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Is Golf as clean as we think it is?

By: Golf Shake | Thu 05 Mar 2015

Post by Sports Writer, Derek Clements

DAN OLSEN, a journeyman pro, has landed himself in hot water by suggesting that Tiger Woods has been suspended by the PGA Tour for taking performance-enhancing drugs.

After both the tour and Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent, denied the claims, Olsen issued a retraction, but the whole messy business has once again brought the tour's farcical disciplinary process into sharp focus.

How? The PGA Tour said that if a player tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, they were required to announce the suspension, while any punishments for recreational drugs remain undisclosed. What? Are they completely mad? Do they not believe that if one of the players winning prize money while snorting cocaine, smoking cannabis or experimenting with heroin that the paying public has a right to know?

It would not happen in any other sport. They would never admit it, but golf's governing bodies must be petrified at the prospect of what could happen when the sport returns to the fold at next year's Olympic Games in Rio. They can't honestly believe that if the drug testers discover that a player has traces of cocaine or heroin in his system that it will be brushed under the carpet. Can they?

Make no mistake about it, drug testing at the Olympic Games is rigorous and if anybody on the PGA Tour is smoking 'wacky backy' or taking recreational drugs, they will be found out. In a bizarre way, it may actually be a good thing if somebody fails a drugs test as it could finally force the game to address the issue. I still can't quite believe that Dustin Johnson's six-month sabbatical has not been explained.

And then there was the extraordinary case of Vijay Singh. The tour banned him from competition for 90 days after he admitted in an interview that he had been using deer antler spray, which contains small amounts of a growth hormone banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada). Bizarrely, they took the decision without even subjecting him to any tests, and Singh insisted that he had no idea the substance, which can be readily acquired on the internet, was illegal.

The Fijian responded by suing the tour. His lawsuit claims the ban left him "humiliated, ridiculed, and emotionally distraught".

When Singh appealed against the ban, Wada advised the PGA Tour that it no longer considered deer antler spray a banned substance "unless a positive test results".

"I am proud of my achievement, my work ethic and the way I live my life," said Singh in a statement. "The PGA Tour not only treated me unfairly, but displayed a lack of professionalism that should concern every professional golfer and fan of the game."

The tour later rescinded the ban, but the lawsuit is continuing. It says the three-time major tournament winner "seeks damages for the PGA Tour's reckless administration and implementation of its Anti-Doping Program".

It adds: "Rather than performing its duties to golfers first, and then determining whether there had been any violation of the Anti-Doping Programme, the PGA Tour rushed to judgment and accused one of the world's hardest-working and most dedicated golfers of violating the rules of the game."

It is more than two years since this issue first hit the headlines, but a date has yet to be set for a court case. You could be forgiven for thinking that the parties have kissed and made up, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Since drug testing was introduced in golf in 2008, only one player has been banned for violating the doping code. American journeyman pro Doug Barron received a one-year suspension after failing a drugs test at the St Jude Classic in 2009.

Barron was taking Lyrica as a substitute for propranolol, a banned substance and exogenous testosterone, which he received by an injection from a doctor. He had been prescribed propranolol since the age 17 but an earlier attempt to gain a medical exemption had been denied by the Tour.

If the PGA and European Tours honestly believe that their sport is 100% clean - and that seems to be the case - presumably they still believe in Santa Claus.

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Tags: Vijay Singh tiger woods PGA Tour

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