Swift On Drug Testing

E.M. Swift nails it with this column on the drug testing issue in golf.

One of the most ridiculous quotes I've seen in awhile appeared on Monday in The New York Times, when PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, after acknowledging that his sport doesn't test for performance-enhancing drugs, went on to brag: "If we did test, we would not fool around. We would test aggressively and effectively. ... There would be no hesitation on the part of the players. I would predict 100 percent participation."

Would you? Want to bet, Mr. Commish? You're already fooling around by having no drug-testing policy in place. Finchem sounds like the dictator of a banana republic, assuring a skeptical world that if his country held elections he'd win in a landslide. Why not back up those self-serving words?

But -- trust us on this -- the LPGA and PGA tours have their heads in the sand if they think they don't have a problem. When money's on the line and a drug testing vacuum exists in a sport, performance-enhancing drugs will fill that vacuum faster than you can say BALCO. Golf isn't wrapped in some magic, virtuous cloak.

On the LPGA Tour I've seen enough visual evidence of steroid use -- acne, dramatic changes in musculature, increased distance off the tee -- to raise my suspicions. Likewise on the PGA Tour, where rumors about the use of beta blockers and benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium, which are taken to control anxiety and steady the nerves, have swirled about for years.

As the golf courses are lengthened -- this week's PGA Championship at Medinah will be the longest major championship test ever, at 7,561 yards -- and the power game is rewarded, what rational mind can possibly believe that golfers are somehow above temptation? That they're different than athletes in every other sport? Or that performance-enhancing drugs can't be tailored to golf's demands of power, precision and control?

And this is a key point:

What would have happened if golf had been voted into the Olympics last year? Both the PGA and LPGA tours would have had to put into place a comprehensive drug-testing policy, and Finchem's brave words would have been put to the test. But it wasn't, and the powers-that-be continue to embrace the ostrich approach to sports oversight and management, which until recently was baseball's sacred turf. If we don't look for a problem, there must not be one. All rise for a pat on the back.