"Athletes screening their urine for steroids are more than likely doing so to monitor their use of steroids."
Thanks to reader Tony for this Andy Martino story from the New York Daily News that takes a much tougher look at the PGA Tour's testing procedure than any I've read.
A couple of highlights, starting with this from the PGA Tour's Ty Votaw.
Asked why golfers would be less prone to temptation than athletes in other sports, Votaw cites etiquette. "We think the culture of our sport is such that if a rule exists it is adhered to," he says. "It is a culture that has served us very well - athletes who call penalties on themselves, etc. Other sports don't have that same sort of cultural value system."And that's why the product delivers such value. A core values and skill set mention would have been nice Ty.
Okay, here's the part that's going to ruffle some feathers.
While some players are applying for exemptions, one big name seems eager to prove he is clean. Tiger Woods said Monday that he had himself tested twice in the last six months to make sure that his nutritional supplements were free of banned substances. Woods did not say when or in what lab the testing took place. But BALCO founder Victor Conte is skeptical that an athlete would feel concerned enough about his or her nutritional program to conduct a self-test.
Hey, the man does know a thing or two about cheating! Sorry, continue...
"Most nutritional supplements have a two-year expiration date," says Conte, who says he has no knowledge of Woods' nutritional program or his self-tests and is speaking in general terms, "so there are far less contaminated supplements on the market at this time. It seems that it is now more likely that athletes screening their urine samples for steroids ... would be doing so to confirm that the steroids they previously used had cleared their system. Athletes screening their urine for steroids are more than likely doing so to monitor their use of steroids."
And there's this from Dr. Gary Wadler of the WADA:
For example, the drug salbutamol, found in asthma inhalers, is anabolic and can build muscle. Salbutamol is banned in the Olympics, but allowed in golf. Also, though human growth hormone is prohibited, neither tour administers the blood tests that would possibly detect it. All 33 WADA labs worldwide test for HGH, although the efficacy of the tests are in question.
Wadler also takes issue with the language used to describe the testing process. The PGA Tour manual says: "Once notified, you should report to the designated testing area as soon as possible. The collector may allow you to delay reporting ... however, you may be monitored."
"What do you mean, 'should' and 'may?'" asks Wadler. "These things have to be required. What if the player goes to the bathroom after being told to report? That's no good."
The soft language continues in the manual's section on penalties. The PGA Tour policy states: "Sanctions may include disqualification, forfeiture of prize money/points and other awards, ineligibility, and fines. Sanctions for drugs of abuse (marijuana, cocaine, etc.) ... may include rehabilitation or medical treatment."
In other words, the word "may" - rather than the more definitive "will" - opens a window for Finchem to exercise his own judgment about sanctions if a player tests positive. The policy later defines specific penalties for first, second and third violations, though once again under the heading "sanctions on the players may include."
Hey, just looking out for the product!
In terms of public disclosure, the policy states that "the PGA Tour will, at a minimum, publish the name of the player, the anti-doping rule violation, and the sanction imposed" - a statement that is contingent on Finchem having sanctioned a player in the first place. Clearly, if a star player were to test positive for steroids, that player "may" face a punishment and public embarrassment - or he may not. Wadler also points out that amphetamines, commonly used as performance enhancers, are classified under the tour's policy as drugs of abuse, meaning that players, if caught using these PEDs, could be quietly sent to rehab. All of these shortcomings, Wadler says, could be cleared up if both professional golf tours would cede control of their programs to WADA.