- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 10, 2010

As excuses go, it’s a step above “The dog ate my homework.”

Good thing it’s not a contest, though. Because as much as Brian Cushing tries, he can’t beat cyclist Tyler Hamilton’s claim a few years back that his imaginary twin was responsible for his positive blood doping tests.

Ah, busted athletes and their excuses. Who knew how creative they can be?

Barry Bonds says he thought it was just flaxseed oil. Roger Clemens claims the shots he was getting in his rear end were nutritional supplements.

Sprinter Justin Gatlin tells a story about a masseuse who may have added a little something extra to his rubdown.

And now Cushing says his positive test for a female fertility drug came about because he exercised too much.

That’s right. Exercised too much.

The Houston Texans linebacker offered up that excuse Monday while somehow suppressing what had to be an overwhelming urge to giggle. That’s OK, because a lot of other overworked athletes had to be doing some giggling themselves at just the thought of it.

According to Cushing’s appeal of his four-game suspension for testing positive for a female fertility drug last year, he was the victim of something he called Overtrained Athlete Syndrome. Turns out it was simply a case of him working too hard for his own good.

“I think that’s the final diagnosis we came up with,” Cushing said, “and a lot of doctors have supported why this has happened.”

Just who those doctors are, Cushing isn’t saying. But Texans owner Bob McNair buys the story, so much so that he went to New York to ask NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to rescind the four-game suspension handed down to Cushing for his positive test.

Among those not buying it is Travis Tygart, who heads the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which administers drug testing for America’s Olympic athletes.

“We’re unaware of any basis in medical literature that supports this,” Tygart said in a telephone interview.

Doping guys have to be skeptics, of course. They’ve heard all the stories, listened to all the excuses.

And in the end, one of three things almost always happens: The athlete wisens up, the athlete gives it up, or the athlete simply shuts up.

Count Manny Ramirez among the latter. The Dodgers outfielder was busted for using the same fertility drug that the NFL says Cushing used. But Manny being Manny, he has refused to talk about it _ or almost anything else _ ever since.

We can presume he wasn’t trying to have a baby. But is it possible the dreadlocked one was a victim of OAS himself?

Hardly, as anyone who has ever watched Ramirez run after a fly ball can attest. Still, by the time Cushing is done fighting his one-man crusade against overexertion, he may wish he had clammed up just like his baseball counterpart.

The problem isn’t that Cushing doth protest too much, though he surely does. It’s that he expects Texans fans and the few other people who care about who tests positive for what in the NFL to take him at his word when he said he did nothing against the rules to win the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year award last season.

But if Cushing really wants to clear this up, why not release both the test results and his medical records? While he’s at it, he can trot out some of the experts on OAS to talk about its side effects.

He won’t because the bottom line is he got caught with HGC, or human chorionic gonadotropin, in his system. And the only known way _ besides OAS, of course _ HGC can get in a male’s system is either by injection or tumors, which Cushing doesn’t have.

What is known is that HGC can be injected at the end of a steroid cycle, when users are unable to produce much testosterone. It jumpstarts the process, and is commonly used in conjunction with steroids.

In Cushing’s case, he tested positive at the beginning of his rookie season. You do the math, but the timing alone is almost as damaging as the fact HGC was in his body at all.

“If it sort of looks like a duck and smells like a duck, it’s usually a duck,” Tygart said.

Cushing isn’t about to start quacking, but he better prepare himself to sit out the first four games of the season. McNair, meanwhile, needs to understand that as an owner in the NFL he shouldn’t undermine the league’s drug testing by questioning the results, no matter how desperate he is to see his star linebacker on the field when the Texans host Indianapolis on Sept. 12.

In the meantime, Cushing better hope he never gets busted by the league’s doping investigators again.

Because the excuse about the imaginary twin has already been taken.

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org