I always wondered what the fall-out would be if a case like this played out. St. Louis Rams linebacker David Vobora tested positive for a banned substance in 2009. He was suspended for four games without pay by the NFL, but the Rams chose to keep him on the roster. All the while, Vobora maintained his innocence. Let’s stop right there. Don’t they all maintain their innocence? You can count on one hand with several fingers missing the number of athletes who have admitted to taking banned substances when first caught. So, what makes Vobora different from almost everyone else? He actually sued the supplement company.
Vobora claims he took all of the necessary precautions before taking the suspicious supplement. The NFL has a supplement hotline for players. He called that. Vobora researched the company online and found nothing wrong. After doing his homework, Vobora added the supplement to his regimen. He tested positive for the banned substance methyltestosterone. The court ruled that the supplement company intentionally misrepresented the supplement. Vobora was awarded $5.4 million in lost wages and damages.
Obviously, performance-enhancing drugs have negatively affected sports at every level and should be dealt with accordingly. However, what happens when an athlete didn’t do it? What if he really thought he was taking a legal supplement? Some pundits have said you’re responsible for what you put into your own body. That’s true – to an extent. There’s nothing more an athlete like Vobora could’ve done short of taking the stuff to a lab himself. I know some old-school guys will say they don’t need supplements anyway. I beg to differ. Proper training, nutrition, and supplementation are essential for professional athletes to maintain performance. Simply put – if Vobora stops using supplements, he won’t be around long.
Now what does this mean for kids? This is by no means an endorsement for young athletes to take supplements. They should not! For kids, the lesson here is to not let anyone trample on your character. Performance-enhancing drugs carry the threat of suspension and other consequences, but there’s also a stigma. Athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs are viewed as cheaters, liars, and people of suspect character. David Vobora refused to allow those labels to be placed on him. Even when falsely accused, he still played within the rules. He accepted his suspension, but then used the legal system to gain justice. Sometimes when we’re wronged, we tend to break rules on an even larger scale than the ones we were accused of. Again, Vobora kept his cool and presented his case in a respectful, intelligent manner.
I’m proud of Vobora. He could have just come back to the Rams and kept quiet, but he didn’t. His reputation and character were on the line. When dealing with performance–enhancing drugs, Vobora faced an uphill battle. Guilt is always assumed in cases like this. It’s really hard to prove what you didn’t do, but it was worth it in the end. Until next time…
Be a Good Sport!