Player should be held responsible for comments

Updated: July 19, 2007, 6:11 PM ET
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- Sergio Garcia, whose last British Open appearance here began and ended with an 89-83, now leads the tournament after Thursday's first round of play. Is he one of the 10?

Tiger Woods, who looks like he could bench press Garcia with one of his eyelids, is only four shots out of the lead. Is he one of the 10?

John Daly made an extended appearance on Thursday's leaderboard before his usual crash and burn. Daly can keep a drive in the air longer than some of his marriages. Is he one of the 10?

See, this is the problem with the nuclear steroid device Gary Player detonated here a day earlier. Everybody -- and I mean everybody -- is now a juicer suspect, thanks to Player's wildly irresponsible and wildly intriguing remarks about the relationship between golf and performance-enhancing substances.

Gary Player
David Cannon/Getty ImagesPlayer refused to name names on Wednesday.

The 71-year-old Player, who made more British Open appearances than anybody on the planet, was invited to the press center as a courtesy. But by the time the 11-question session was finished, Player had somehow done a service to the game, but a disservice to the pros who play it.

In case you missed it, the nine-time major champion was asked if steroid use by pro golfers would "surprise" him. Player then sent shivers down the spine of the golf establishment by saying, "I know for a fact that some golfers are doing it. … We're dreaming if we think it's not going to come into golf."

And then the quote that napalmed the players: "I would say in the world tour today … there's 10 guys taking something. I might be way out. Definitely not going to be lower, but might be a hell of a lot more."

Player knew this because "one guy told me." He confirmed it because "somebody else told me something." In each case, Player said he swore not to reveal the name of his source. Uh, OK.

So who are the 10? Could one be a fellow South African? Perhaps Ernie Els? Maybe Trevor Immelman? How about Retief Goosen, who is a still-manageable five strokes behind Garcia? After Thursday's round, it took only a few minutes before someone asked Goosen for his reaction to Player's allegations.

"I knew that was coming," Goosen said. "I'm actually very shocked at his comments, really, to be honest. I don't know what Gary was trying prove, saying what he said. Who knows? In the days he was playing we could have said there were 10 guys using steroids. It was around in those days. I don't know why he said that. I don't know if he is trying to damage the sport, damage golf."

This from Els: "They can test me right now and I don't care."

And this from Immelman: "I'm not sure he was talking about players on the regular [PGA] Tour or Champions Tour. I really don't know what to say. But I think it would be good for us right now to put in place a drug policy and put it to rest."

Agreed. The PGA Tour, despite what Phil Mickelson says about there being only a "remote chance" of a player testing positive for steroids, needs its members to start peeing in bottles. The sooner, the better.

Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who has paid more attention to his precious and largely ignored FedEx Cup than he has to steroid testing, is finally addressing the topic. But unlike the LPGA, which is the leader in the clubhouse with a detailed and strict testing program that begins in 2008, the tour has no firm program timetable in place. Go figure.

Player is known as someone willing to talk about anything at any time. And he was more than happy to go on and on and on when asked about performance enhancers, suggesting that "almost 50-60 percent" of the world's athletes were on something. After all, he knows a guy who knows a guy.

I don't have a problem with Player's moving the discussion forward. It needed a shove. But Player's estimate of 10 unspecified users of unspecified enhancers on unspecified tours is ridiculous. So is his oath to protect the one player he says is doing the stuff. Player's silence turns every pro into a suspect.

"First of all, if he's got his facts straight, he's got to, obviously, tell us who these players are and get them to get tested," said Els on Thursday, adding later, "If he's got his facts straight, he should [name names]."

Why? Because golf is the one sport where integrity and its sometimes arcane and complicated rules remain the game's spine. What other sport expects you to call a penalty on yourself for the tiniest of infractions? It is a game dependent on its ethics.

Player is protecting a fellow pro, but he isn't protecting the game. For someone who has spent his entire life attached to golf, Player should have known better. Give him a two-stroke penalty for confusing good intentions with truth.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com.

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