Drug testing a necessary decision by PGA Tour

Golfers usually aren't the first ones to spring to mind when you think of users of performance-enhancing drugs. So is the PGA Tour doing the right thing by starting testing? Our experts give their takes in this week's edition of Fact or Fiction.

Originally Published: July 1, 2008
ESPN.com/GolfWorld

While no one playing on the PGA Tour will get mistaken for an offensive lineman in the NFL anytime soon, the world's top players will begin getting randomly tested for performance-enhancing substances and other drugs this week at the AT&T National.

No one (Gary Player notwithstanding) seems to think PEDs are an issue for today's professional golfers. But what about the future? Is the PGA Tour trying to be proactive instead of reactive like other major sports?

Our experts give their takes in this week's edition of Fact or Fiction.

FACT OR FICTION?


The PGA Tour made the right decision to institute mandatory drug testing.

Bob Harig, golf contributor, ESPN.com: FACT.

There are a lot of seemingly unnecessary hassles that are about to come with drug testing on the PGA Tour, especially when nearly all in the sport concur that there is no problem whatsoever with performance-enhancing drugs, and their benefit is deemed to be dubious.

Nonetheless, it is still the right thing to do and worth all the angst for several reasons.

There might not be anybody taking drugs now, but that doesn't mean some young aspiring golfer who thinks he needs to hit the ball farther might not start taking them. Perhaps if he knows now that it'll do him no good in the future, he will cease from starting.

Then there is the healing powers of such drugs. Steroids might not help a player hit the ball farther, but there are substances that can help one heal faster, which will allow him to practice more. Let's face it, golfers suffer from their share of aches and pains, bumps and bruises. The ability to bounce back from that is essential to good practice and preparation. Everybody needs to be on the same level when trying to recover.

And then there is simply the perception. It is unfortunate that it has come to this in sports today, but the thought that some athlete in some place in some other sport got to where he is because he did something illegal very much exists. It will be good for golf to get this out in the open and deal with it, regardless of the inconveniences.

Jason Sobel, golf writer, ESPN.com: FACT.
While most major professional sports leagues have been forced to institute a drug-testing policy as a reactionary measure, it's a purely preventative process on the PGA Tour (as well as the world's other important tours). Unlike Major League Baseball or the NFL, each of which underwent tumultuous times before players were being tested on a regular basis, golf's officials are ahead of the game here. If there was ever going to be a drug problem in golf, well, it's a moot point now, because theoretically players won't be able to get away with it.

Not that anyone is trying. Gary Player notwithstanding, I've yet to speak with any golfer on tour who believes there are any signs of drug abuse, whether it's the recreational kind or performance enhancers, from even the smallest percentage of pros. If anyone does turn up with a positive test, they've said, it will most likely be for something as seemingly benign as a cough suppressant or some other prescription medication.

Which leads to the last part of this equation: If any player does indeed get caught using steroids or beta blockers or anything else that they believe could help their on-course results, it's their own damn fault. The PGA Tour has hinted that this day would come for close to three years now; only pure stupidity, cockiness or a serious addiction could lead to a player's downfall when it comes to drug testing.

So yes, drug testing is a good thing for the PGA Tour. Not because there are players who will finally be caught red-handed, but to eliminate any shadow of a doubt that says otherwise.

John Antonini, senior editor, Golf World: FACT.
The players may not like it -- Paul Goydos called it the "stupidest thing I've ever heard," and commissioner Tim Finchem says he'd be shocked if anyone failed -- but drug testing in professional and amateur sports has become a necessary evil in this era.

Although its image hasn't been tarnished by a drug scandal, the PGA Tour is doing the right thing in testing its players. Golf is a game of honor in which players call penalties on themselves, but it does not exist in a vacuum.

Players are glorified for how far they hit a ball (John Daly) and courses are lengthened to distances unimaginable just decades ago. Longer balls are being marketed and the top players are being singled out for their prodigious workout routines. Everything points toward strength being an overriding factor in the game, and if it hasn't happened already, some unscrupulous performer will eventually use a human growth hormone or steroid or some other mind- or body-altering drug to improve his game.

Implementing a drug-testing policy now ensures that won't happen, as well as reaffirming to the public that the game is doing everything it can to remain clean.

Ron Sirak, executive editor, Golf World: FACT.
Even though the PGA Tour cares more about increasing the number of people who watch golf on TV than it does about increasing the number of people who actually play golf, it has recently realized that getting golf into the Olympics would be the single biggest grow-the-game program in history. And there is no way golf gets into the Olympic Games unless it conforms to International Olympic Committee standards on drug testing.

Because of drug testing, and unity among the leaders of the various tours, golf has a reasonable shot among the seven sports competing for two spots that will be awarded next year for the 2016 Games. Olympic inclusion will mean more private and government money will go to developing the game, because both governments and private citizens like to have their nation win Olympic gold. How will golf grow in a world after Tiger Woods? As an Olympic sport -- and that can't happen without mandatory drug testing.

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