Football's fertility issues

Brian Cushing exposed as a Manny Ramirez-level cheat, but he deserves his awards

Brian Cushing exposed as a Manny Ramirez-level cheat, but he deserves his awards

As on-field sports frauds goes, Brian Cushing belongs in the same pantheon as Mark McGwire. One day after the Houston Texans-suspended linebacker claimed that his positive test for performance enhancing drugs was caused by a "non-steroidal" substance, someone leaked to ESPN.com today that Cushing tested positive for human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is almost always only used by men if they're on steroids.

This is the same "fertility drug" that LA Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez tested positive for, earning a 50-game ban from Major League Baseball.

So while Cushing was technically correct in his statement, it's the same sort of technicality that allowed Bill Clinton to wag his finger at the cameras and repeat, "I did not have sex with that woman," over and over again.

Hardcore male steroid users typical turn to hGC to stimulate production of endogenous testosterone and to prevent testicular atrophy, according to several medical doctors. Basically, hGC is the anti-balls-shrinking drug. There's a reason it's on every sports league with even a token drug plan's banned list. You're not taking it, if you're not cheating.

If Cushing needed hGC for a legitimate medical reason, he could have asked for (and almost-assuredly received) an exemption from the NFL.

Cushing's level of hGC was reportedly low enough that he wouldn't have been suspended last year and his argument is that it could have been produced naturally, but there's a reason the NFL changed its hGC level standards. This still isn't close to Olympic-level testing. It's the NFL. They don't want you to get caught.

Yes, Cushing who's had steroids whispers hovering over him since at least his USC days, has been caught.

But that doesn't mean he should give back his NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. This offshoot to Cushing's suspension — the self-righteous, self-serving decision of the Associated Press to call for an unprecedented revote on Cushing's awards (besides AP Rookie of the Year, he was also named second-team AP All-Pro) rings of headline grandstanding.

A bunch of pro football writers are going to flex their superior moral fiber and take away Cushing's hardware?

Please. The issue of performance-enhancing drugs is routinely completely glossed over by these very same writers.

Fans largely don't care if their favorite players are on 'roids or not and Sports Illustrated's Peter King doesn't care either unless he thinks it can get his name in the headlines with a moral stand. (And I like Peter King. We lived in the same town of New Jersey — Montclair, which was featured in King's online columns almost as much as football — for years and King's one of the nicer media stars.) 

What would yanking Cushing's awards prove in a league where caught-PED users like Julius Peppers and Shawne Merriman have racked up hardware that's stayed in their trophy case? Not to mention the long list of baseball MVPs who've been tied to steroids.

There are no clean professional sports. Trying to make a second-year Texan into a morale example would be just another fraud.

Cushing has to sit his four games. The Texans' playoff chances will be crippled. That's real punishment. No fake preaching from sports writers required.

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Brian Cushing, Texans' No. 56, is suspended for the first four games of the season. Photo by Bill Baptist
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The Texans will bare the brunt of Cushing's punishment, no-award-swiping required.