Drug Testing and Golf

Golf is the only game where we call ourselves on infractions.

Let us not compromise the very essence nor fracture the foundation upon which this game is built.

The lifeblood of our game is honesty(click here to read article)  and self-monitoring of the rules.

It is an obligation of the guardians of our game — who promulgate the rules — to make sure that these are not ambiguous.

With a clear understanding of the rules, there is no excuse for violating them without penalty, which in almost every case is self-imposed.

If the guardians are concerned about the use of performance enhancing substances, they should so state in Section I (the Etiquette section) of the Rules of Golf rather than in Appendix I (Conditions of Competition) and rely on the integrity of the golfer to abide by the spirit of the game. The penalty of a serious breach of etiquette may be disqualification.

My proposal is to include in the Etiquette section, the clause; “The use of performance-enhancing substances is a violation of the spirit of the game.”

This clause is clear and only the golfer knows — in the short term– if he/she is in violation.

There is no difference what the ingredients of the substance are – steroids, deer antler spray, alcohol or aspirin – if the substance is used to enhance performance (scientifically proven to be the case or not) then it is a violation.

If players cannot be trusted to abide by the honor and spirit of the game — regarding performance-enhancing substances — how can they be trusted to call other penalties on themselves? How is it possible to need drug testing but not a referee or an umpire to monitor every shot when they play on the course?

Let me share with you a quote from my book From Sticks and Stones

“The minute the governing bodies determine that it is necessary to test for drugs, they have fractured the essence of the game by shifting responsibility for enforcing the rules away from the players and onto a separate party. They undermine the premise on which golf is built, and gain nearly nothing in return.”

Let us know how you feel about drug testing by commenting below.

22 thoughts on “Drug Testing and Golf

  1. This is the dumbest conversation I’ve heard in a long time. If you need a drug you take it. Playing golf that day shouldn’t be the determining factor as to dose or not to dose. The USGA should stand clear of testing. They can’t afford it. Enough regulations by the USGA that only apply to a very small percentage of golfers.

  2. At 70 and the survivor of 2 heart attacks some drugs are needed so I can go I breathing and enjoying this great game. Without belaboring the long list, none including the beta blockers I take to slow my heart rate could be considered performance enhancing. These drugs may give the illusion of calm, but side effects more than discount any benefit.
    The tough call is determining what is performance maintaining vs enhancing.

  3. ok, if aspirin, Aleve, etc. are verboten, then is not the tape on Tiger’s finger also a “substance” without which his scores would increase? What were golf shoe soles made of in the days of hickory shafts and gutta percha or feather-filled balls? And those $85/pair jock-chafing-prevention undies that help tour players walk 5 miles a day 5 days a week and still be able to sire progeny in the off-season (such as it is, yes, getting shorter every year) … ?Or the GoreTex rain suits (thanks again, Al !)?

  4. If my memory serves correctly a PGA player was suspended because he was taking a heart related Beta Blocker that the PGA ruled was not acceptable.

  5. VJs favorit tournament ? The John Deer Classic…….
    VJs favorit food? Venison……..
    VJs favorit golf shoes? White Bucks………

    #1Suspension is the only answer for this offense!
    #2Forget peeing in a bottle,blood testing is the answer and should start this weekend at Pebble!
    #3 NO player should be admitted into the Golf Hall of Fame until their career is over!

    It will be interesting to see how the PGA and R&A handles doping now. My bet is they will not be tough enough.

  6. Performance enhancing drugs are different than blood pressure, diabetes, & heart medicines; as far as I know. Of course, we are not playing in a PGA tournament. I do think honesty is the bottom line here.

  7. Frank,
    I agree with your upholding the purity of the game and its integrity.
    But there’s a possible distinction which you should make: performance-enhancing drugs, i.e. drugs or substances, vs. performance-enabling drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, etc. without which some of us could not play. I’d hesitate to call aspirin a performance-enhancing drug, but it enables many to play whereas they could not otherwise, ditto for ibu, Aleve, Advil and others. I’d say let’s distinguish between what jacks up performance and what just lets us, especially as we get older or are recovering from physical ailments, play our beloved game.
    What do you say, Frank? Performance-enhancing: no! Performance-enabling: yes, when necessary to play the game at all, not necessarily better. There are plenty of medications that relieve pain, etc. without artificially boosting performance.

  8. I think we all know what performance substances are and that if they are used to strengthen or change your body they should be against the rules. I don’t think anyone would object to the normal “over the counter” things we take for minor pain would be against the spirit of the game.

  9. Excuse me – Aspirin!!! I have a cronic bad back and I take something; aspirin, ibuprofen, aleve, etc. before the round starts so that I can get through the round. So, what you are suggesting is if I am in a club tournament, no OTC pain relivers. Then I would not be playing. Regarding alcolol, I love it when my playing opponents start drinking, the majority of the time they start playing worse.

  10. But with all that money on the line, it’s far too easy for someone to try something. It’s happening in every other sport- people take PEDs thinking they can’t be found out. But they eventually are. Golf IS a game built off honesty and integrity, but that was before $6M purses, $10M annuities, $20M equipment contracts and a sports-science discovery. It’s sad, but a part of our sporting world now.

  11. I like the concept, “The use of performance-enhancing substances are a violation of the spirit of the game.” “…if the substance is used to enhance performance (scientifically proven to be the case or not) then it is a violation.”

    So no Advil, no food at the turn, no energy or water for that matter? All of those help my performance.

    It just doesn’t seem proactical to me

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