Finchem Taking Brunt Of Drug Testing Heat

A theme is developing in columns and stories critiquing the PGA Tour's stance on drug testing: Tim Finchem is losing credibility. What makes that unusual is his uncanny ability in the past to cut off such stories from festering (and therefore giving the Tour a black eye).

But this time his stance has made drug testing a story.

The Detroit Free Press's Carlos Monarrez writes:

There's a serious problem on the PGA Tour. Most players and officials want to ignore it. Maybe it will go away quietly. But the problem threatens to destroy the PGA Tour as we know it.

The problem is PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem.

And Jeff Shain in the Miami Herald takes a similar stance in this piece.

Meanwhile, Lorne Rubenstein talks to Greg Norman who was in Canada constructing a new course, and Finchem's good buddy added to his comments from last week.

"I just don't understand why they wouldn't want to implement a policy," Norman said after drawing the shape of the 14th green and its surrounding area in the sand on the site where he and his team are turning a sand and gravel pit into what promises to be an intriguing course. "They're saying we don't know [if it's necessary], but you have to think 25 years down the line. You have to be proactive, 100-per-cent proactive."

But PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem wasn't talking of being proactive last week when asked about the subject during the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio.

"We believe we are paying close attention [to the matter], and we believe that we will be positioned if we ever believe it necessary to take additional actions beyond just telling players what the rules are," Finchem said.

And this gets to the heart of the matter, something that speaks volumes about the role equipment plays in golf. Oh yeah, and agronomy, don't forget!

"If I was a kid coming out now, I'd ask, what do I need to do to compete?" he said. "It's a power game now, not a finesse game."

Norman's point is valid. Young golfers hear about athletes in other sports who have taken drugs in the belief they'll improve. Steroids not only help somebody bulk up, they also help with joint and soft-tissue recovery. Golfers wear themselves out pounding balls. Human growth hormone, meanwhile, can also promote healing and even sharpen one's mental game.

Woods is aware of what could happen. He said last Thursday that the PGA Tour should "have a program in place" before players are taking drugs.

Rubenstein pulls out this from the files, which, if nothing else, gives Finchem a chance to blame his predecessors if he runs out of reasons to postpone testing.

The issue of drug testing is gaining traction. Yet the debate's been around for years.

Here's what David Eger, a PGA Tour official at the time and now a Champions Tour player, said in September of 1988, when asked what might happen if a player used a beta blocker to calm his nerves:

"We have no policy related to beta blockers," Eger said. "I guess there would be a fine line. I'd have to call the commissioner on it."

Deane Beman, the commissioner at the time, didn't institute a drug testing policy.

Eighteen years later, the PGA Tour still has no drug testing policy, nor does it have a list of drugs that might enhance golf performance.

The PGA Tour needs to get its head out of the sand and begin random drug testing.

"Tomorrow would be just fine with me," Woods said.

Tomorrow's come and gone. But Norman and Woods aren't likely to let the subject pass. Nor should they. Their heads aren't in the sand. Their eyes are open, and they see possibilities they don't like.