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Basketball Fan
08-09-2010, 10:26 AM
Introducing America to "Overtrained Athlete Syndrome."

HOUSTON -- The owner of the Houston Texans, Bob McNair, told me he believes his young linebacker, reigning NFL defensive rookie of the year Brian Cushing, is not guilty of taking a performance-enhancer called hCG. To that end, McNair plans to appeal Cushing's four-game suspension to commissioner Roger Goodell today in New York, according to Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston.

The NFL claims Cushing did test positive last September, and after a lengthy appeals process banned him for the first four games of the 2011 season. The NFL has been very clear about the rules of its program covering performance-enhancing substances, and I'd be surprised if the four-game ban would be adjusted by Goodell, regardless of McNair's arguments.

In an interview here Friday, Cushing said he thinks he knows why he tested positive for elevated levels of hCG. "Everything points to that overtrained athlete syndrome,'' Cushing said, walking back to the Texans' locker room after their afternoon practice. "I'm pretty sure it is. I'm pretty positive. I didn't take anything. It's not a tainted supplement. So all roads lead to that.''

The syndrome results from athletes training intensely for a long period, with the possibility of a testosterone imbalance resulting when an athlete stops training. I must stress the word "possibility,'' because no player in the history of the NFL substance-abuse program before Cushing tested positive for the higher level of hCG. The widespread belief in NFL circles was that a player who tests positive for hCG would be a steroid user trying to re-start regular testosterone production after it has been interrupted in a cycle of steroid use.

Rumors of steroid use have dogged Cushing since his high-school days in New Jersey, and followed him to USC. Despite the evidence against him, Cushing has denied that he took hCG. And Friday, his employer agreed.

"He shows no sign of ever having been on steroids,'' McNair said. "His weight hasn't changed appreciably since he's been with us. I've looked into it pretty thoroughly, and I haven't found anything that would lead me to believe that he has ever taken a performance-enhancing drug.''

Cushing said he is "well aware'' that the American public probably won't believe this claim. I think most people will view it as a dog-ate-my-homework defense. "It's tough when you know what kind of discipline you have, and what kind of work ethic you have, and the whole world doesn't believe you, and is against you. It's frustrating. But I know that the quickest way to answer all of this is by production on the field,'' Cushing said.

In other words, he needs to keep testing clean for any PEDs, and he needs to play well for the public to think he's playing clean. "The funny part -- well, not funny, really -- is that my worst month playing football last year was September, and that's when I tested positive. I had five or six tests after that. All negative,'' he said.

On Friday, Cushing sounded like he was resigned to playing a 12-game season and being the best player he could be for those 12.

"There is no question in my mind I'll be a better football player than I was last season,' he said. "I'm going into my second year. The plays I'm making on the practice field this year compared to last year, I'm so much more of a well-rounded football player than I was.''

I expect Cushing to come back possessed. We all do. Whether there's anything to this latest wrinkle is something I'll be following up on in the coming days, but the only way fans will look at Cushing as a great player is if he stays clean. For years..



Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com//2010/writers/peter_king/08/08/mmqb/index.html#ixzz0w7Qqq0B4