.A.T.S, intentionally misrepresented the supplement product in violation of state law. The $5.4 million judgment included loss of salary and other NFL compensation, marketing opportunities and $2 million for damage to Vobora’s reputation.
Vobora, who graduated from Churchill High and played at the University of Idaho, said, “This monumental judgment cleared my family’s name. Vindication is why this lawsuit was pursued; true vindication is what we received. My name has been exonerated and today is a monumental day in which the truth has finally been told. We stuck together through threats, ridicule, and unfair stigma. I’m relieved that I can refocus on football and help the St. Louis Rams get back to the playoffs when the lockout ends. I’m grateful the Rams organization believed in my character through this trying process. I’m exhausted.”
Vobora followed steps the NFL suggests before taking nutritional supplements. He called an NFL hotline set up for players with questions about supplements and consulted supplement experts. Before taking the S.W.A.T.S supplement “Ultimate Sports Spray,” Vobora studied the company’s website, which had endorsements from more than 50 NFL players and coaches. He later tested positive for the banned substance methyltestosterone, which was independently found in the S.W.A.T.S supplement.
Several league sources tell me there is a very good chance that once the lockout is lifted, some high-profile players may receive multiple-game suspensions, but with this ruling, the Vobora case should help others in the same situation.
R. Daniel Fleck, of The Spence Law Firm, LLC, of Jackson, Wyo., and Howard L. Jacobs, of the Law Offices of Howard L. Jacobs, of Westlake Village, Calif., represent Vobora. His football agent is Marc Lillibridge, who is with the offices of National Sports Agency, which is located in Lake St. Louis.
Said Fleck, “David Vobora vowed to clear his name and he has resoundingly done so. This judgment is believed to be the largest of its kind for any athlete who has been suspended from his or her sport because of a contaminated nutritional supplement. This case should be a warning to all supplement companies to improve their manufacturing processes and ensure their products are steroid-free.”
Meanwhile, commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners have been pushing for HGH testing. Congress has made several statements or threats of future involvement if the league and NFLPA don’t agree on HGH testing in the next CBA. After doing my research, I found that the side effects of HGH range from minor joint pain and some fluid retention to more serious ones such as high blood pressure, abnormal bone and abnormal cartilage growth. Most medicinal use of HGH focuses on the short-term correction of a hormonal imbalance. General growth hormone side effects from this type of use tend to be reversible (insulin resistance and some joint swelling).
HGH for anti-aging or “plastic surgery in a bottle” use leads to more long-term complications and sometimes deadly side effects such as irregular heart rhythms, increased risk of diabetes, joint and facial deformities and the shutdown of the pituitary gland. All of this just to perform in Track & Field, the NFL, MLB, NBA or any other professional sport in the world. Sounds like fun, right?
The Vobora case shows that the NFL must change their rules and the process of investigating companies prior to suspensions, and not just turn their backs on the players who drive revenue. What happened to innocent until proven guilty?