June 21, 2011 in Sports

Ex-Vandal Vobora wins hefty lawsuit

 

ST. LOUIS – Former Idaho Vandal and current St. Louis Rams linebacker David Vobora was awarded $5.4 million in his lawsuit against a Florida supplements maker. More important, Vobora said his reputation has been restored.

“Today is a celebration,” Vobora said Monday. “Today, I’ve been proven innocent.”

U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel entered the order against the Anti-Steroid Program LLC of Key Largo, Fla., on Friday. Attempts to reach the company for comment Monday were unsuccessful and no attorney of record could be located.

Attorneys for the 25-year-old Vobora said he used the company’s “Ultimate Sports Spray” in June 2009 without knowing it contained methyltestosterone, a banned substance that showed up in an NFL drug test and led to his suspension.

His lawsuit accused the company of intentionally misleading him and hurting his image in addition to lost income. The judge’s order includes $2 million for damaging Vobora’s reputation and another $3 million in lost “future income.”

Vobora also lost $90,588 in game checks, plus the court ruled he lost $170,000 in performance bonuses and $100,000 in marketing endorsements.

“The issue has always been clearing his name,” said R. Dan Fleck of Jackson, Wyo., one of Vobora’s attorneys. “He didn’t cheat. He didn’t try to cheat.”

Vobora said the Rams were very supportive, but that the emotional toll elsewhere was heavy, “from extreme threats to fan mail talking about hoping I never play another snap in the NFL. Hearing that I’m a disgrace, having to deal with that daily.

“To really get the ship righted, that’s vindication.”

Earlier this year, the NFL ordered Oakland Raiders coach Hue Jackson to stop endorsing the company, which does business as Sports With Alternatives to Steroids (SWATS). The league in February also told some players they should not be associated with the company as it studied some of the products.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league supported Vobora’s effort but added league policy places “strict liability” on the player.

“Players are responsible for what is in their bodies,” McCarthy said. “We caution players that supplements are not regulated and what’s on the label may not be accurate.”

Vobora said he followed NFL guidelines on nutritional supplements, calling a hotline set up for players and consulting experts. Fleck said the spray was recommended by one of Vobora’s teammates, linebacker Gary Stills.

The attorney said the judgment is believed to be the largest for any athlete who has been suspended because of a contaminated nutritional supplement.

Vobora was the so-called Mr. Irrelevant as the final player picked in the 2008 NFL draft.

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