Archive for Saturday, August 19, 2006

Drug testing in golf? Norman says yes

August 19, 2006

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— There are a decent number of people who wish Greg Norman would go away, even when he's already far, far away.

He's considered something of a self-appointed genius, a walking, talking know-it-all, but that shouldn't lessen his message. He believes the PGA Tour needs to start a drug-testing program. It's hardly an outrageous statement if you have been paying attention to the world of sports the last 25 years.

Tour officials say they don't believe performance-enhancing drugs are a problem in their sport. Who knows? Maybe they're right. When you have golf equipment that makes circus strongmen out of golfers who look like office bookkeepers, who needs steroids?

But the idea that golf is more honorable than other sports and thus doesn't need monitoring is either naive or arrogant, take your pick. And the idea that golfers don't face the same temptations as other athletes is really bad business. No one can say baseball hasn't been hurt by the suspicions hanging over the game.

The PGA Tour has no drug-testing program in place. It needs one, not just to answer the questions of today but as a deterrent for anyone who might think about it tomorrow.

Norman was saying just that, even if a few eyes rolled at the mere mention of his name.

You can be like Davis Love III, a member of the PGA Tour's policy board. Before a drug-testing question could even be asked Friday, he said, "I don't care about what Greg Norman has to say."

Or you can listen.

"Just put rules in place," Norman told the Australian Associated Press. "I think our organization, as big as it is, should have something in our bylaws (on) drug abuse.

"You hear about it all the time on tour, and if there are no rules and regulations in place, you don't blame the players for doing it. It has been rumored for over 20 years, players using outside substances to help their performances."

There is too much money out there to be left to players' honor and integrity. Honor and integrity have been known to wilt in the presence of fame and fortune. Prize money for the 2006 season totaled $255 million. If you're a Nationwide Tour player living on Red Bull and Popeye's chicken, maybe a needle in the butt doesn't sound like such a bad idea.

And with the way distance is seen as supreme in golf - the PGA Championship at Medinah this week is playing an ungodly 7,561 yards - the temptation is there to keep up. John Daly has made millions of dollars by being long off the tee and wild off the course.

Surely somebody has been tempted to cheat after watching the big hitters succeed.

"Get your head out of the sand," Norman said. "Step up to the plate."

Ask baseball what the specter of drugs has done to its image. Ask the Tour de France if it can find anyone who trusts its cyclists anymore.

Some golfers have a hard time imagining drugs infiltrating their game. They need to get better imaginations.

Earlier this week, PGA Commissioner Tim Finchem told the New York Times the tour would consider implementing a drug-testing policy "if we get to a point in time where we think we have a problem."

No, Tim, the time to do it is before there's a problem. It's called being proactive.

Asked whether he thought the tour needed drug testing, Love said, "I don't want to get into that."

Who does? It's not a happy topic. But testing happens to be the right thing to do.

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