In a departure from past precedent, the NFL’s internal process overturned the four-game suspension of Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman based on alleged discrepancies in the sample-collection process.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, hearing officer Bob Wallace, in what may have been his first appeal hearing (and, from the league’s perspective, possibly his last), applied the same WADA-style accountability to the collection process that Ryan Braun utilized to overcome a 50-game suspension imposed by Major League Baseball.
The argument is fairly simple. If the player will be strictly liable for any substance determined to have been in his system, the process should likely be held to a high standard. Thus, any irregularity or deficiency will result in the test being scuttled.
That’s not the standard applied in the past by hearing officer Harold Henderson. The question moving forward is whether that same requirement will be used in future cases.
As one source explained it, the standard should now be codified in the league’s policies, in order to ensure that every player accused of testing positive has a fair opportunity to show that problems with the testing process tainted the outcome.
That possibly will happen, if/when the NFL and the NFLPA agree on a testing protocol for HGH.