Friday, September 28, 2007

Drugs 'rampant' on Tour ...

The leading golf organizations around the world have come together to pat each other on the back and congratulate each other on how they’re going to deal with the “rampant” drug problems that have infested the game.

The obvious question is what drug problem? Well, in uncharacteristic foresight, the global golf organizations are trying to keep the problem at bay and are being proactive. To alert the world, these organizations sent out a global press release expounding the policy’s virtue. However, reading this release a second time a few questions popped off the page.

The R&A will be a signatory for The Open Championship. The USGA signed off for the U.S. Open, the U.S. Women’s Open and the U.S. Senior Open. What this says is, if you want to juice and play for the U.S. or British Amateur Championship just shoot away. If you want to bulk up for the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship—go right ahead. Don’t worry about the British Mid; they just did away with the event. Doesn’t this sound a bit strange?

In the list of signatories which included just about every major tour around the world from Asia, to South Africa, to Central America and even up to the Augusta National Golf Club (you know they signed on so they could be listed first alphabetically), there was one Tour missing.

You probably wouldn’t have noticed this if the Solheim Cup hadn’t just concluded, but the Ladies European Tour didn’t scribble their “Jean Hancock” on this grand plan. Why? Has Laura Davies done some HGH? Hmmm. Why didn’t they sign on? It’s one of those things where if you sign on it means significantly less than if you don’t.

Trust me on this, the last thing any Tour commissioner wants to know is that one of his/her players is taking performance-enhancing drugs. The cover-up would be of legendary proportions. What this policy does is make people think about the possibilities. Tiger’s buffed…or is he really? David Duval bulked up and then lost his game…what’s up with that? How did that happen? Public relations-wise, the signatories may have opened a Pandora’s Box that they won’t be able to close if something breaks.

With this policy in place, golf fans won’t be able to look at a well-conditioned golfer and not wonder if? Recently, Woods called for serious consequences for anyone testing positive. He should be careful what he hopes for; that could turn the policy into a witch-hunt.

A look at the list of banned substances is interesting. There’s the usual anabolic agents, hormones, agents with anti-estrogenic activity, diuretics and other masking agents, stimulants, narcotics, cannabinoids, beta-blockers enhancement of oxygen transfer, chemical and physical manipulation and possibly glucocorticosteroids and beta-2 antagonists.

While all of this might be more than you can comprehend and I suggest that that means most of us, I will say this. Many of these drugs are found in over-the-counter products. The global golf world has an opportunity to bring some sanity to the “Drug Hunt.” If it’s over the counter and it helps relieve a symptom let them take it. Professional golfers have coughs, colds, allergies and probably more aches and pains than the civilian does. Give them the same opportunity to access over the counter products.

One item on the list jogged the memory a bit. A couple of decades ago, Mac O’Grady (nee Phillip Gleno) charged that a lot of his PGA Tour colleagues were taking Beta-Blockers to calm their nerves so they could putt better. To a man, golfers denied their existence. If they never existed, why are they now popping up on the banned list?

I’ve got to believe that there was a collective sigh of relief from some members of the Champions Tour and European Senior Tour. Nowhere on the list of banned substances was sildenafil citrate or tadalafil—and they’re prescription drugs. Er, you might know them better as Viagra and Cialis.

In fact, it was one of those personal drugs that got an assistant NFL coach suspended for five games and fined half his annual salary. All he wanted to do was overcome a side effect of medicine he was taking for diabetes—thus the reputation of the NFL being the “No Fun League” was perpetuated and reason was left by the wayside.

A global doping policy? I don’t know. You’re dealing with a lot of different cultures. An herbal tea with some scraping from a native root might be just a cup of tea, but its chemical reaction may set off the alarm.

I think its fine to have a policy in place, but it’s wiser to have common sense. Let the system exist without a trigger for a witch-hunt. The integrity of the game will still be preserved.
Hey bartender, a wassail of honey meade if you will. I didn’t see fermented bee byproducts on the list of banned substances.

See you on the first tee!



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