After a positive test that put Brian Cushing in violation of the league’s policy against performance-enhancing drugs, we're asking if the Houston Texans star should be stripped of his defensive rookie of the year award from last season.
I think it’s too simple a question, and not the right one -- even as the Associated Press is having a re-vote.
Cushing reportedly failed the test in September. He wasn’t told he’d be suspended until February. He didn’t get word on his appeal until recently.
Cushing was eligible to play last season. How then can he be stripped? There isn't a separate category for players with positive tests registered that have been processed too slowly. Do we really want one?
I don’t. I want a faster process that assures that all the guys on the field are even, none benefitting from any unnatural advantages.
I also worry about an AP reversal nudging the league over the edge and onto a slippery slope. If Cushing is stripped, every award winner would be under a microscope he doesn't necessarily deserve.
And in what people like to call the ultimate team game, might not your performance-enhancing drug use help put a player in position for awards and the sort of contractual rewards that can come with them?
Let's say an offensive player of the year is a running back and some of his linemen tested positive. Maybe there's a quarterback who is protected by that line or registers some of his numbers by throwing to an enhanced receiver. Maybe there are defensive tackles who keep an MVP middle linebacker clear to make plays but who are later found to have used performance enhancers.
Would each of those awards rate as tainted and would the second-place finisher have a beef?
“John Doe is NFL MVP,” the reports would read, “presuming a positive test doesn’t come to light.” So we’d announce the award winners and then later we could have news reports that they passed their drug tests, confirming the awards and allowing for the engraver to go ahead and get to work on the plaques or trophies.
In light of all of that, I’d alter the question to this:
Why can’t a filthy-rich league accelerate the drug testing process and expedite results and rulings and appeals? And wouldn’t that assure us, as best is as reasonable to expect, that the players on the field are in good standing with the league, and thus with the voters determining post-season awards?
The league's perspective when I asked about its time line and wondered about making it faster: A reminder that "due process can be lengthy."