If you haven't heard the name Brian Cushing before, you will need to get up to snuff.
After Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing received a four-game suspension for violation of the NFL's Policy on Anabolic Steroids and Related Substances, he vocally maintained his innocence, citing a series of questionable scientific and medical evidence to support his stance.
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG), the substance for which Cushing tested positive, is a substance found most frequently in pregnant women, but often used by males to kick-start testosterone production after a steroid cycle. Because hCG can also appear in males who suffer from malignant tumors, Cushing first stated that after testing positive for hCG, he was in fear for his life.
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"Personally, I know that I didn't ingest or inject anything," Cushing said at a press conference in May. "And the fact that my options were that I was either injecting or I had a tumor, as I was told by some sources, I played the whole season thinking I had tumors."
Before this press conference, it seems as if nobody else who worked with Cushing had heard of the 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year's fear for his life. Fellow Texans linebacker DeMeco Ryans said he "didn't know anything about tumors" when asked afterward about Cushing's explanation, and the Texans organization refused to comment on Cushing's claims to a possible tumor. Long Island doctor Gary Wadler, who works with the World Anti-Doping Agency, expressed severe doubt over Cushing's story.
"If he had a tumor that produced hCG, he wouldn't be playing football," Wadler told the Associated Press this week. "He would be under treatment for a malignant tumor. Malignant testicular tumors producing hCG are rather lethal. It is a fairly aggressive tumor and you're not playing in the NFL with one."
Despite his claims that he "presented significant medical and scientific data challenging the league's determination that the banned substance was present by ingestion and was not naturally occurring," Cushing has not provided media with any of this evidence he claims to have. Texans owner Bob McNair recently announced he was heading to New York to ask NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to reconsider the suspension in light of Cushing's new claim that he has, according to the Associated Press, "a unique medical condition stemming from something called overtrained athlete syndrome." The name of this syndrome has, as expected, drawn large amounts of derision.
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"Did commissioner Roger Goodell manage to keep a straight face when Texans owner Bob McNair presented that today at the league office?" ESPN's AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky asked rhetorically in a post on August 9th. "For thousands of dollars, couldn't doctors have come up with something more scientific sounding? Hell, Doug Farrar made a couple calls and came up with a better way to fight the test result. If Cushing did nothing wrong and is being punished by the system, the test or his biology, that is incredibly unfortunate. But surely someone said some of this stuff out loud as his team put together his defense and realized how it sounds -- like a "Saturday Night Live" skit."
However, this argument is weakened by the fact that after testing positive for hCG in September, Cushing was required to get follow-up tests, which came back negative for hCG. This means that whatever was in his body and causing him to test positive for the banned substance was no longer there.
"If you had some kind of condition that would have caused hCG to be at measurable levels in his body, it should have still been in his body after the test," ESPN reporter T.J. Quinn told Trey Wingo on NFL Live back in May. "The fact that it cleared is evidence to doping experts and scientists that I've spoken to that there's not a plausible reason."- Hank Koebler, IV
Hank is a sports journalist attending the University of Missouri's school of journalism.
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