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NY Times Recovers: Beta Blocker Ban And Anxiety

After a severely overplayed A1 story and a ludicrous examination of average golfers suffering extreme heartburn, The New York Times finally gets around to doing what it does best: taking a story like Charlie Beljan's panic attack and talking to experts about the efficacy of anxiety treatments and PGA Tour drug use rules that ban such treatments (with medical exemptions).

Bill Pennington saves the day reports:

The permissibility of beta blockers in golf’s top level has come into focus anew this week. Charlie Beljan won a PGA Tour event Sunday, two days after being hospitalized with a panic attack. Beljan, who said that this week he was going to consult doctors near his home in Arizona, might be treated with medication to prevent future panic attacks.

For those of you following this epic saga, Beljan got a clean bill of health Tuesday from Jim Rome, Diane Sawyer and Inside Edition. There is no mention in the linked story of the Mayo Clinic that he was supposed to visit on Tuesday (reported here, here and here.)

Anyway, back to beta blockers and their ability to help...some:

“Some level of anxiety is good for performance,” said Richard Ginsburg, a sports psychologist at the Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. “It keeps you on your game. A beta blocker can take away some edge, mellow you too much.”

Danforth, who twice played in the United States Women’s Open, agreed, though she added that beta blockers, purely from a golf perspective, had been likened to the stabilizing advantage some find using a long putter.

There are medical concerns for those who acquire beta blockers without a prescription, perhaps through the plethora of Web sites selling the drugs. Singh said there was a serious risk for people using beta blockers without a genuine, long-term medical need for them.

“They are a very powerful class of drugs that have enormous impact on essential bodily functions,” he said. “They are not without adverse effects.”

You can read the banned drug list here (PDF).

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Reader Comments (22)

The drug regime for golfers is obvious- uppers on the tee shot, downers on the green- need to be really fast acting (36 mood changes required per round) and no side effects. That's why drugs are no problem in golf right?
NYT's now 1-for-3.....sounds about right.
11.15.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Just read through the list...there go my hopes of the Seniors Tour
11.15.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRob
Well, I just wasted a good part of an hour going through the PGA Tour's list of prohibited substances and having been on a number of medications in the last 10 years I counted 11 substances that I have taken and still take for a number of medical maladies plus I lost count of over the counter drugs that have taken that are prohibited so I don't understand why my handicap has gone from 10 to 16 in the last 10 years. Being an honest person, I guess I should contact the Keene Country Club and return my 2 First flight trophies and also I should give back the $50 certificate I won in the annual Turkey Shoot.

C"MON MAN!!You have got to be kidding me!! Vicks Vapor makes me a better player? Honestly, I need to have a Doctor who is a low handicap explain to me how any drug can give any player an edge in playing the most difficult game in the history of the planet. I can see the benefit in other sports but GOLF!!

I guess it could be argued that I should not be allowed to officiate the game because these substances are in my system.

Another example of politally correct overkill. Got to have a policy that will fool the public into believing you're always on the moral high ground.
11.15.2012 | Unregistered Commenterpete blaisdell
Correct me if I'm wrong and I'm sure that you lot will :-)
But.... one of the reasons and probably the most important of all, that the Tour went to drug testing was because of the Olympic bid. To be considered for that, they would have to follow along the lines of other Olympic sports and their drug testing regime.
But Vicks Vapor Rub.... Really? What will we do if someone gets a man cold!
11.15.2012 | Unregistered Commentermetro18
Has Greg Norman or any significant golfer previously claimed "lots of guys" were on a PED (propanolol)? That feels like big news to me because I thought the PGA didn't need a drug policy given that it is / was a game of honor.

But maybe it's not news: the NYT buried it in a story on the last page of a section nobody really pays attention to.
11.15.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark B
Hmm, I didn't see LSD listed as being banned. lol
11.15.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJt
Golf Digest ran a big story on Beta blockers 20-some years ago.
11.15.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMedia maven
Never mind all this...Bobby Clampett is leading Sr tour Q school! Go Bobby!
11.15.2012 | Unregistered Commentersmails
I wonder what Casey Martin thinks about drugs that might influence a player's ability to perform?
11.15.2012 | Unregistered CommenterHBL
Do remember this list was not developed by the PGA Tour, they are complying with the World Anti-Doping Agency rules.
11.15.2012 | Registered CommenterGeoff
For a game where the players police themselves; to have a book dedicated to such a topic as drugs, is a sign of 3 things--

Too much money makes honest men cheat

The desire to become a part of another sport (the olympics- not golf as we know it, because the ruling body is different, whether the USGA,R&A, PGA, etc will admit )

Common sense reduced to a book/essay we remember vaguely from high school, or college, because the dump that Doug Barron suffered a couple years back, had not even touched on fair play, the law, or yes, common sense. Doug was a throw down player.

And so, all those ''holy as we are'' ''players'' who insist the pros and ams play by the same rules are just wrong right hre right now, or the ams may need to give up a plethora of meds, or die , but - hey- by the rules.
11.15.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
Charlie Beljan should visit a breathing clinic or a Buddist temple to learn how to breath and relax properly. Drugs list is purely a response to falling in line with IOC requirements, how else would you be allowed in to join all those other corrupt sports
11.15.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSimon
Imagine the scene if the Yew-Ess-Eh? wins in RIo and then two days later, the deadly press conference announcing that Player X has invalidated the whole result due to his use of Substance Y...

Too delicious.
11.15.2012 | Unregistered CommenterGhillie
Gillie-- if that happens, the second place player gets the gold--who will be from the USA.
11.15.2012 | Unregistered Commentersmails
wait wait wait. if they bring back the International, can the players smoke weed that week?
11.15.2012 | Unregistered Commentersmails
If Charlie Beljan can't play without a drug crutch then he shouldn't play at all.
11.15.2012 | Unregistered CommenterStanley Thompson
There are a number of drugs on the list such as androgel and diuretics which are commonly prescribed by physicians. They do not enhance a player's skill in any respect and their inclusion is absurd. To say otherwise is to proclaim that only a perfect specimen is permitted to play golf.

As for Stanley Thompson's comment about Charlie Beljan needing a drug crutch to play golf, Stanley your knowledge of medicine is non-existent.
11.15.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBuffett
@Buffett - I don't know about Stanley's knowledge of medecine but mine is zip. But is there a difference between a player needing a device to assist in the physicality of the game and another player needing a drug to assist in the mental part of the game? Doesn't a player need both attributes to excel?
11.15.2012 | Unregistered CommenterHBL

Androgel and diuretics for therapeutic purposes are one thing; but there is certainly a role for both of those medications in the world of PED's. The former is a steroid, obviously, and the latter can be used to mask PED's. So, their inclusion is, of course, reasonable. If one were to need hydrocholorthiazide for their hypertension, undoubtedly this would be accompanied by a TUE.

As for Charlie Beljan's situation, since panic disorder is most commonly treated with SSRI's and benzodiazepenes, neither of which I saw anywhere on the list, he should have no problem getting his house in order. And yes, mindful meditation may be able to play a significant role, but given the degree of his symptoms, it is unlikely to mitigate them entirely.

Stanley, if you think that the use of medication to treat panic disorder is a "crutch", you are out of your depth. Mental illness is as much a physiologic anomaly as any illness with physical symptoms is, the difference being that the anomly manifests as psychoemotional symptoms, rather than pain or fever or weight loss or hypertension. The medications used to treat panic disorder are no more a crutch than the medications used to treat back pain or asthma are. It's Tom-Cruise-like thinking such as yours that has made many people forego much needed treatment of severe psychological illness. Imagine if society were as prejudiced against diabetes or heart disease as it is against mental illness.

On the other hand, there's no medication that can help old CB if he thinks it's okay to call the POTUS a d-bag on Twitter. The POTUS can fairly be -- and has been -- called many things, but a "d-bag" is about as inaccurate an epithet as I've come across.
11.15.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoger
They discussed this at Bushwood 30 years ago...

Ty: Are you on drugs, Danny?
Danny: Yes.
Ty: Then what's the problem?
11.15.2012 | Unregistered CommenterUbb
I'm aware of where the list originates. What I don't understand is how any major sport and I'm including golf on that list:; how can the list be all-inclusive for all sports. This is how you get athletes who have no intention of circumventing the guidelines getting nailed for violations and then carrying that stigma on their resumes and being branded a cheater.
Two of my neighbors are Doctors and one , Dr. Stern, is an avid golfer. I downloaded the list and sat with him yesterday afternoon and asked him what drugs improve a players chances. He said this is a joke. He said ,99% of what he saw on the list HINDERS a players chance to play well.
11.16.2012 | Unregistered Commenterpete blaisdell

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