Steroid testing for golfers? The debate is heating up
By S. Adam Cardais,
Golf is just too good for dope. This has been the message from the mouths of many professional golfers in recent weeks as their sport comes under heightened scrutiny in the wake of the BALCO affair and other doping scandals that are shaking the foundation of serious athletics.
But as the A and B samples of track stars and cyclists continue to come back positive, the question many are asking is: Are golfers really above doping, when so many other athletes apparently are not?
The media paid particular attention to the issue of performance-enhancing drugs in golf in the run-up to the recent PGA Championship at Medinah Country Club, at 7,561 yards the longest of the majors host courses this year.
"Medinah … is just one more reminder of a sport becoming identified with power - so much so that some players are questioning if golf could one day fall prey to the performance-enhancing drugs that have plagued other sports, if they have not infiltrated golf already," Damon Hack wrote in an Aug. 14 The New York Times.
While PGA Tour rules bar players from using illegal substances, or legal medications with a prescription, Tour golfers aren't tested, and Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem says there are no plans to start.
Some players, most notably Tiger Woods, have called for a testing regime to head off any potential problems, fueling a debate that seems to be just getting warmed up.
What people are saying
The Times' Hack points out that some players are concerned their competitors might be tempted by performance-enhancing drugs as courses get longer. Hack writes that cheating through drug use would be particularly anathema in golf, a sport where competitors call penalties on themselves and "cheating is seen as the worst possible sin."
Mark Nessmith, executive editor of GolfPublisher Syndications, says the temptation for golfers to start using performance-enhancing drugs isn't about gaining power, it's about overcoming the natural breakdown of the body that occurs over a grueling golf season and the span of a career.
Tim McDonald, TravelGolf.com's national golf editor, says the PGA Tour should implement a testing program soon to minimize the risk of golf being tarnished by a doping scandal. He notes that the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews is requiring testing for players in the World Amateur Championships in South Africa in October.
In an interview with TravelGolf.com West Coast bureau chief Chris Baldwin champion skier Bode Miller says regulators shouldn't worry about steroid use in sports.
Christine Brennan of USA Today points out that there is a track record of illegal substance abuse in golf. For instance, a 2005 survey of NCAA golfers showed 1.3 percent used steroids.
Tiger Woods says he would like to see the tour introduce a drug-testing program to ensure steroid use doesn't become a problem in the future. He did not say he thought anyone was doping now. Greg Norman has also said the tour should start testing.
Tour chief Finchem says the tour doesn't need a drug-testing program because he thinks players are not using performance-enhancing drugs. He has said the tour would react aggressively if it thought doping was becoming an issue.
August 30, 2006
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