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« "Will they really be minding their pees and queues?" | Main | "The Model Prohibited Substance and Methods List" »
Thursday
Sep202007

"But for the problems in other sports, I doubt we would be at this point."

The press conference on the "anti-doping" policies demonstrated that our governing bodies and assorted tours are on the same page. But I continue to be fascinated by Commissioner Finchem's stance on how this all came about. 

Q. If you don't mind me paraphrasing, you've always said that there was no evidence of any performance-enhancing drug use, and the honor system of golf, etc. All that said and wherever you are today, do you consider this a landmark day for golf or a sad day for golf?

TIM FINCHEM: Well, I think that as everybody else has spoken, it's a day where we are going to be proactive in light of the realities of what's happening in sport. But for the problems in other sports, I doubt we would be at this point.

But certainly the problems in other sports have created a growing perception among fans that athletes generally in many cases, in the minds of many fans who utilize substances that in other sports are banned. Now we don't ban substances in our sport, but when you combine that in the reality that for example, in the case of The European Tour, they have to undergo testing protocols because governments are requiring that they do; as does the LPGA in some instances, all of these things argue for moving forward.

I think it doesn't mean we like it and it does mean we are concerned about shifting the culture of the sport from one where you know the rules and you play by the rules, and if you violate the rules, you call a penalty on yourself; to if you engage in testing, perhaps creating the specter that an organization doesn't trust what the player says, which is certainly not the case.

So we are going to have to work hard on that point, but we are where we are given the way of the world and I think it's a positive day for golf because we are, A, together; B, we are spending a lot of energy to do it right. We are learning from watching what the other sports have done that in some cases have not been perhaps the right thing to do. It's taken them awhile to get it right, and we've been quite deliberate about where we're headed. And all of these things I think are positive. I think that's a positive message for the game.

"We are where we are given the way of the world." 

Okay, I can see that. Just like Jake could see the logic of Elwood trading the Blues mobile for a microphone.

However, let's ponder this for a moment. And to longtime readers, I apologize for sounding like a broken record.

We've heard for the last 10 years or so, and quite specifically from various leaders, that distance gains have been the product of improved athleticism with little acknowledgement that equipment might be the driving force. The most notorious was USGA President Walter Driver's claim that 75% of distance increases could be blamed on "improved athleticism." (And in Finchem's defense, he's also been quite clear that this evolving athleticism might lead to some form of distance regulation.)

So aren't we here today at least in part because golf's leadership wheeled out a suspect rationale for distance increases? A rationale that might drive young athletes to try performance enhancing drugs in order to improve their athleticism, and therefore, perhaps keep up distance-wise? 

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Reader Comments (11)

I spent the day writing a column on why it took the PGA Tour two years to come to this conclusion. I think you hit it on the head -- the tour simply doesn't believe that steroids would help golfers, therefore no one would use them. However, out of the other side of their mouth they say increased physicality has led to improvements in distance. And if that's the case, how much of a stretch is it to think some player might be willing to cross the line in order to grab another five yards? Doesn't strike me as unreasonable.
I think there's no doubt some golfer has tried some performance-enhancing drug. Until now there was no chance they could get caught -- so why not?
09.20.2007 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Thompson
Why not?

Perhaps for the same reason that I have not
tried steroids -- I have no reason to suspect
that they would help me in any way (that I
care about) and there are proven negative
side-effects.

Why haven't YOU tried them? Was it because of
the fear of a positive test or was it for some
other reason?
09.20.2007 | Unregistered CommenterNunya Bizness
Walter Driver actually said that? That 75% of distance gains were due to improved athleticism? Like Tim Herron's distance gains? Like Hale Irwin's distance gains after the the age of 55? Like the distance gains of such gym-rats as John Daly, Bubba Watson and JB Holmes?

Where and when did Mr. Driver say that? At the Friar's Roast of Peter Kostis?
09.20.2007 | Unregistered CommenterChuck
Nunya: I haven't bothered to try them because my main skill is being able to write, and as far as I can tell there's no positive benefit to using "clear" when it comes to typing. Then again, maybe I could get up to 80 words a minute -- wait, you might have something here.
Calling Mr. Conte....
09.20.2007 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Thompson
Exactly, we have no reason to think that steroids
would improve your writing or a PGA Tour golfer's
play.

So, it would be asinine to invade the privacy of
writers or golfers in order to test for a substance
that we have no reason to believe they are taking
(or would benefit from taking).
09.20.2007 | Unregistered CommenterNunya Bizness
Isn't the only hyper-fit guy with big distance, um, Tiger? Actually, my memory (which admittedly is spotty) is failing to come up with another golfer I'd describe as "hyper-fit" at all.

You know, even if in some crazy mixed-up world Tiger is doping and then gets caught doping, I'm not sure how much opinion of him will change. These last few weeks, his strength has been his spot-on iron play and his lights-out putting. How does being stronger help with those again?
09.20.2007 | Unregistered CommenterLinus
Two thoughts for Nunya:

1) If everyone is clean, then what's wrong with testing, i.e., eliminating suspicion?

2) I wouldn't take steroids because they wouldn't improve my game and because improving my game wouldn't affect my life. If I played golf for a living, however, steroids could help in both areas.
09.20.2007 | Unregistered CommenterCBell
Privacy.

It's none of your business what is in my piss
or Tiger's.

I'm not involved in criminal activity but the
cops aren't searching my house (or my bladder)
without a warrant and the probable cause needed
to get one.
09.20.2007 | Unregistered CommenterNunya Bizness
Steriods help with endurance. Steriods help in providing longer workouts. Steriods help the muscle tissue that is broken down from working out repair itself faster. Because of the FACTS, steriod use will make an athlete stronger and provide more endurance.

Not spot on but I believe each mph more in clubhead speed means an extra 2.5 yards. If a player increased his clubhead speed from say 112mph to 122 mph this equation would make him 25 yards longer.

Who said driving accuracy was no longer an indication of success on the PGA Tour? Got Steriods? Without testing and without banned substances who's breaking any rules?
09.20.2007 | Unregistered CommenterK.J.
Without coming to your house and searching through
your computer's hard drive how can we know that
you're not storing child porn on it?

Would you advocate random checks of computers
without probable cause?
09.21.2007 | Unregistered CommenterNunya Bizness
Nunya makes a great argument. But I think that in fact steroids would help golfers, and I think a testing policy is important for several reasons.

First, the analogy to invading a home looking for child porn isn't quite appropriate. In that example, it's invasion of privacy, without cause, to check if someone is breaking the law. In the case of sport, it's a private organization's decision to set certain rules to protect the integrity of their sport, its image, the validity of its competitions. It's entirely appropriate to test for drugs if you think there's a chance that the players are using them, and that such use would be damaging to your sport. Just like having a dress code, entry fees, whatever...rules of the game, cost of doing bidness, etc.

As for how steroids would help a golfer...I'm not entirely sure I'm right about this, but I think I can make a good argument.

Steroids are classically associated with building muscle bulk and adding power for athletes. But the steroids per se don't do this. The work out iteslf builds the muscle. The steroids just accelerate the process.

The benefit to be gained from steroids depends on the way the athlete trains. If you train for endurance, the steroids will accelerate your building of endurance.

Excellence in golf is precision in swinging and striking the ball, sustained over the length of a competition. If your muscles are more fit, better toned, and have greater endurance, the chance that you can repeat your swing consistently over the course of a 4 day tournament is increased. Practicing your swing probably works in part because you build specific muscles/motor units that are used in your swing, and building these units at the expense of others increases your chances of repeating your swing. Steroids would help because they accelerate this process.

In other words, steroids would probably help with precision and consistency, not only power. The possible benefit of endurance, when you consider a 4 day event, often walking a hilly course, can't be underestimated, either.

How _much_ do all these things matter? I don't know. Maybe not much.

But I don't think you can say a drug testing policy is unnecessary because there's no reason for a golfer to use drugs in the first place.
09.21.2007 | Unregistered Commenter86general

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