Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
to the sports world...
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Steroids in Golf?

By now you are probably tired of reading and hearing about the Bonds indictment and his possible suspension by MLB. But you might not have read or heard about the latest in the "war on steroids": Testing for steroid use has officially begun within the sport of golf ("Golf Tournament Doing Drug Testing"). According to the press release, testing will be administered at the World Amateur Team championship in South Africa at the end of October. What's amazing is that the tournament directors don't even think at the moment that there is much use of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport. They support drug testing in golf "to put the sport into line with the World Anti-Doping Agency's code governing all sports, and to stop performance-enhancing substances from creeping into the game."

Will somebody please STOP THE MADNESS! First and foremost, why test for steroids when there is no evidence whatsoever of any steroid use in the game of golf? Secondly, why would they think that such use would "creep" into the game? Are they afraid that golfers are going to start bulking up in order to give them more distance on their drives? Is "muscle recovery time" a big issue among golfers these days? Basically, it's complete speculation!

I came across an interesting article on this subject written by Matthew Rudy of Golf Digest ("Steroids: How real a threat?"). Rudy notes that no professional tour has specific language in its rules prohibiting performance enhancing substances. The PGA and LPGA tours' professional conduct rules prohibit players from using or selling illegal substances, but neither tour has a testing procedure in place to detect any kind of illegal drug, recreational or otherwise. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem says the tour would not hesitate to incorporate a random drug-testing program IF it had evidence of a pattern of use by players:
"I don't think it is naive to think our players follow the rules. Maybe there are doctors who would say that steroids would help a player hit a golf ball farther. We could debate that, and we could debate that the side effects might hurt a player other ways. I don't go there. We have a rule, and we expect players to follow it. If we have credible evidence to think that a player was taking them, we would consider taking other measures. The speculation about steroids in golf isn't surprising. There is so much focus on steroids in other sports. There's an influx of more athleticism in our sport, and the workout regimens our players are undergoing. And there's a focus on the increased distance players are hitting the ball. That's what it is -- speculation. We rely on our athletes to call the rules on themselves. We have a long tradition of players following the rules, even when some of the rules are odd."
I suppose that if you believe that steroid use would help a hitter drive a baseball farther, then to be consistent you must also believe that steroid use would help a golfer drive a golf ball farther. All this time, I suspected that the reason professional golfers have been driving the ball better over the years was mostly attributed to technological advancements in golf clubs, golf balls, and training equipment.

Tiger, you're next....


As someone who is 5'9, 140 pounds dripping wet, and still outdrive all my friends, I can safely say that muscle mass has almost nothing to do with how far you can hit the ball. If steroids made you taller, that'd be a different story...

Blogger Willie -- 7/19/2006 10:12 PM  

And Hank Aaron is 6'0", 180, which is an avg. (or slightly below avg.) height and weight for a professional baseball player.

Blogger Rick Karcher -- 7/19/2006 10:47 PM  

I'm looking forward to the day steroids are not the main issue in sports. You could be the strongest man in the world, but if you have my makes no difference. I would be 8 fairways over instead of 1 if I used steroids.

What about putting? Will they start testing for the relaxing (not sure the real name) drugs that some target shooters use to catch those golden putters?

There's too much to golf: thinking, short game, driving, putting, seeing the lay of the land, etc. for steroids to take a man to the top. That's my opinion.

I think the steroid issue is mostly due to lazy reporters. They can easily speculate on steroids and create a shocking story rather than doing a nice sports story. Don't know what to write about today? ---> just write up a story on steroids.

I'm patiently waiting for the BassMaster's Tour to investigate the guys that can throw the most casts in a day during the fishing tourney.

Questions: Do sports agents investigate their clients to make sure they aren't using steroids? I'm guessing they don't.
How about if contracts of players testing positive were void? Then I bet agents would make sure their clients were clean. Just an idea, but wouldn't hitting the pocket book of the guys making 3% almost be easier than anything else to regain the integrity of the game? I know if I was at risk of losing my cut of the contract, I'd do my best to keep a client clean.

Anonymous cj -- 7/19/2006 11:41 PM  

I actually think that the days when steroids are not the main issue in sports isn't that far away with the new issue of gene doping arising, perhaps not in golf, but definitely in Olympics sports.

The relationship between the golfers and the PGA/LPGA isn’t the same as that of the MLB players and MLB (or NFL, NBA and NHL). They are not really employees of the PGA/LPGA. Would that make it easier for the drug testing programs to be implemented since the labor laws can’t be applied to the same extent?

Blogger sokkichen -- 7/20/2006 3:15 AM  

Maybe it's golfing fans who are taking steroids, in hopes they can build the strength to watch an entire tournament and actually be entertained.

Oh wait, I'm thinking of soccer...

Blogger ChapelHeel -- 7/20/2006 9:09 AM  

Forget about golf, Mike I Want to talk about the Nba draft again!!!!
But seriously did you hear the mets signed a 16 year old kid to play baseball. International players work differntly, cause I think they pay for schoooling and what not, but 16 is prtty young.
Just trying to burst your bubble.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 7/20/2006 9:34 AM  

Hell yeah! Forget steroids and golf, let's talk about minimum age and how the 2nd Circuit clearly misapplied antitrust and labor law causing up-standing invidvuals such as Maurice Clarett the right to earn a decent wage.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 7/20/2006 9:46 AM  

I think you're guilty of confusing the issue here. The linked article does not mention steroids even once. The article discusses "performance-enhancing substances," which are many and various.

Golf actually has a very high positive test rate for banned substances, at 5.21% in 2005. Of course, the number of tests is very small -- only 20 positive out of 384, as opposed to, say, cycling, who had 482 positives on 12,751 tests (3.78%).

Now, what those positive tests were for, I don't know. And if we found out that they were mostly for cocaine, for example, then we could debate whether it is reasonable for WADA to stick its nose into what golfers choose to do in their spare time. But I don't think this is about steroids.

Blogger Amateur -- 7/20/2006 2:48 PM  


I apologize for making you think that I'm guilty of confusing the issue. The one quote I took from the article (Tim Finchem) mentions the word "steroid" three times. So apparently the PGA commissioner, when interviewed for the story, thought the issue was about steroids as well.


Good point about no labor laws involved here. What that would mean is that the PGA/LPGA, in theory, would not be required to negotiate the issue with the players. However, they do have boards comprised of administrative personnel and players in which they collectively establish rules and policies in accordance with their bylaws.

Blogger Rick Karcher -- 7/20/2006 5:13 PM  

Well with golfers being the amazing athletes that they wait that is that just about every other sport. If you have to cheat to be strong enough to play golf, you are just pathetic. Golf takes an amazing amount of practice and skill but, to put the steroid tag on golf is rather silly. For the game of golf's sake, I hope there isn't any truth to steroids in golf.

Anonymous Ron Jumper -- 7/20/2006 6:16 PM  

Please please PLEASE test our elected officials and leave the sports people alone!

Or just legalize steroids... who cares if people take them? Open it up for everyone and let the chips fall where they might.


Anonymous Stephen -- 7/20/2006 7:45 PM  

We cant just let the elected officials to decide everything. One minute steriods will be legal, than marijuana, than beastiality. If something is wrong, it should stay wrong, when it is proven wrong or bad. NO STEROIDS!!!!!!!!

Anonymous Anonymous -- 7/20/2006 9:13 PM  

I am not saying I agree with this apparently over the top testing in Golf. But could this be also viewed as preemptive? We all know steriods development travels at the speed of light. Could there be substances in the future that enhance the levels of concentration and of muscle reaction, etc? Plus, players do get tired from all the walking and hitting and someone doped would have an advantage in that area.

Furthermore, in terms of image, could the tour be envisaging social drugs, like cannabis and cocaine?

Anonymous Luis Cassiano -- 7/21/2006 6:38 AM  

I am just wondering why willie likes to have driving competitions with his friends while he is dripping wet. I have never tried it, but I'll bet he would get better grip if he just used a towel!

Blogger BionicBuddha -- 7/21/2006 7:57 PM  

Golf is a sport as any other and should not be exempt from tests to determine if golfers are using "performance-enhancing substances".

Besides who are we to argue whether steroids really will give the golfer an advantage? There are so many factors involved. Granted, a small, short player who has the right technique can rip the ball 300 yds down the fairway, but he still has to give maybe 80-90% of his power into the shot. Give him steroids and he could still hit 300 with maybe 50-60% power, which would probably give his game greater accuracy (and we golfers know how vital that is don't we?).

Further, I agree with luis cassiano. There is the image of the game to think of. People call it a gentleman's game for a reason. Let's not give reason to call it otherwise.

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