Is the PGA Doping Policy Social, Legal, or Physical?
Most of us saw enough of the marijuana culture when we were in college, unless we attended a school out of the mainstream of social norms. I can’t speak for other countries, but in the U.S., it was everywhere. Colleagues in my major, a public performance genre, knew that to approach our future careers high as kites would be academic and professional suicide, an inescapable public humiliation. One might not even know where he is, much less pull off any quality example of what we were there to do. In those days, our joke for those who opened their eyes in the morning still stoned was borrowed from Firesign Theater – “nice paisley horsey.” Marijuana was, of course, omnipresent, but so were a lot of far more powerful drugs, with more serious life and death ramifications.
That, however, was college, the age of excess, the life experiment factory, getting one’s “uh-oh” degree. Out in the professional world, people have martinis without having ten, and marijuana can be ‘sipped’ in the same way. Drinking is a comforting social ritual, and not intended to put one’s self to sleep. Alcohol is, however, still a method by which to take the edge off an exhausting or anxious day. It’s as much attached to the game of golf as any other activity on the course. So, what is different about marijuana and sports? Of course, the idea of showing up stoned is just as suicidal to good performance, but what does moderate use on a Monday say for one’s condition during the first round on Thursday? The legal aspects of marijuana use are gradually changing in many American states. The conservative rap on California used to be “don’t get caught in California. You can get a parking ticket for that.” However, in Texas, it was a jail cell and a key likely to be thrown away.
The PGA has had its first case of a drug suspension in Robert Garrigus, who failed a marijuana test. He has been suspended for three months. He is 41 years of age, and has one win, The Children’s Miracle Classic in 2010. Garrigus wasted no time in apologizing, and a part of me wondered why, outside of his use of the drug being factually at odds with the policy, which the Tour has the right to make. The PGA makes no adjustments for tournaments played in states where marijuana use is legal, a little “fossily,” but all right, their call. Two questions come to mind. If Garrigus had a drink on Monday, and showed up to play Thursday, would it be found in his system, and would they even look? I feel certain that if Garrigus used marijuana on Monday and showed up Thursday, no one but no one would be able to tell the difference. If you’re foolish enough to put your game in peril as a professional, you could probably have a drink or a smoke an hour before your tee time. I .suppose that the illegal alteration marijuana offers is relaxation, the same as ‘taking the edge off,’ but I still have trouble believing that it is performance “enhancing.” All right, give the tour that one. Dealing with the anxiety is one of the game’s requirements,
Social views on alcohol abuse have changed dramatically over the decades, but marijuana is lagging far behind among the golf set. There is actually a cannabis-promoting golf tournament, The Cannabis Classic of Denver, but the PGA probably won’t sanction it any time soon. One might have a “drinking problem,” which is a genetically oriented disease, but someone who is high is still just “disgusting,” and has a major character flaw. Other sports have given up. Football players use marijuana in droves, and some schools have reverted to “Just don’t let us see it.” The Stanford band was blocked from TV at the Liberty Bowl for performing a mock tribute to the weed, Drinking has passed the ‘clean-cut’ and ‘executive’ test, while marijuana stills conjures images of college students passed out in dormitory hallways, It’s true that you can’t have that in golf, but no industry wants to have its stars appear on the tee either drunk or stoned. That is a certainty. Still, testing for something that has no real relevance to performance taken in the private life days or weeks ago? Should the tour really bother? If it’s in the system from a week ago, rest assured it’s not going to alter your golf game one bit today.
Should the PGA consider taking marijuana off of its tests, and turn its attention toward the more powerful stuff, or is such fine-tuned testing available to indicate when a drug was ingested? How does the tour handle prescription drugs? If marijuana is visible in the player’s behavior, he or she can be disqualified from the tournament, just as they can for showing up drunk. Maybe we should remove bars from country clubs through the duration of the event, and call it square?