It's bad enough that AP 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year and Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing was recently suspended for the first four games of the 2010 NFL season, because of a violation of the league's substance abuse program.
Then today comes the news that inexplicably, he will keep his rookie award in a re-vote. While Cushing didn't receive anywhere near the 39 votes of his previous landslide victory, the 18 he got in Wednesday's re-vote were enough to reclaim the honor.
Though this is less about Cushing the individual than what it means for the consequences of professional athletes who violate the league's substance abuse policy and rules in general, let's review "the Cushing file."
Leading up to the 2009 draft, speculation was rampant that the USC linebacker was using steroids.
An anonymous general manager shared the following thought with Thomas George of AOL's FanHouse.com: "We did our research on him before the draft last year and we concluded he was a chronic steroid user, dating back to high school," said the GM. "More than a few people were surprised when he passed the steroid tests at the combine."
Then, according to league sources, Cushing was tested for banned substances last September. Reportedly, he tested positive for human chorionic gonadotropin (or HCG), which increases the body's testosterone production after an athlete uses anabolic steroids.
Cushing is suspended without pay until Oct. 4, although he can participate in offseason workouts, training camp, and preseason games.
So to be clear, in the eye's of the league, Cushing's guilt is not in question.
As for the re-vote, I disagree with the process (more on that in a second), but I also highly respect the reason that some writers did not switch their votes from Cushing to another player.
It wasn't because of support for Cushing, but a wish not to have revisionist history.
"If I had known in January when we initially voted that Brian Cushing had tested positive for a banned substance, I might not have voted for him," said Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and president of the Pro Football Writers of America. "However, Cushing won the award in January, and I don't feel like we should revise history. I am concerned about the precedent."
This is the reason why I wouldn't have had a re-vote.
In my opinion, the appropriate solution would have been to strip Cushing of the award, and simply leave it at that.
Does second choice Jairius Byrd really want an award that was intended for somebody else? I suppose a financial incentive in Byrd's contract could be tied to the award, but otherwise, I see little benefit to the Buffalo cornerback or to the integrity of the award.
Stripping Cushing wouldn't be revisionist history, it would be a fair consequence for unethical and inappropriate conduct by a professional athlete.
Awards are a privilege, not someone's right. When you give someone an award, they are by nature honored and treated with an elevated level of respect and admiration. How in any way is Cushing deserving of respect and admiration, when he clearly has violated the rules and is being disciplined for his conduct?
It's not even as though Cushing has admitted to doing anything wrong to this point.
Or as Chicago Tribune writer Dan Pompei said, "If Brian Cushing had come out with a plausible excuse as to why he failed a test for prohibited substances, he could have kept his defensive rookie of the year award as far as I was concerned. But his silence was deafening, disturbing, and damning."
Just not deafening, disturbing, or damning enough to prevent the following message: If you are a professional athlete who takes banned substances or violates the rules, just don't get caught until after you win awards and games.
We'll only punish you in the future.
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