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The Loop

Tour Drug Testing

January 27, 2008

The story on Tour drug testing by Ron Sirak in Golf World, along with player comments about the new policy, have prompted several letters, including this one from Oregonian Jon Anderson:


Paul Goydos should be the first PGA tour player tested for performance-enhancing drugs. His comment that "There's nothing out there that makes you make more putts" is a lame attempt at a smokescreen comment. If steroids help a baseball player hit the ball farther, they can help a golfer drive the ball farther. But perhaps Goydos is the only player out there who doesn't think driving distance matters. And, I wonder if he noticed some 'positive side effects' when he took them for his rib injury.

I'm with you, Jon. Steroids can help, and so can beta blockers and stimulants, too. I found it interesting this week that Major League Baseball was looking closely at medication "exemptions", which jumped in 2007, especially for Attention Deficit Disorder stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall. As one doctor put it in the Times, this is the way players can legally get "greenies"--amphetamines. Stimulants are on the Tour list.

Other readers, Dr. Michael Bartz, for one, wonder why "recreational" drugs ought to be included:

As the PGA is dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century world of drug testing, how hypocritical that it is going to include "recreational drugs' that are not performance enhancing (but, of course, not alcohol). What some professional golfer does in the privacy of his own home is none of my business, nor the PGA's.

Here's the Tour's response on that, from Deputy Commissioner Ty Votaw, also in the Golf World story:

"Drugs of abuse are illegal and have always been banned," he said. "Because addiction is an issue, we reserve the right to have rehabilitation as a punishment."

Meanwhile, the Commissioner has launched his own 2008 blog. Excerpt from the opening post:

The main topic that we will be discussing at our meetings at the Buick Invitational concerns our new anti-doping policy. While we continue to believe this really is not an issue on the PGA TOUR, unfortunately, the current state of the world necessitates any major professional sport to have such a policy. We will be educating our players on this policy and the prohibited substances weekly throughout the first half of this year and will begin drug testing some time in the second half of the year.

Given that a high percentage of players don't read Tour memoes--see confusion over Fed Ex Cup details--the Tour has to do this kind of education or risk serious embarrassment when the first round of testing occurs. What you don't know, in this case, can hurt a whole lot of folks.

--Bob Carney