The League

Doug Farrar

Doug Farrar

A staff writer

Policy holes lead to undeserving winners


My problem with the Brian Cushing situation is this: How is it that a rookie, who had been the target of fairly rampant steroid speculation since before the draft, tested positive for a banned substance in September and was allowed to play the entire season? I understand the concept of fair appeal and being absolutely sure before you deny a player the right to make a living, but how does this process do anyone any good? The Associated Press voters who made Cushing the Defensive Rookie of the Year had no way of knowing that he'd played all season despite a test result that should have pre-empted his involvement for X number of games, so if they feel the need to re-cast their votes, they have every right to, and I'd be somewhat disappointed if there was no call to do so. Players gain immediate financial incentives with those types of awards, and they're always brought up at contract time -- if Cushing or any other player is blowing up the NFL and blowing banned substance tests at the same time due to some misbegotten process, he shouldn't be financially rewarded for it in the long run. That award belongs to Jairus Byrd, or Clay Matthews, or Brian Orakpo, or whoever was the league's best defensive rookie in 2009 ... and did it cleanly.

Of course, we're not 100 percent sure what players are taking, nor do we really know how much of what helps them do how much above what they would be capable of if their only supplements were Flintstones Chewables. But the example of San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman might be an instructive one. Merriman was suspended for the first four games of the 2006 season after failing a drug test that reflected negatively on his 2005 DROY season. He put up 10 sacks in that rookie year, and 17 in just 12 games in 2006. Would he be dumb enough to continue taking whatever he was taking after the suspension? One would hope not. Was he putting up those numbers (including 12.5 in 2007 as well) clean? One would hope so. The fact that Merriman actually played at a higher level after his suspension leads to one of two assumptions. On one side, there's the hope that steroids don't help as much as players think they do. On the other side, there's the fear that the NFL's drug policy is so ridiculously out of whack, players actually feel empowered to keep taking performance enhancing substances despite the supposed fear of what happens if they get caught.

When it comes to this particular matter, I'm more on the side of the latter fear than the former hope. I wonder more and more how much is going on that we can't even imagine (and probably don't want to know), and how much is really being done to stop it. If the Associated Press wants to be more proactive about this than the NFL, maybe that's just what the NFL needs.

By Doug Farrar  |  May 12, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Houston Texans , NFL , NFL Rules , Roger Goodell , Steroids Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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