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Mar 13

What’s the Dope on Drug Testing?

 

Drug Testing for Dopes on the PGA

 

I’ve never tried to play golf under the influence of anything, except once, a trip to the driving range after a beer. A single beer, as the average American man is taught – is nothing. But it is. You’re not driving as well as you think you are, regardless of your legal blood alcohol limit. You don’t hit a golf ball that well, either…or at least, I don’t. That day, there were three of them, and I hit them all badly.

So, it wouldn’t make sense for a pro, no matter how hale and hardy with a beer stein, to play against a world class field with an alcohol-impaired brain. But, what about the other stuff? I just can’t imagine it. How in the world could a golfer find something that enhances the game, without altering the game?

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All right then, there’s the world of anaerobic steroids. They enhance you, all right. We hear about it all the time in baseball. I used to think it would be impossible to hit a golf ball all hepped up on these, but I’ve never tried them. But, if these steroids impair you, how can these big leaguers still hit an almost 100 mph fastball coming at them from just a few dozen feet away? So, there is a case for checking for drugs on the PGA or LPGA tours after all?

We’ve had a few snafus. Vijay Singh ingested a banned substance from antler spray (that one still plays with my head a little), and John Daley has come out with the theory that drug tests aren’t random at all, that some (like him) are being targeted. The shark, Greg Norman, is tired of the tour pussyfooting around, and wants blood tests. If I were a pro golfer, that would knock me out of the profession. I’ve never made it through a blood test in a conscious state. It’s just a pin prick, Norman says, and I say, “that’s even worse! I have to use that finger! I putt with that finger!”
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test 1It’s in everything these days, almost every sport you could imagine, except perhaps, curling. Every sport that is admired requires skill, fine motor control skill. Drugs of any kind would have to be an enhancer, not a changer. Adding twenty yards to a drive could help win a tournament. For me, it’s twenty yards more of potential trouble. But the real point is that if you fail that drug test in the PGA tent, you are an instant pariah, worse than baseball. You were supposed to be a clean cut, familyish type of guy, not like a tobacco chewing oaf with a log of wood in your arms.

Henrik Stenson has an interesting take on the situation. He can’t imagine anything being good for your game, except perhaps Viagra. I’m not sure that’s such a good idea, actually. What sort of effect would that have on the course? I can imagine it speeding up slow play, but maybe not so good at slowing down a backswing.
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I can embrace modernity when it makes sense, but I’m going to go old school on this one. Let’s play without anything, just like the rules instruct us. When I was a kid, I was a 97 pound weakling, and now I’m an old 180 pound weakling. I got used to that guy, I like that guy. He hits a decent drive, and is much more concerned with straight than far these days. On the other hand, is there a drug for straightening out long irons? All right, I’m listening.

No, I don’t think so. We were given everything we need to be healthy and successful, and human science hasn’t come close yet to improving on the real thing. So Vijay, lay off the deer, and Henrik, cool your jets. The tour’s policy is “play as you are.”

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.