THE FIRST week of the LPGA season also marked the start of the tour's drug-testing policy, which was announced in November 2006 and formulated during the past year. The majority of players agree that problems in other sports make testing necessary, but a lack of details and a lag in implementation have caused serious anxiety. For starters, a list of prohibited substances has been available since late last year, but it was only 36 hours before the first shot was struck that players were given a simplified list of permitted substances along with a common-name list of the banned substances. Nearly every previous piece of information the players had been given required a chemistry degree to decipher. In contrast, the PGA Tour's common-name list came out nearly eight months before the Tour begins testing in July (Teeing Off, page G16). Then there's the case of Michelle McGann (right), a longtime diabetic now also battling high blood pressure, who had been prescribed and was using a drug containing a prohibited substance. She filed for a medical waiver in a timely manner, but, she says, the medical-waiver panel did not respond within 45 days, as mandated by the policy. Lacking an answer, McGann was forced to try three other medications, all with serious side effects that impacted her ability to prepare for the season. Finally, two weeks before the season began, the LPGA and the waiver panel gave her the O.K. to use the original drug. If a policy can't be administered according to its own rules, isn't that a sign of problems? Consider this as well: In October, Denver Broncos running back Travis Henry tested positive for marijuana. While he appealed his suspension, Henry was allowed to play; eventually his suspension was overturned for procedural reasons. But if an LPGA player tests positive, she is immediately suspended and not allowed to compete while a B sample is tested and hearings are conducted. Since golfers must play in order to get paid, it seems to me that the LPGA is leaving itself wide open to a lawsuit if a player is held out of competition and then wins her appeal. I do think the LPGA has done the right thing by adopting a drug policy, and one with teeth, but I hope the tour's desire to be a pioneer doesn't backfire on both the association and its players.
This is an article from the Feb. 25, 2008 issue
Dottie Pepper, a 17-year LPGA veteran and analyst for NBC and Golf Channel, welcomes your letters at email@example.com.