There is constant speculation of players using performance enhancing drugs on the PGA tour. Rumors of players juicing before competition started when a new name entered the winner’s circle; Tiger Woods took over the golfing world with his dominating performances starting in the early 2000’s. Thoughts of how a player could win over 25% of every tournament they entered without cheating were hard to find believable. As all players on the PGA tour lower their scoring averages, become stronger, and more athletic, speculation and doubts are at an all time high.
While the topic of golfers using performance enhancers eventually settled down, a new face on tour appeared, Rory Mcilroy. During his rookie year in 2010, Rory’s scrawny body was far from speculation of using performance enhancing drugs. However by the early 2013 playing season, Mcilroy gained twenty pounds of muscle and lost fifteen pounds of fat in two months (Madden). As heads were turned during this dramatic change in body mass fans, the media, and other PGA players began to talk about the possibility of Mcilroy using performance enhancing drugs. In the middle of the heated headline of performance enhancers, Mcilroy himself stated, “I could use HGH and get away with it” (Madden). This incident is not the only head turning event that happened to draw attention to the lack of drug testing on the PGA tour. Vijay Singh, former world number one and three time major champion, was caught using the muscle increaser IGF-1, better known as Deer Antler Spray (Nicholson). While caught using IGF-1 to reduce injury recovery time, Vijay Singh was not suspended as the PGA ruled Singh’s case accidental (Nicholson). Singh’s ruling raised many concerns as IGF-1 is banned by all four major sports. The question of how many other players were using PGA tour drug testing loopholes to get ahead of the competition began to emerge.
Golf is on the same level of other sports in many ways including competition, fanbase, and television ratings, but drastically falls behind when it comes to drug testing. The PGA tour has had just nine banned substances since 2008, the least amount of banned substances of all national sport substance abuse policies. While the PGA has nine banned substances, the Major League Baseball’s substance abuse policy carries 115 and growing banned substances (Carter). As the PGA continues to have nine banned substances for nearly a decade, players on tour know exactly what the tests results will be before the actual tests are done. Due to this hundreds of the top golfers in the world may be using performance enhancers before every tournament and are not caught.
Unlike the PGA tour, all four major sports (NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB) have increasing private substance abuse lists. As the NFL has 192 banned substances, one of which being Singh’s drug of choice IGF-1, Ray Lewis, a former NFL player with thirteen NFL Pro Bowl appearances was handed a six game suspension and a $25,000 fine for using IGF-1. Players in the four major sports are held accountable for their drug abuse actions and gives the competition a sense of relief knowing there are no cheaters among them. As the NFL’s drug abuse policy is revamped with newer drugs every year, the PGA tour has unprofessionally chosen to look the other way from the improved sciences and technology of the vastly growing drug industry. In 2015 the MLB issued 528 random drug tests to players on active MLB rosters, this destroys the PGA’s embarrassing number of three random drug tests in 2015 (Stark). One of the most infamous players in MLB history, Alex Rodriguez, a former New York Yankee, tested positive to a human growth hormone steroid known as Primobolan after testing took place in the MLB (John). This type of steroid is banned by all four major sports but is not tested for on the PGA tour. The lack of testing on the PGA has given fans and the media doubts if all players are becoming stronger and more athletic in naturally and morally efficient ways.
Many people believe that the lack of drug testing on the PGA tour relates directly to the fact that it is a non-contact sport. However, this is found to be untrue as for there are multiple non-contact sports to have substantial drug testing policies. Cycling tests for over 75 banned drugs through their athlete’s blood and urine. This heavily outnumbers the banned substances on the PGA tour. Lance Armstrong, the seven time Tour de France winner was caught using three banned substances including Cortisone, Testosterone, and Erythropoietin (MacKinnon). Attention was brought to the PGA tour after Armstrong’s case due to two of these three drugs not even being tested for and banned in their athletes. After consideration for adjustment of the PGA’s banned substance policy, the PGA committee decided to leave these substances off of their banned list to protect the image and sponsorships of tour members.
Recently Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from cycling for life. This drew a large amount of controversy because of his dominance in the sport. Such a controversial decision in the world of sports led to a questioning of performance enhancing drugs to every sport, especially another non-contact sport in golf. The possibility of having winners on the PGA tour using the exact same drugs as Lance Armstrong brought the idea of cheaters ruling the sport of golf. However, the answer if winners on the PGA tour are using performance enhancing drugs will never be answered if drug testing does not increase. Furthermore, if testing did increase and players who won previously were caught using drugs, would there wins be stripped from them is a question nobody can answer.
With the technology in this modern age, the large question of why there is not major drug testing regulations on the PGA tour is constantly being asked throughout the world of sports. There are a few critical reasons why the PGA committee has been putting an increase in drug testing on the back burner. Firstly, in all four major sports there are off and on schedules with times of breaks and off seasons during their sports. In golf however there is not an off season, with tournaments happening every week. As a result of the lack of breaks in the season, there is a not a time the PGA can drug testing heavily, as for all HGH and PED drug testing requires a blood and urine sample. With the lack of surprise in the golfing schedule, players on tour would be able to drain their systems of all banned performance enhancing drugs before the tests would be taken. Another reason why drug testing on the PGA tour has not been increased to keep up with new drugs and technology is because of the major issue of injury to the arm while getting blood drawn for tests. Former world number one Rory Mcilroy explained this issue by saying “I’m all for more testing, I don’t think they should blood-test at tournaments. If you’ve ever had a needle in here [pointing to his arm], you get a dead arm for a day” (Madden). The inability to test players on a random schedule and without damaging their arm for the playing day, the PGA tour committee has been at a stalemate for the past decade.
The longer time passes with the increases in technology and new drugs constantly being formed, the PGA tour is falling further and further behind the sports drug testing standards. Those who are in favor of an increase in drug testing on the PGA tour back their positions by using scientific data and proven cases in lack of involvement by the PGA tour itself. Those who are in favor of remaining the drug testing to a minimum on the PGA tour defend their positions by following the honor code of the game of golf and the integrity that it carries throughout the sport. The PGA tour is unique among professional sports leagues in that the commissioner serves at the pleasure not of the owners but of the players. The only way there will be a change of drug testing in the game of golf is if there is a change and outcry among the players on tour. If enough players find the drug testing loopholes to be a problem they have the power and they will make a difference.