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The PGA Drug Testing Scam

by Coach Stephen on

pga drug testing

The PGA drug testing procedures, have you heard about them?

Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) have been getting a lot of attention lately, and with good reason.  The Summer Olympics and the whole Lance Armstrong drama… just be glad this isn’t an issue in golf.

But wait a minute, Tour Professionals, take a piss in this cup… right NOW!

Many avid golf fans aren’t aware that the PGA started random drug testing for players back in 2008.  Since the policy has been implemented four years ago, there have been very few positive tests. That must mean that the Tours are “clean” and ensures a “level playing field”, right?

Not really.

In this post I’d like to share my insights into the world of PEDs, not from actual usage, but from numerous accounts from world class coaches who train world class athletes.  I’ll cover a few areas you may find interesting:

1) The shocking number of high level athletes that use some form of PEDs

2)  The different benefits of PEDs, and why golfers can benefit from using them in specific protocols

3) The absurdity of the way drug tests are conducted, and why a “clean” test only proves that you and your coaches aren’t idiots

I’ve had the privilege to intern with some of the greatest strength and conditioning coaches in the world.  These are the guys who have  Olympic medal totals from their athletes that number in the dozens.  I learned a lot from these experiences, including that I was totally naive to the widespread use of PEDs in elite competition, in almost every sport.  That was the real shocker, that a sport like tennis would have most of the professionals doping in some form or another (according to these coaches, who monitored the drug protocols closely with the “team pharmacist”, as it was relevant to the volume and intensity of  their training programs).

Why Would Tour Players Need Drugs?

You may be wondering why athletes like tennis players (or our favorite PGA Tour players) would use PEDs.  What would be the benefit to them?  This is the same question I asked these coaches.

After giving me a “you are so naive” eye-roll, they explained at length, how and why elite athletes use different types of PEDs.  I’ll spare you the eye-rolling and the lengthy monologue… here are the highlights:

There are a vast number of different PEDs, and athletes can use them for several reasons.  In tennis, there is real no off-season (this is the same reality for professional golf).

Also the sport has become far more “aggressive” in the past decade.  The players now use their entire body in every groundstroke, and their ability to sprint, stop and start has created substantial forces and stress on their bodies.  Of course, you have probably noticed the same trend in golf… nearly year-round play, and far more powerful swings.  So the number one way that certain PEDs would benefit these athletes is RECOVERY.

Yep, a golfer’s ability to recover from week after week of tournament play (which involves tremendous, repeated rotational power, and therefore stress on both the spinal and muscular systems of the body) is a major issue with the PGA Tour players.    That is not even taking into account the numerous other stressors these guys and gals face – traveling across time zones and the mental/emotional stress of competing at the highest level. Expediting your ability to recover from these stresses is a major advantage, meaning that you can train and compete more frequently.

But golfers don’t look like jacked up Bodybuilders, so how can they be doping with similar substances?

pga drug testing

Good question.

The answer:  It all depends on the amount of the PED used, and the type of training the athlete performs.  For example, a PGA Tour Player  may indeed use a testosterone substance similar to an NFL Player.  Because the goals are different (golfer wants to enhance recovery and get stronger/more powerful, without putting on a lot of muscle mass; while the football player needs to add 25 pounds of muscle in the off season), the amount of PEDs and type of training will be different.

Most of these drugs alone will not make you “bigger”.  It takes an intentional increase in  caloric consumption and specific forms of weight lifting that induce hypertrophy (bigger muscles).  When you combine those elements, you can indeed put on muscle size and strength.  But it is also possible to gain strength, and therefore power, without looking like a football player.  This is what a PGA Tour Player would do, if he were so inclined.

Let’s go back to the Olympics for a moment, because they use what are considered by most organizations to be the most strict and reliable drug tests for their athletes.  According to my numerous inside sources, this is nothing more than a brilliant marketing campaign.  The Olympic Committee wants you to believe that the games are clean, but in reality they need it to remain “dirty”.

Why?

Because if the Olympics were legitimately drug-free, you would rarely, if ever, see another Olympic or World record broken.  I know this sounds cynical.  I’m not making these statements just to get a rise out of some of you.  Rather, I’m just sharing what I have learned from numerous people “in the know”.  Most of the current records were set by athletes who were doping. To see them broken by truly drug-free athletes would be extremely unlikely.

So how do these coaches know that the Olympic Committee actually wants all athletes to have access to PEDs?

Another good question.

The answer:  They set it up to look like strenuous testing and enforcement,  but in reality only idiots get caught.  This is because they use what is called a “Stallion Sample”.  That simply means that they have a list of banned substances, and they test your blood to see if one of those substances is present.

But here’s the deal – it only takes a “team pharmacist” to slightly modify the molecular structure of the substance, and the athlete tests clean. All of the teams know the specific substances that are banned.  In fact, the Olympic Committee actually notifies them 8 years ahead of time, when they are going to add a substance to the banned list.  This is quite a buffer, and more than enough time to alter the PEDs enough to not show up.

Although it doesn’t happen often, there is one recent case where a world class athlete passed dozens of drug tests over many years, and later admitted to using PEDs to enhance her performance. Female sprinter Marion Jones won five medals in the 2000 Olympic Games, but forfeited them after her confession. Her team knew exactly how to use PEDs without getting caught, even with the gold standard testing procedures.  And in reality, so can any athlete with financial means.

pga drug testing

OK, so how does this apply to our beloved sport?

The PGA Drug Testing Is A Scam

IN MY OPINION:

There are absolutely professional golfers on Tour now who are intentionally using PEDs to gain an advantage.  Heck, I wish Jim Furyk would have had access to some simple beta-blockers instead of that toxic 5-Hour sludge – he might have been able to close all three tournaments late in the season, including the Ryder Cup!  Just joking… sort of.

The fact that the PGA Tour chooses to use urine samples (by far the easiest to pass) is an indication that they only want a clean image, and are not at all serious about drug testing.

Most fans will believe the sport is clean because 1) they don’t understand how the drugs would benefit the golfers 2) Tour players don’t look like professional wrestlers and 3) they are led to believe that the low-level drug testing procedures the PGA has chosen to use are stringent.  One of my coaches commented on urine testing by saying “They should just ASK the athletes if  they are using drugs, it would be just as effective and save tons of money”.

Of course, we like to think of golf being a few honest steps above most other sports.  After all, we call penalties on ourselves, for crying out loud!

On the other hand, let’s get real.  This game creates multi-millionaires.  I’m sure there are some players who would never intentionally use PEDs.  But I would bet everything I own that the number of players who are willing to cross that line is getting larger every year.

So my big question for you – Does it really matter?  Should REAL steps be taken to create a drug-free Tour (not entirely possible, but the testing can be improved from the joke it is now)?

Do you want your favorite golfers to be drug-free, or would you be happy just semi-believing they are?

Or should should doping be allowed, for any athlete 18 years old and up?

Let me know your thoughts by commenting below, and Get After Old Man Par!

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

John October 3, 2012 at

Hi,

Of course, all PGA golfers should avoid taking drugs because any drug you take harms your body in some way. There is not a pharmaceutical drug out there that has no side-effects. These are often serious and take a long time to develop.

Whether they test or not, taking drugs is cheating, like moving your ball in the rough to a better lie, or kicking it out of the rough!

However, there is a slim line between what is natural and what is not, in theory, but in practice I think we all know the difference between having protein drinks and testosterone drugs which definitely have side effects. (There are also some question marks about the effect of whey protein on male hormones, by the way).

Is money everything – that’s the real question here.

John

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Coach Stephen October 6, 2012 at

Hey John

Thanks for the comment. Yes, golf is considered a game of honesty and integrity. It gets tough when we consider that a great number of males over the age of 35 have low testosterone levels (which also have some serious side effects). Then we have to consider if an MD prescribes the hormones, in order to bring him back into “normal ranges” (which is between 220 – 800, last time I checked), should that be allowed.

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gene November 27, 2012 at

john in what universe does moving the ball relate to personal use of ped’s?

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John Brennen October 3, 2012 at

Great, great question(s). I have been involved in weight lifting, strength training for over 50yrs. Fair to say I have been witness to ‘magical’ transformations of individuals in less then a year. In my mind, all of it stupid and beyond counter productive. All you have to do is look at the pics of yesterday’s champion’s today and for the most part they appear to be emaciated old men who have aged well beyond their years and are receiving some sort of on going medical treatments to stay alive. In the world of pro golf, I wouldn’t doubt that if any ‘PED’s’ are used it would be more in the arena of recovery, rather then muscular development. However, I wouldn’t rule out the latter either, given the amount of money which is involved. I think a very interesting and enlightening show/documentary would be something on the order of how the pro golfers train and what they have to go through day after day. I doubt the Golf Channel would do that. Since they were taken over by NBC it seems as if it it’s run by tools<— my kind word for ass holes and continuing shows with drones sitting around a table all dressed up in their suits & ties, discussing a missed putt. I can only imagine the impact it would be if anyone brought up the subject of PED's.
I am quite sure that your request for comments on this subject will bring about a lot of names and finger pointing. I bet the number one candidate will be Tiger, in that yes, he is more muscular now, then he was 10-15yrs ago. Is it from hard work or PED's or both, who knows ? Again, a great subject, for which there is no conclusive answer.

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Coach Stephen October 6, 2012 at

Hey John – thanks for your comments. I’ll send our mutual request for a show in PEDs and Golf to NBC LOL. There is no doubt that someone like Tiger could put on 10-15 pounds in one off season without the use of drugs. The right food and training can go a long way. And many people think that I am saying that these PEDs are responsible for the success of a golfer. I’m not saying that at all. I could take PEDs by the bucket-full, and still never make it on Tour. The golfers on Tour are exceptional athletes, who work hard at their craft. That’s pretty much a given at that level of any sport. It is a question of how much the use of PEDs can further enhance their performance.

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John Brennen October 3, 2012 at

Addendum to my comments; No drugs, keep it clean.

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John Pelton October 3, 2012 at

I dont know why I am bothering to add a comment because the two previous comments are clearly from people who know what they are talking about so I agree wholeheartedly with them. No drugs.

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Coach Stephen October 6, 2012 at

John – thanks for commenting. I appreciate your reading the blog and participating.

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Bruce Porter Sr October 3, 2012 at

Its entertainment. Nothing more. I couldn’t care less. No more than I care about the rock star and drugs.
Let’s be honest….you’re sitting there looking at millions, or in Tiger’s place, billions of dollars……and all you gotta do is take this substance. All who would resist, go put on your saint garb, halo optional.
I’m not saying some don’t. I would like to believe I wouldn’t. But, especially in our society where looks, money, and status are everything we actually expect everything is clean??? Go back to your dooby.

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Coach Stephen October 6, 2012 at

Hey Bruce – calling it like you see it! Thanks for the comment. I agree that there are always going to be athletes looking for an extra advantage, especially when BIG money is on the line.

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Terry October 4, 2012 at

I would like to think that professional golf is, and remained drug-free, but looking at the body transformation of some of the golfers, I find it hard to believe that there is not at least some use of some drugs. On a related matter, in Australia, the national football game, Aussie Rules, the ruling body is more interested in testing for so-called “recreational drugs” than any other sort, and they have a 3 strikes policy before a player is outed anyway.

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Coach Stephen October 6, 2012 at

Hey Mate – Thanks for commenting from Australia. Keep in mind that there are plenty of benefits that the Tour guys can get from using PEDs, that will NOT result in building bigger pecs and biceps. I bet that is exactly what the PGA would like us to believe. By the way, the PGA is testing for marijuana, for whatever reason. I don’t know of any studies showing that it can enhance performance.

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Rick P October 5, 2012 at

I have no doubt there is and will be more of it as the money grows. Wished it wasn’t so but I’m
Must agree with the first two comments. Both very well written. Always disappointed when I think about it.

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Coach Stephen October 6, 2012 at

Hey Rick – thanks (as always) for your comments. It can be disappointing, indeed. Which is why, IMO, the PGA doesn’t want the fans to think about it. So far they have done a very good job at that.

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Robert Butler October 23, 2012 at

So, do we include the non-prescription anti-inflammatory I take before each game to minimise the effect of arthritis as a PED?
How about the sugar fix some guys chase with their lollies ?
just joking with the second one but not sure with the first one.

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Coach Stephen October 30, 2012 at

Hey Robert – Thanks for the comment. It really is a very slippery slope indeed! What about having surgery to improve eyesight? If that is allowed (which it currently is), then are ANY types of surgery going to be allowed? Good questions….

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David November 17, 2012 at

Love the forum so so far, this could take me out of my downer.
Look forward to another session and Q&A.

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David November 17, 2012 at

Very interesting and great comments have no idea of what any one would not be content with
these great performers and the pleasure they give us when they are in the arena.

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Sunil Patel January 15, 2013 at

Has Tiger Woods ever been seriously tested for PED’s. I would think not since golf is all about money before morals. If you can cheat on your wife, you can also cheat in other things.

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Coach Stephen June 5, 2013 at

Hello Sunil

Thanks for your comment. In reality, NONE of the Tour players are tested seriously. The PGA would like the public to believe that they are, but it’s quite a joke with the testing protocols that they implement.

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Jeff Pelizzaro February 20, 2013 at

Stephen,

Very interesting read. I’m sure it’s an eye opener for quite a few people.

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Coach Stephen February 21, 2013 at

Hey Jeff – thanks for checking out my blog. You put out solid info and instruction on your blog, and I often recommend posts from it to my golfers.

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Richard May 30, 2013 at

I am a senior player (79), play twice a week and my testosterone level is extremely low so I have been prescribed AndroGel 1.62%, applying once a day – Is this considered a PED?

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Coach Stephen June 5, 2013 at

Hello Richard

Thanks for reading the blog and for your question. Actually, it can get rather tricky with prescription drugs. It is my understanding that AndroGel or any other testosterone supplementation would indeed be banned from competition. Then again, corrective eye surgery is allowed, even though it is obviously a benefit. Will be interesting if they actually start testing the tour players stringently, and leveling out penalties.

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