Golf Digest editors picks

The Honeymoon's Over

Golf appeared to be isolated from the performance-enhancing drug scandals that have marred other sports, but the news of a player's suspension now says otherwise

November 3, 2009

Could this finally be a reality? Could this finally be in our house?

Track and Field? Check.

Professional football? Yep.

Professional wrestling? Should we even dignify that?

Baseball? America's Pastime? Anyone home during the past five years?

Easy to point fingers at the others. Makes sense. Look at the numbers. Check out the times. What about that guy's head? He must be on something.

Maybe in those sports. But not in ours.

Until the bell rang Monday afternoon.

Short little announcement courtesy of the PGA Tour. Doug Barron has been suspended for one year as a result of violating the tour's Anti-Doping Policy prohibiting performance-enhancing substances.

Yep, performance-enhancing substances.

Sure sounds like it's in our house now.

Ben Johnson we understand. He showed up at the door in Seoul back in 1988.

We looked toward the Iron Curtain with suspicion long before that.

Names such as Bonds, McGwire, Sosa and A-Rod? Allegations and admissions throughout the past decade.

But golf? You're kidding? We thought Miller Lite was the only performance-enhancing on the course.

Yet anyone thinking golf is exempt is simply naïve. John McCain once said performance-enhancing drugs -- particularly steroids -- threatened to ruin honest competition in all sports. We laughed outside McCain's Senate office when someone mentioned golf and poker. But the Arizona Republican didn't laugh.

"All sports," McCain said.

Why not golf? Even though Barron's indiscretion hasn't been identified, his apology indicates he did, or took, something he shouldn't have. And while the journeyman golfer indicated he didn't "intend to gain an unfair competitive advantage or enhance my performance while on tour," we should be prepared for something such as this given today's environment.

There is a lot going on in professional golf with rewards beyond our comprehension, even as we struggle through uncertain economic times. Just like in other sports, when someone has had a taste, they might feel the need to do whatever is needed to stay at the top. When you're on the outside looking in, it's not difficult to imagine the price one would pay to have the door opened.

Most people think PEDs, they think power. Tape-measure home runs. Or perhaps 400-yard drives. But it doesn't have to be about that. Far from a physical specimen, Barron has admitted in the past to taking beta blockers -- a banned substance that golfers have taken to settle shaky putting strokes -- to combat severe anxiety. He's also had multiple shoulder surgeries, so there's a chance he could have been looking to expedite his recovery.

If you're not cheating, you're not trying hard enough.

Well, maybe in baseball. Or track. Or football. But golf? Come on, not golf.

Wrong. The door opened Monday and in walked unknown Doug Barron. Hopefully, now it stays shut. But we shouldn't expect it to. And we damn well shouldn't be surprised.

John Marvel is Managing Editor of Golf Digest Digital Properties.

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