Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A red flag but what does it mean?

When it was announced recently that Doug Barron had earned the distinction of becoming the first PGA Tour player to test positive for performance-enhancing drugs, it drew an interesting reaction.

There wasn't much of one.

It's probably because only die-hard professional golf fans are familiar with Barron -- he hasn't spent many Sunday afternoons on camera -- and what's left of the golf season has been buried beneath the World Series, pro and college football and the ongoing angst surrounding the break-up of Jon and Kate.

Once the Tour and its players decided to have testing, it was inevitable someone would be red-flagged. That it was Barron, who didn't make a cut in four Nationwide and one PGA Tour start this year, came as a mild surprise. But given the tour's general insistence that there is no PED problem, it would be head-turning regardless of whose name first popped up.

Barron, if you don't know, is a 40-year old whose game has gone away. He's made less than $2,000 in his last 16 starts and breaking par has been as difficult for him as it is for the average 10-handicap.

The tour and Barron were suitably vague in announcing the positive test and the suspension that accompanies the result. No one's saying what Barron tested positive for and it's unlikely anyone will.

If you were expecting the drug testing policy to expose some muscle-bound bomber you're disappointed. Barron looks like a lot of 40-year old guys who haven't spent enough time in the gym.

He's had health problems, say people who know him. Maybe that factors into the positive test.

What does it say about professional golf? Not much. If someone wants to avoid detection, there are ways to do it.

If there's a problem with performance enhancing drugs in professional golf, I'd be surprised. Commissioner Tim Finchem initially wasn't for drug testing because he said, in essence, there was no need.

Barron's case doesn't necessarily validate the testing. It hardly moved the public opinion needle. It's the first positive test since the program began more than a year ago.

If it were someone else, the reaction would probably be different. So might the attention.


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