NFL fun fact of the week: Human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG, is produced by pregnant women. Its presence in one's body, though, is not always good news, as Texans outside linebacker Brian Cushing can attest. In the first month of last season Cushing tested positive for hCG, which, it turns out, is also used by drug cheats to kick-start the production of testosterone following the completion of a steroid cycle, and thus banned by the NFL. Despite Cushing's insistence that he has never taken any banned substance, last week he was suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season.
In the interim Cushing had won the NFL's 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year award with 39 out of the 50 votes. Armed with the unsettling new information about him, the AP asked its panel of NFL writers and analysts to revote. That's where events took a baffling, discouraging turn. Seventeen voted for Cushing again—with another inexplicably switching his vote to Cushing from Bills safety Jairus Byrd. The result: The Texan won the second vote as well.
Defending the status quo, some panelists fretted about setting "a dangerous precedent," as if, by winking at a probable drug cheat, they hadn't just done exactly that. "A lot of players have been suspended over the years for substance or drug abuse," noted Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News, who twice pulled the lever for Cushing. "Open one door, open them all." If you stripped Cushing of his award, didn't you have to go back and relieve Julius Peppers (defensive ROY from 2002) and Shawne Merriman ('05) of theirs? (Both served drug-related suspensions.) Well, no, actually. The AP wasn't asking its voters to revisit any election but the one Cushing ran away with. In the revote, 18 sent this message to prospective cheats: Hey, if you need a little extralegal pharmacological help to meet your goals, just remember—we're not here to judge you.