The Breakdown: Let’s just sweep it all under the rug
summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado
Just to warn you, I’m sort of breaking a promise here with what I’m going to write about. I stress the words “sort of,” though, because I’m still going to try to pretend this doesn’t count.
You see, nearly a year ago – after what felt like a full summer of columns about performance enhancing drugs – I said I wouldn’t write about the topic again until something significant was done to start preventing them in major American sports.
That hasn’t happened. At all.
And since that time I haven’t written anything about it.
Until now, but again, only sort of.
So, it was recently announced that Houston Texans’ outside linebacker Brian Cushing failed a drug test last September and will be suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season.
After his reported failed test – which he appealed – Cushing went on to have an incredible season and win The Associated Press’s defensive rookie of the year award.
Now, the AP has decided to revote and, possibly, hand the hardware to someone else.
I thought about trying to write about something else, I really did. I even went all Ken Griffey Jr. about it and decided to sleep on it. It didn’t help. I mean, really, just reread those last three paragraphs and tell me how, if you had a sports column, you could possibly write about something else.
You couldn’t; you wouldn’t; and I can’t.
This story, in a synthetically enhanced nut shell, describes every serious problem with major sports today. That is, excluding issues pertaining to the night time habits of certain NFL quarterbacks and top-ranked golfers.
Let’s start by simply dissecting the timeline of events here: Cushing tests positive in September, appeals, plays the rest of the season, wins the ROY, doesn’t have a hearing about his appeal until February, and then the NFL announces its suspension in the middle of May – the first time anyone in the public (or media) even hears about the positive result.
See a problem here? I hope you do.
If a player tests positive under the current NFL policies, they don’t have to miss a single game during that season if they appeal the results of the test. And if they do appeal, they don’t have to provide any evidence or reasons why the test was wrong until February. February! For Cushing, that means it was six months from the time of his positive test and when the NFL heard his appeal.
Sure, I know testing can make mistakes and every player deserves the right to appeal, but how could it possibly take half a year until the NFL even tries listening to the appeal?
The NFL, which has tried extremely hard in the past few years to clean up its image, is somehow still completely dropping the ball in terms of its anti-doping policies. The secretive and lax methods it has right now are, for lack of a better word, a joke. There’s no transparency and there’s no true effort to truly discourage players from taking the PEDs. A four-game suspension without pay isn’t going to deter someone from trying to cheat in order to raise their playing level and, in return, their paying level.
The NFL doesn’t seem to want to catch these guys, and certainly would rather keep it quiet than let people know that players are doing this.
But, upon hearing this, most in the media – and specifically the AP – are somehow more outraged by the fact Cushing went on to win an award during his doping season. After all, how could the evil NFL trick these poor writers into voting for a doper?
Now, they’re revoting. Maybe Cushing still wins, maybe he doesn’t. It doesn’t matter, the AP made its point: The “integrity” of the awards are more important than the integrity of the game.
The writers want to pretend their votes didn’t happen. The NFL wants to (constantly) pretend that doping isn’t a problem in its sport. And through it all, one sad fact about sports is clear: Neither the press nor the leagues they cover truly care about righting the wrong here.
Everyone cares more about their own reputations than actually fixing a system that’s obviously broken.
And speaking of broken, I think I’ll just take a cue from the NFL and AP and pretend I didn’t break that promise about writing on PEDs. After all, my reputation’s at stake here.
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