"Will Golf's Integrity Stand Test?"

Damon Hack in the New York Times looks at the possibility of steroids or beta blockers in golf and offers some interesting perspectives.

“Up until this point in time, I would have said it is a fairly laughable question,” Joey Sindelar, a seven-time PGA Tour winner, said in a recent interview. “The guys in my era weren’t workout guys. It didn’t used to be such a brute strength thing. But we’re getting some serious 6-1 baseball-player-type guys. There’s probably going to be a time when you’re going to look at guys and say, ‘Well, sooner or later somebody is going to cross that line.’ ”
And why love him, Joe Ogilvie:
“We market the long ball,” said Joe Ogilvie, a PGA Tour professional and member of its policy board. “We market the guys who hit it 300 yards. If that’s your message, and people see that beginning at the high school level, I think as a tour it is very naïve to think that somebody down the line won’t cheat.

“As it gets more popular and the zeroes continue to grow to the left of the decimal point, I don’t think there is any doubt that there will be cheaters,” Ogilvie added. “Golf is all about length, and the U.S.G.A., the P.G.A. of America and, to a certain extent, the PGA Tour are perpetuating it by blindly lengthening every golf course. It doesn’t seem like they have a whole lot of rhyme or reason.”
Now Joe, we know there's plenty of rhyme and reason: because it's so much easier than altering the ball! And the side effects are wonderful too. Possible drug usage, adding misery to the game, inflating costs. It's all good!
“Maybe I’m naïve, because I have a hard time believing that anyone would cheat, I really do,” said Tom Lehman, the 1996 British Open champion and the 2006 United States Ryder Cup captain. “The culture of golf is such that you play by the rules.

“If you read in the paper that Tom Lehman just won the U.S. Open and he just took a drug test and he’s been using the clear for the last two years, the guys out here would vilify me,” he added, referring to the steroid tetrahydragestrinone. “It’d be over. For that reason alone, almost, it would keep guys clean.”

But there is no drug test, so you don't have to worry about being villified...

Commissioner, care to dance?
“We are monitoring the situation very carefully and we are making sure that players understand that steroids and other illegal substances are in violation of the rules of golf,” Finchem said. “It’s no different taking a steroid to prepare for a golf tournament than it is kicking your ball in the rough.”
Oh, good one! Though I like David Fay's baseball metaphors much better. Of course, they don't work too well on this subject.
“We don’t think it’s prudent to test just because somebody someplace thinks all sports should test,” Finchem said. “Having said that, if some pattern emerged or, candidly, let’s say that didn’t happen, but it just got to the point that no sport was considered clean, then we would have to take aggressive action.

“If we did test, we would not fool around. We would test aggressively and effectively. We would convince people that we are what people think we are in 2006. If we did it, there would be no hesitation on the part of the players. I would predict 100 percent participation.”

Hack offers this:

While there is no evidence suggesting steroid use on the PGA Tour, two players — Jay Delsing and Joe Durant — said they have heard of competitors taking beta blockers, which are often prescribed for heart ailments but can also be used to combat anxiety.

The extent of beta blocker use — and its effectiveness — has been debated for years on the PGA Tour. In 2000, Craig Parry of Australia said that three players, whom he did not identify, had won major championships during the 1990’s while using beta blockers.

His comment prompted Nick Price, a three-time major champion who took beta blockers during the 1980’s because of a family history of high blood pressure, to say that the drugs hurt his golf game by making him sluggish. (Price has said he won his three major titles after he stopped taking beta blockers.)

Durant, also a member of the PGA Tour policy board, said the anecdotes he had heard about beta blockers are similar. “I have heard of guys taking them and saying that they didn’t help them at all,” he said.

Delsing added: “As an athlete, you want your senses. It would be like, ‘I’m calm, but I don’t know where I am.’ ”

These folks really need to read up on the latest anti-depressants!

Dr. Linn Goldberg, a professor of medicine at the Oregon Health and Science University and a spokesman for the Endocrine Society, said beta blockers could affect people differently, but that they are often used to combat a person’s adrenaline flow.

“You can see that happen with someone putting, or shooting archery, or a doctor using it if before giving a talk,” Goldberg said in a telephone interview. “It does steady your nerves because it combats adrenaline when you get nervous or your palms get sweaty and you have a crowd of people around. It mellows you out.”

When Finchem was asked if he was concerned about players using beta blockers on the PGA Tour, he said the Tour’s research found that beta blockers did not help golfers. He said the Tour had anecdotal evidence from three or four players.

“At least two of those players were on prescription, Nick Price being one,” Finchem said. “They had such a negative impact that they saw a dilapidation that made it very difficult to play the game.

“We have never had much of an indication by players that there is use, and in the isolated incidents we’ve seen, it has been as much as a negative as anything.”

Haven't we worn out this Nick Price anecdote enough? How about a study? You know, after the ball study wraps up sometime this decade?

When Woods was asked for his opinion on testing, he answered the question with his own set of questions. “I think we should study it a little bit more before we get into something like that,” he said. “Where does it start? Who does it? Who is in control of it? What are the substances that you are looking for?”

Sindelar, too, said he recognized the complexity, but he also acknowledged the time for testing may be near.

“It’s at the Olympics, it’s everywhere,” Sindelar said of steroid use. “That’s what goes through my mind. If you said you needed a name, I couldn’t say, yes, it’s that guy. But if it’s everywhere, what that says to me is, why do we think golf is insulated?”

Because it is Joey. Isn't that good enough, because we say so?