Does the PGA’s PED Policy Need Fixing?

Each week, writers from Golf Magazine and Sports Illustrated share their golf-related opinions. The only thing better than one hot take are several, so let’s get right to it. Up first is a discussion of pro golf’s PED policy and the transparency of punishment.

Last year, the PGA Tour suspended Scott Stallings for violating the organization’s drug policy. Now, Stallings has revealed the issues he has with the PGA Tour’s anti-doping program. The Pro Golfer, who was advised by his physician to take the DHEA hormone to remedy his low testosterone levels, did not know the PGA Tour had listed the over-the-counter supplement as a banned substance. He admits that he should have done some more research about the supplement; that rules are rules. But his biggest problem is his treatment post-punishment.  Like any organization, the PGA Tour takes its anti-doping regulations seriously. Yet Stallings felt he was being made out to be a “bad guy” (for what was an accidental use of PEDs), while those caught using recreational drugs are kept anonymous. DHEA is available at most local pharmacies; most recreational drugs will land you in jail. The sportswriters took to their emails to share their views on the situation.

Pete Madden of Golf.com thinks that the Tour’s anti-doping program needs serious work. As it stands now, he argues, the program is only there by a formality. By his calculations, only one player has been “legitimately suspended” in the eight years since its introduction in 2008. Because the Tour doesn’t conduct blood tests, its guidelines are near unenforceable.

Jeff Ritter of Sports Illustrated Golf Group has a similar take. For years, the PGA has kept player discipline private. But when it comes to rules and sports, that cannot be the case. The lack of transparency means that PGA executives have no reason to prove their consistency in enforcing the rules. That inconsistency is by nature unfair. As long as unfairness persists, every punishment will come under scrutiny. SI’s Alan Shipnuck says that Stallings alone was to blame for his suspension, and under the current rules (imperfect or not) it is justified. But in his view, that justification was no excuse for the PR fury that followed.

Golf’s Senior Editor Joe Passov was quick to point out how this problem translates to other sports. Besides supporting the opinions of Ritter and Shipnuck, he finds some solace in the integrity of the PGA Tour after learning of the IOC’s decision to not totally ban Russia from competition in the upcoming Olympic Games. He also is puzzled by the perceived lack of incentive for admitting mistakes before they’re discovered. Stallings, who came forward after his rule-breaking action, was demonized anyway. If that’s the case each time, there’s no reason to be honest about one’s wrongdoings— you’ll get the same reaction whether you hide or come forward. Is that the kind of culture the PGA Tour wants?

What do you think? Share your thoughts below!

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