PGA Tourcommissioner Tim Finchem has told me that there is no drug problem in golf andthat one reason he resists implementing a drug-testing program for the Tour isthat he does not want golfers lumped with professionals in baseball, football,basketball and hockey, sports that all too clearly have a significant problemwith the use of performance-enhancing substances.
This is an article from the June 4, 2007 issue
But by not testingfor drugs, Finchem runs the risk that precisely the opposite will result.Investigations by enforcement agencies are turning up more and more cases ofdrugs being supplied to athletes. If golf is dragged, kicking and screaming,into adopting a drug-testing policy after public disclosure of drug use, golfwill be perceived exactly like the other sports. There'll be the now standardmantra of denial that a problem exists and then, only under public orcongressional pressure, reluctant adoption of a minimal testing program. Itdoesn't have to be that way.
There are enoughwarning signals to suggest that action should be taken sooner rather thanlater. Body shapes on Tour are changing. Perhaps not all of the extra distanceoff the tee can be attributed to technology or improved fitness. If there is aproblem, better to eliminate it before it becomes ingrained, as it has in fartoo many other sports, professional and amateur. To do otherwise courts theathlete's Lowest Common Denominator rationalization: "I had to do itbecause others were, and no system existed to catch the cheaters." It is anall-too-familiar refrain, however unconvincing, proffered in quasi-defense ofethical failure.
Greg Norman andNick Price have already called for testing programs, as has the sport's icon,Tiger Woods. The LPGA and the European tours have preempted the PGA Tour byannouncing their own testing initiatives. They are trying to get out in frontof the problem, so they won't have to solve it after the fact. Meanwhile, thePGA Tour has dithered, allowing the other tours to take the lead on this issue.It's not too late, however, for the Tour to catch up. It could still developthe gold standard for testing programs, pulling the other organizations alongwith it.
Professional golfhas a wonderful chance to lead rather than follow. The game, with its emphasison integrity and rigorous honesty regarding the rules of play, is unique--andrefreshing--among professional sports. By all rights the Tour should espousethe same high standards regarding the nonuse of performance-enhancing drugs.This is especially true given the large number of young players taking up thegame.
One would thinkthe Tour and its members would be the first not only to say that there is nodrug problem in golf but also to back up that assertion with a vigorous testingprogram. And it should be independently administered, not one of the cozyin-house programs used by other pro sports, in which there can be no publicconfidence about quality or transparency. Such forthrightness is what you wouldhope for and expect from a sport that prides itself on its integrity.
The PGA Tourshould do more than simply talk the talk. It should walk the walk. Not nextweek. Not next month. Not next year. Now.
Dick Pound is thechairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
by JIM GORANT
Expect a remade European tour to fight back against theFedEx Cup--soon.
The Duke women win their third straight NCAAchampionship
[SMARTS + GREAT LEADER + TRADITION] + HIGH EXPECTATIONS* TOP PLAYERS = DUKE DYNASTY