When Doug Barron became the first player suspended under the PGA Tour's new drug policy earlier this month, it seemed to be an open-and-shut case given a statement of apology from Barron that was part of the PGA Tour's news release. Now it is revealed it isn't going to be so simple.
Barron on Thursday filed suit in Memphis, Tenn., seeking to overturn the suspension. In addition, he is asking for monetary damages, claiming the PGA Tour has defamed him because of the news release that was incomplete and resulted in stories that "unfairly labeled him as a doper and cheater," according to the complaint. A hearing is scheduled for Friday morning in U.S. District Court in Memphis.
The thrust of the complaint is that the medications for which Barron tested positive were prescribed by doctors, "for legitimate medical reasons," including a beta-blocker, Propranol, that he had been taking for 22 years "for a condition known as mitral valve prolapse." He also was taking testosterone shots to counter low testosterone levels. The suit alleges that Barron had sought a therapeutic-use exemption that the PGA Tour denied him. The suit said that the PGA Tour asked that he wean himself off the beta-blocker, which he was in the process of doing when he failed the test.
Barron had issued a statement that was included in the PGA Tour's news release on his suspension on Nov. 2.
"I would like to apologize for any negative perception of the tour or its players resulting from my suspension," he said in the statement. "I want my fellow tour members and the fans to know that I did not intend to gain an unfair competitive advantage or enhance my performance while on tour."
The suit claims that the PGA Tour "refused to issue a press release that included the rest of the story," that the medications had been prescribed for legitimate medial purposes.
"The statement...was not a complete statement of true facts and created a false and defamatory impression through innuendo," the suit says.
Barron is asking the courts to immediately block the suspension, so that he might participate in the second stage of the PGA Tour Qualifying next week. He also is asking that the PGA Tour's anti-doping policy be declared "null and void."
UPDATE The PGA Tour has filed its response to Barron's suit and claimed that after it denied his request for a therapeutic use exemption for the Propranol on Oct. 10, 2008 and his request for a TUE for testosterone on June 2, Barron did not appeal the decision, then eventually tested positive for the two substances and was suspended for his "blatant and intentional use of two different prohibited substances despite the denial of his TUE applications."
Incidentally, the PGA Tour Anti-Doping Program Manual, page 13, under the header, J. No Judicial Review, reads: "As a condition of membership and the opportunity to participate in PGA TOUR co-sponsored, approved or coordinated tournaments, players expressly waive the right to seek judicial review of final decisions under the Program."
-- John Strege