Brian Cushing's failed drug test tells football writers to never again vote for league awards
BY RALPH VACCHIANO
DAILY NEWS SPORTS COLUMNIST
Sunday, May 16th 2010, 4:00 AM
It was a proud day for football writers everywhere on Wednesday when we made a strong statement on performance-enhancing drugs in the NFL. Given a chance to strip a convicted cheater of a coveted award, we let the world know our true feelings:
You want to take PEDs and play in the NFL? ... No problem. Fine with us.
Of course, that's not really what happened. It only looked that way when Brian Cushing, five days after getting suspended for testing positive for hCG (a hormone known to be used by steroid users at the end of a cycle), was renamed the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year in an unprecedented re-vote conducted by The Associated Press. He had received 39 of the 50 votes in the initial voting. This time, he only got 18, but it was still enough to win.
And when he did, it should've been a lesson to football writers that we should never again vote for league awards.
Forget for a moment that the AP's decision to run a re-vote was ill-conceived and ill-advised and that allowing Cushing to stay on the ballot made it a waste of time. And forget that the rushed decision didn't allow anyone to gather or digest the facts.
The real issue here - aside from the fact Cushing had an illegal substance in his system - was that the NFL knowingly put the media in an impossible position. And rather than scream in protest and tell the league what it can do with its awards, the AP and its voters said "Thanks" and re-endorsed the process.
How the NFL could have allowed the first vote to take place in January, knowing that Cushing had failed a drug test four months earlier, is hard to fathom. Yes, Cushing has a right to an appeal, but he learned of his failed test in October. The appeal took four months. A decision didn't come until three months later.
Contracts worth $100 million are - we're told - negotiated and signed minutes after free agency starts in March. A fair appeal can't take place in less than seven months?
The collective bargaining agreement allows for almost an unlimited time for an appeal, as long as both parties agree. By allowing Cushing's appeal to linger, the NFL (and the NFLPA) allowed fans to pay to watch a tainted player and product for an entire season. Then they allowed the media to unknowingly celebrate a dubious achievement and to jeopardize its integrity by judging a performance everyone assumed was fair.
The word for that is "fraud."
I was not one of the 50 AP voters, but if I was, I would've returned a blank ballot along with a note saying, "How can I be sure any NFL player I vote for now is clean? How do I know my second choice isn't hung up in the appeal process, too?" And maybe instead of asking its voters to climb out on a thin limb again, the AP should've asked the same questions of the league.
That would've made a stronger statement - telling the NFL that the media will no longer be a party to the sham. It should have said, "In the future, we'll require assurances in writing from the commissioner and an independent testing program that every player up for an award is clean. In the absence of that, no media member will be involved in awards that glorify players we may learn later are tainted by PEDs."
Instead, we got a chance to endorse Cushing's suspect season again, and send the unintended message that we're rewriting the old axiom, "Cheaters never win."
Sometimes, apparently, they even win twice.
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Brian Cushing's Failed Drug Test Tells Football Writers To Never Again Vote For League Awards Great Article about drug use in NFL
Posted 17 May 2010 - 07:39 AM
The only funny thing about all of this to me is that a lot of these writers parade around as insiders, finding anonymous sources who aren't permitted to speak on behalf of the NFL or player, and this news ended up 'stunning' writers nearly seven months later.
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