I thought I would take the opportunity to bring everyone up to date on the history of drug testing on the PGA Tour and how it came about in the first place. But let me first make a general statement to cover all sports and athletes. Performance enhancing drugs have been around for years and they certainly are no stranger to the world of sports. The major sports football, baseball, basketball as well as the Olympics have all had drug test policies for years, both for performance enhancing drugs and illegal drugs. This story will focus on performance enhancing drugs only. Over the last couple years and right up to the last month athletes have come under the scrutiny of whether or not they have used performance enhancing drugs. Whether it is potential Hall of Fame baseball players, star NFL players or multiple time Tour De France champion’s, golf has now been brought into the same light as these other sports.
The PGA Tour has had a drug test policy since July 1, 2008 when it tested players for the first time at the AT&T National, and the European Tour at the European Open. The anti-doping policy manual explains the testing program which contains a list of prohibited substances that fall under 10 categories, ranging from anabolic steroids to human growth hormones to narcotics to beta blockers. The PGA Tour can test without notice anytime and anywhere, either at a tournament or a player’s house. The testing is random; it can be compared to the ping pong ball used in a lottery; selective random testing, to ensure ever player gets tested at least once; and regular testing if a player has a history of substance abuse. Penalties could include ineligibility for up to one year for the first violation; up to five years for the second violation; up to a lifetime ban for multiple violations; and fines up to $500,000. The PGA Tour commissioner has some discretion to require treatment instead of sanctions, or a combination of the two.
Only one player (Doug Barron) has tested positive to date and that was for supplemental testosterone and a beta-blocker and he was suspended for one year. So after five plus years only one person has been caught. Does this mean that no one is using any performance enhancing substances on The PGA Tour? Well I am sure that they would all like to think so! Now let’s fast forward to August 11, 2011 when The PGA Tour issues a warning to the players to stop using a deer antler spray called “The Ultimate Spray” because of the presence of IGF-1, which is a banned substance. This deer antler spray is used by most people as an alternative for steroids. This replacement is a medicine from Asia and it is normally non-detectable in tests concerning urine (The PGA Tours method of testing). This makes the product natural, efficient and very secretive. People believe that the deer antler spray stimulates the metabolism which improves the heart condition and also ensures that the immune system can help repair of tissues. The deer antler spray has been thrown into the spotlight these past weeks because of use of this product by star NFL and MLB players along with a Hall of Fame PGA Tour player. This product is not approved by the FDA, and if you are not a qualified athlete, you may end up risking your well being by using the deer antler spray. There are claims that this product is not detectable in urine testing but that isn’t the truth and athletes have tested positive, but as with any testing procedures they may be flaws. The results that test positive in the urine tests are usually caused by methyl testosterone and other barred substances that are found in this product.
Golf has always been a game that players police themselves on the course, calling rules violations against themselves causing them to lose tournaments and to be disqualified. One would like to think that players would apply the same principles too of their off course activities as well and be concerned about their own personal health as well as the respect of their Tour players. Maybe today’s player has so much pressure to get to The PGA Tour and stay there that they are willing to risk it all keep pushing the envelope far as they can. One certainly hopes that this latest attention to deer antler sprays turns into less of issue with The PGA Tour players then we think. This is a great game and to have it brought into the media lime light for performance enhancing drugs issues versus the play of its players would be a shame.
[divider]Paulina Gretzky [/divider]