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Barron seeks injunction to halt ban

11/13/2009 - Golf Doug Barron

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The PGA Tour's first-ever suspension for violation of its anti-doping rules wound up in federal court on Friday, where attorneys for a 40-year-old journeyman golfer tried to block the one-year ban.

Attorneys for Doug Barron, of Memphis, sought a temporary restraining order on his one-year suspension for testing positive for two banned substances in June. The tour announced earlier this month that he was the first golfer to be banned for violating the policy that went into effect July 3, 2008.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Tu Pham heard more than three hours of arguments and said he would make his decision by early Saturday.

Barron, who was not at the hearing, hopes to play next week at the PGA Tour National Qualifying Tournament.

Barron, who started his career in 1995, tested positive for testosterone and propranolol, a beta-blocker that calms nerves, at the PGA's St. Jude Classics in Memphis in June, where he was playing on a sponsor's exemption.

Attorney Jeffrey Rosenblum, representing Barron, said his client took the drugs under the supervision of a doctor for "therapeutic use" and made no secret of it.

He said Barron began taking testosterone in 2005 because his natural level was below the level considered normal.

"It is not performance-enhancing when it is used to keep a man within the normal range," he said.

Rosenblum said Barron is "disabled" under the Americans With Disabilities Act because low testosterone "impairs a major life activity and that is intimacy with your wife."

Rosenblum said Barron has taken propranolol since 1987 for a racing heart. In 2008, his doctor tried to "wean him off" the drug but he was still using it in June when he was tested.

"If he had tried to wean off of it faster, he would have been medically unsafe," Rosenblum said.

Rosenblum said the PGA singled out Barron, an unknown journeyman, rather than better-known players, to make it look as if it were cracking down on its policy. He alleged that as many as ten current pro golfers have taken illegal drugs but were not suspended. He said he would seek details from the PGA Tour during the discovery process if and when Barron's case goes to trial.

The tour said Barron was the first player to be suspended under the policy, and not necessarily the first to receive a positive test. The tour is not required to suspend or announce any punishment for recreational drugs.

Rich Young, an attorney for the PGA Tour, said Barron knowingly violated the rules. He called testosterone "the granddaddy of anabolic steroids" and said "clean sports are a very important public interest." Beta-blockers, he said, could calm the nerves of an athlete who had the shakes, giving him an unfair advantage.

Young said a committee of doctors denied Barron's request for a therapeutic exemption in January 2009. Barron's natural testosterone level, Young said, was within the normal range.

"He was told very clearly, 'You are not to use testosterone.' To get ready for the St. Jude Classic he got a shot," Young said.

Young said Barron's appeal on the beta-blocker was also denied. The presence of either drug would have resulted in a suspension.

"This isn't fun or easy for anybody," Young said. "But it's the right thing for a sport to do."

Barron played eight full seasons on the tour, with his best finish a tie for third at the Byron Nelson Championship in 2006.

Barron played a full Nationwide schedule last year, making only five cuts in 17 starts and earning $33,446. He played four times on the Nationwide Tour this year, and his lone PGA Tour start came at the St. Jude Classic, where he missed the cut.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.