St. Louis Rams linebacker David Vobora was awarded $5.4 million from Anti-Steroid Program LLC, a nutritional supplement company, in a lawsuit over claims it sold him a contaminated product leading to his suspension from the National Football League.
U.S. District Judge Rodney W. Sippel in St. Louis made the award June 17 against the Fultondale, Alabama-based company, which the athlete sued in May 2010.
Vobora was drafted by the Rams in 2008 from the University of Idaho. He became the first “Mr. Irrelevant,” the nickname given the last pick in the draft, since 1994 to start as a rookie. He was suspended for four games in 2009 after testing positive for the banned methyltestosterone, later found in the bottle of Ultimate Sports Spray he was using, Sippel wrote.
“The court believes the evidence demonstrates that as an NFL player, and due to Mr. Vobora’s position as a ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ (who became a starter in the NFL), he had unique opportunities to earn income from non-NFL sources to promote and market products and events for economic gain,” the judge wrote.
The judgment includes $2 million for general damages, $3.04 million for loss of future income, $170,000 for lost performance bonuses, $90,588 for forfeited game pay and $100,000 for loss of marketing endorsements.
“So many of the athletes are claiming that they haven’t cheated and the supplements have been tainted, R. Daniel Fleck, Vobora’s lawyer, said in a phone interview. “And it’s true.”
The league supports Vobora’s effort and hopes such judgments will help stop supplement-makers who seek to mislead consumers, Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesman, said today by e-mail.
“But our policy is clear and places strict liability on the player,” McCarthy said. “Players are responsible for what is in their bodies.”
The league cautions players that supplements are unregulated and labels may be inaccurate, and it certifies some supplements as free of banned substances, he said.
The company’s owner, Mitch Ross, said today in a telephone interview that more than 50 NFL players and coaches endorsed the product. He said somebody outside the company tainted the sample used in the case.
“I don’t have the money to get an attorney,” Ross said. “They dropped the case against me personally, and they sued S.W.A.T.S., and we are broke and out of money, and he basically put me out of business.”
The company stopped defending the suit and the judge entered a default judgment.
The case is Vobora v. S.W.A.T.S., 4:10-cv-00810, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis).