The dawn of drug testing on the PGA Tour is almost upon us. The Tour policy was rather quietly announced last November with preliminary plans to be implemented in May of this year. There was a mandatory meeting of players held last month at Torrey Pines with Tim Finchem, PGA commissioner, aides, and a top expert from the World Anti-Doping Agency. More on player's reactions later in this piece.
Why golf? Why now? Major League Baseball is right in the middle of it's own hornet's nest. An ever increasing circle of supposed steroid and HGH suppliers and users has even demanded the time of our Congress. I be happier with them spending time healing what ails baseball if they'd already fixed the Iraq War and the economy. Oh, if they have the time, health care and the border problem....pleeease. Baseball's time honored benchmarks are it's records. That's where a lot of the emotion comes into play. Barry Bonds breaking Hank Aaron's home run record is tainted if you believe he's juiced. Numbers are to baseball like Twinkies are to Rosie. I'm suprised that the NFL hasn't come under more scrutiny. It's scientifically impossible for evolution to produce a human specimen that is 6'7", weighs 280 lbs. and runs a 4.5 40 yd. dash. This has all happened in the last 15-20 years. It's incredible to see these "people" in person. It makes you want to break out into a rousing chorus of "The Lollipop Guild". The NFL is hotter than ever though. Maybe it's the helmets and face masks that allow us to disassociate from what might be involved in building this super species. The Olympics would require a book of their own. Suffice it to say that one of my greatest adolescent defeats is when I saw my favorite Romanian gymnast in a close up and she had five o'clock shadow.
Golf, gentleman's game. Where else do professional athletes call penalties on themselves? Can you picture Kobe saying, "Yo, ref, I don't deserve these foul shots, I was charging." The answer is to protect the brand. Mr. Finchem knows full well that a drug scandal, or even a hint of one, could kill that golden egg laying goose. So, a preemptive strike was in order. The LPGA beat them to the punch though with a policy already in effect for the season opener. The previously alluded to player's meeting at Torrey Pines was met with some resistance. The "user's manual" is very long and contains a hefty list of banned substances. For example, a Vick's Vapor Inhaler is on the list. Vitamin supplements, seemingly innocuous, may contain traces of banned substances. Beta blockers, a common hypertension drug with other cardio applications, is listed. The idea behind beta blockers is that their healing properties may allow one to be calmer, i.e. putting advantage? As an average golfer I may try them. The valium suppositories* I use now work pretty well, but can be a tad cumbersome. The point is everyone better know what the heck is in everything they ingest. Another stipulation of the policy is that player's are subject to being tested anytime, anyplace. That prompted Frank Lickliter to say at the meeting in reference to someone coming to his house to test him, "He's going to have a hard time getting off my property without a bullet in his a**."
Adjustments are necessary when something radically new and untried is announced. Of course. Especially in a tradition laden, time honored game like golf. I'd be shocked if there were any serious violators to be found. I don't think golf lends itself to the big boy drugs like anabolic steroids. I could be wrong. I'm wrong all the time. Unfortunately, someone's prescription may make them afoul of the law and that's a shame. Perhaps this is the impetus for a group of independent contractors to consider unionizing. Until now there wasn't really a topic to unite under that affected so many pro golfers.
I probably would have taken a similar position if I were in Mr. Finchem's shoes, and that's a pity.
*The writer apologizes for not being able to find a link for valium suppositories.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Posted by Average Golfer at 7:55 PM