The Roundup: How The PGA Should Lead on PEDs and Presidential Golfing

PEDS AND GOLF: THE PGA TOUR SHOULD STEP UP AND LEAD

 

The PGA Tour and all of professional golf have a simple decision to make: be a leader on the issue of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) or be an ostrich hoping not to be victimized by a scandal. 

 

With Vijay's admitted use to deer antler spray and golf coming to the Olympics in 2016, the discussion of drug testing will and should gain momentum. The PGA Tour's program is woefully weak as evidenced by the excellent article by Karen Crouse in the NY Times this week. Crouse reports evenly on the issue but it is easy to read between the lines.

 

TheTeeSheet knows that it is a topic worth of discussion and analysis.

 

Interestingly, if the PGA Tour believes there is no current problem with PEDs, then it is the perfect time to be a leader. The Tour can be a leader for both golf and all professional sports. If there is no PED problem, instituting a comprehensive program will have no negative PR impact on the Tour. Instead there would be a positive message of leadership for both professional sports and for the young golfers and athletes. Win-win.

 

The current approach of a weak and toothless PED testing program (an average-to-dim-witted high-school student could get around it) is only inviting the possibility of a single player bringing disrepute to the entire Tour and golf in general. Crouse's article in the Times makes it pretty clear the top players, and thus probably no player, do not face true out-of-competition testing. To pretend that Monday to Wednesday urine tests at a tournament week counts as out-of-competition testing, as Ty Votaw is quoted as saying, is laughable if it weren't bordering on ignorant and sad. Everyone knows that repetition is very important to golf training; and many PEDs are incredibly good at helping athletes recover from training faster than normal. In other words, a golfer strategically using PEDs could simply train more without his or her body breaking down.  

 

It is impossible to even imagine that the Tour does not know this. By now, we all understand that PEDs can help athletes in every single sport. It is no longer an informed argument to say PEDs do not help for a particular sport. What does it say about the PGA Tour that for some former NCAA players now on Tour, the out-of-competition testing since becoming a professional has become less rigorous? That's right, the NCAA tests it golfers more rigorously out-of-competition than the PGA Tour.

 

The PGA Tour itself advertises the level of athleticism of its players (and properly so). It is great the Tour advertises that DJ is a fantastic athlete -- it's one of the reason's I'm a fan. But the Tour cannot then only pay lip service to PEDs. It is a conflicting message bordering on hypocritical [for the record, I do not believe DJ is taking PEDs].

 


Tiger has magnified that golf is a star-driven sport in the crowded sports media landscape. Nothing would be worse than one of its stars testing positive for PEDs. One way to prevent that is to take the current PGA Tour approach of not testing in a manner that could possibly catch a moderately sophisticated PED user. However, with the Olympics in 2016 approaching along with its Olympic-level of testing, the PGA cannot take this head-in-the-sand approach much longer. Instead, it should seize the opportunity to get out ahead of this issue. By being out in front of the issue, it would actually decrease the discussion of PEDs in golf - which is presumably what the PGA Tour and any sport would prefer.

 

The PGA Tour should take this simple approach (albeit with very sophsitcated and complicated underpinnings):

  • Introduce full third party Olympic-level testing for all PGA Tour players including real out-of competition testing, i.e. 12 months a year.
  • Attempt to go beyond any and all Olympic, World Anti-Doping Agency and U.S. Anti-Doping Agency standards including the personal "passport" of a player's own natural levels [the approach Lance Armstrong himself said was too tough to overcome in his interview with Oprah].
  • Be public and transparent with testing program including frequency and results.
  • Be informed, be a leader and be innovative. If there are certain Olympic, USADA or WADA drugs that are banned that the Tour does not believe are detrimental to the game or the health of the players, take a leadership role and say so. Allow players to use those certain drugs (presuming they do not want to be in the Olympics). For example, if the PGA Tour thinks it is reasonable for a player to use human growth hormone (HGH), which is legal in the United States, or some other legal drug in recovering from an injury, be the first sport to permit its use during an injury recovery period (i.e. the player could not play in competition during that window and would have to stop for a time period prior to returning to competition). This approach could speed recovery for stars without affecting the integrity of the game. Eventually, professional sports leagues are going to have to address the issue of certain drugs being allowed. Why not be first?

 

The entire point is to be a leader on the issue of PEDs (whether you agree or disagree with the last point). In many ways golf is in a unique position to be a leader on this topic if it truly does not have a current PED problem. If there is no PED problem, the proactive and a possibly unique PED approach will not impact the game today. In addition, it would show allow the PGA Tour to lead instead of follow and prevent an otherwise inevitable future PR disaster.

 

 

TIGER AND OBAMA

 

Well, the golf world was all a titter that Tiger played a round with President Obama and had some nice things to say about his game (everyone should calm down - what else would a person say about a President's game?).

 

Whatever side of the spectrum you are on (whether it be right, left, libertarian, Roy, G or Biv), it is always a good thing for the sport when the President plays golf. From Eisenhower at Augusta, JFK (whose clubs were regrettable destroyed - but nothing on that show matches one of the great golf-related moments, nay ... perhaps simply one of the great moments, in television), Ford, Bush I, Clinton taking Mulligans, W and now to Obama, being the President and golfing is a natural fit.

 

However, it seems there were a few complaints from the talking heads on all sides that there were no photos of Tiger and Obama. Stephen Colbert summed up the strange outrage perfectly.

 

 

Golf Digest ranked the golfing Presidents a few years back. Historically, Presidents have typically wanted to avoid being seen playing golf for fear of being seen as elitist (no President wants to be caught on a clip like poor W did). Kennedy preferred to show the family playing football and not golf even though he was perhaps the best golfer of all Presidents. This should change.

 

As golf fans, whatever side of the political aisle you are on, we should want the President to be a golfer and to be proud of it. It has to be good for golf for any President to want to say, "fore (more years)!"

 

 

Douglas Han

@theteesheet