Richard Sherman might be innocent in regards to taking Adderall, but what if he was never accused of taking that drug in the first place?
Sherman avoided suspension here, but it is worth exploring the ways in which a player could manipulate the system.
Let me start off by saying I am a big fan of Richard Sherman as a player. I’ve enjoyed his unlikely rise to stardom despite being a former college wide receiver and fifth-round pick out of Stanford. Sherman is no stranger to defying dubious odds, just as he did once again on Thursday by becoming one of the few players to successfully appeal an NFL punishment.
Most of the time, a winning appeal in the NFL is defined by just getting the punishment reduced, rarely is it ever eliminated altogether.
Suspicions about Adderall
According to a tweet from USA Today’s Mike Garafolo, Richard Sherman tested positive for the prescription drug Adderall, which is most commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.
However, considering the recent and overwhelming spike in positive drug tests being blamed on Adderall, it quite possibly could just be a more acceptable and forgivable reason for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs, or PEDs.
This would be a feasible alibi considering the NFL cannot publicly disclose the substance the player tested positive for. As a former NFL player, I favor the argument that this Adderall phenomenon is being used as a PR stunt—for two reasons.
First off, the drug is actually permitted in the NFL if obtained through the proper medical channels with a verified prescription. This means any player wanting to take Adderall regularly in order to enhance their performance on the field would simply have to get diagnosed with ADHD. A process which is rather arbitrary and easy to manipulate if one were so inclined. There is almost no way to prove a person doesn’t have ADHD if that individual was even mildly determined to be diagnosed with it.
This essentially means any player who wants to take Adderall legally and without any ramifications from the league would have a very easy path to do so.
The second reason this Adderall mess is just an excuse: There is no way so many players could be that dumb. Perhaps the first, second, or maybe even the third guy was actually using Adderall illegally and got caught. But every player and organization afterward would then be hyper-aware of the severe nature of the punishment and consequences of repeating this offense, especially considering you can simply obtain the drug legally.
Richard Sherman graduated from Stanford, I think he’s smart enough to get Adderall the same way the most of his classmates would have gone about it—just make a couple of visits to your family doctor.
It’s just too darn easy not to.
Drug testing process
I personally have been subjected to several drug tests in the NFL. The process is fairly simple.
A designated tester gives you a small, plastic cup which is individually wrapped in a clear, plastic cover. You are instructed to remove the cover and personally open the lid, which is sealed with a piece of red tape to prevent tampering.
Without any excessive items of clothing you are asked to fill the cup with urine at least to a designated line on cup itself. Depending on the environment, the tester may have you do this either within his observable view, or have you go into a bathroom stall nearby.
When the cup is filled, you then put the lid on it and take it back to the tester. From there you are mandated to sit and watch as the tester takes out two small vials, each sealed and color coded. He then has you break the seal of each vial as you watch him distribute the urine into the two separate bottles before having you personally reseal each one.
Once that is complete, he puts the urine samples into individual shipping boxes and has those sealed as well. You are then instructed to sign an agreement that declares the entire process was up to standard.
If any of the seals are broken at any point in the journey from the acquisition phase to the lab, the entire sample is voided.
Reported Specifics of Sherman's Case
According to a copy of the verdict obtained by Yahoo! Sports, Sherman met the tester, Mark Cook, at the Seahawks’ facilities on his day off specifically to take the drug test. If Sherman had any concern about this test, he would have ample time to figure out some sort of sabotage strategy.
When he took the sample back to Cook, common sense would dictate Cook would only have opened up a completely new, unused and individually wrapped cup to make the transfer from the leaky cup to an unbroken one.
According to the Yahoo! report, Sherman then testified that there were cups all around him—some used and some unused. This is insignificant information considering the obvious thing that would have happened is a simple cup transfer. This appears to be one of many examples of Sherman trying to create irregularities in the collection process that just don’t seem probable.
For the most part, the leaky cup transfer was the only confirmed and significantly unique event in the entire collection process. Sherman even signed off on the validity of the process.
Now, there is nothing that would have gone on in those simple transfer steps that would have somehow magically put performance enhancing drugs into Richard Sherman’s urine.
The league had to dismiss the positive test results simply on the irregularities of the collection process and the failure of Mark Cook to report a cup transfer had occurred in his documents. He didn’t report the transfer until he was asked about it in October.
If the league had decided not to back down on this case, they were surely going to deal with yet another lawsuit from a player. Obviously, a situation they would rather just avoid given the validity to Sherman’s case due to the aforementioned technicalities.
Sherman tried to put as many holes into the collection process as possible by claiming several things that Cook had denied; things such as Cook leaving Sherman’s side to transfer the cup or the details of the agreement being unreadable.
The strategy here is clear: Throw as much as you can at the case to discredit the results, then sit back and see what sticks. Cook seemed to demonstrate credible honesty by owning up to the cup transfer even though he failed to document it originally simply because it didn’t seem like a big deal.
What this means moving forward
There is likely going to be some significant changes to the standard urine collection process in light of this case. Sherman has found an effective way to fight the validity of an NFL drug test, which has also opened up several questions about effectiveness of the current process in general.
What most likely happened in Sherman's case?
For the time being, I wouldn’t be surprised if the sample collectors are suddenly dealing with a mysterious increase in faulty urine cups.
For Richard Sherman, he has at least escaped any suspensions from the NFL and is cleared to participate with the team for the remainder of the season, including the upcoming playoffs.
I hope for Sherman’s sake, that if he indeed was using Adderall, that he simply goes to a doctor and gets himself a legal prescription. If he was using something else entirely, then he better stop whatever he was using immediately, as I’m sure the NFL will have its eye on him and would love to catch him the proper way next time.