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Greg Norman Calls for Blood Testing in Golf

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Greg Norman went all in on drug testing in golf over the weekend.  Norman says golf's anti-doping procedures are "disgraceful" and blood testing needs to be instituted as soon as possible. He told the Australian that it's really a simple process:


"You only have to look at what happened to Vijay Singh just recently to know the drugs issue is there," Norman told The Australian newspaper on Monday.

Singh acknowledged in a magazine interview in January that he had used deer antler spray, which contains a muscle-building hormone banned by the PGA Tour. It can be detected only by blood tests.

"How deep it is (the problem), I have no idea because we only do urine analysis instead of blood testing," Norman said. "If you really want to be serious about it and find about what's really going on, we need to do blood testing. I think it's disgraceful, to tell you the truth. The golf associations have to get together and step it up.

"It's a pinprick for a player and you find out what's going on. If you're the head of golf or any sport, if you're the commissioner for a sport, it's your responsibility to make sure your sport is clean. ... That should be your No. 1 priority."

The Aussie golf great was back in his home country this weekend for his golf-course design work.

"Any sportsman or sportswoman who uses an outside agency to improve their skills is cheating," Norman said. "It sickens me. They're putting a black eye on their sport. If a sport gets itself clean, the corporate dollars will always be there because people will know it's a sport they can trust. The rest will take care of itself."



post #2 of 11

There he goes again, trying to stay relevant.

post #3 of 11

So I'll be the first one to ask the question - What impact do PED's have on golf?  The use of "muscle building" drugs (steroids) for strength oriented events (US football, field events, swimming) would be self evident.  EPO or other "blood doping" drugs for distance events (running, cycling, swimming) as well.  But are the demands of tournament golf such that use of these types of drugs would be to a player's advantage?  Certainly being a "fitter" versus less fit golfer would help - but that sort of level of fitness could be achieved with a routine fitness program. 


Perhaps there are other PED's that would benefit a golfer more - anxiety control, focus and concentration (if there's a drug for that I'd like some!).  But purely physical advantage seems tenuous to me - great golfers come in all shapes and sizes (as do bad golfers).  So what would an enhanced testing program be aimed at?

post #4 of 11
Originally Posted by zipazoid View Post

There he goes again, trying to stay relevant.

My thoughts exactly, Norman can't handle going too long without seeing his name in the media.  As for testing, if the PGA Tour wants to be serious about eliminating PEDS from the sport then they not only have to adopt blood testing, but also random testing.  Anyone can pass a PEDS test if given enough notice. 


There are some questions and issues that would have to be answered to determine how serious the PGA Tour is about eliminating PEDS;

  • Who pays for the testing?  Random testing for the PGA and web.com tour would get pretty expensive, especially if they test for HGH. 
  • Would testing be limited to PEDS or expanded to recreational drugs too?
  • Are all players tested or just those playing a full schedule for the PGA Tour?
  • What's the penalty for missing a scheduled test or refusing to participate?
  • How often will the tests be administered?
  • Will the Euro Tour follow suit and require random blood tests as well?
post #5 of 11

Is Norman correct in saying 'it's only a pin prick on the finger'?  Seems that if the testing is going to search for many kinds of drugs, including hormones, then more than just a drop of blood will be needed.  I've been to labs and the tech punctures my arm vein and sucks up 3 or 4 tubes of the red stuff.  Well, if i had to play in one hour for the championship. i might object mightily. 

post #6 of 11
Is there another sport where top athletes not uncommonly peak in their 30s or 40s? That's a lot of golf and a lot of years playing and practicing Lot of repetitive stress on the joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles. I think drug use among golfers is more to keep the body going rather than to obtain a competitive advantage. It doesn't bother me a whit that Vijay wanted to increase his HGH, any more it bothers me that a golfer has surgery or uses acupuncture or pricey food supplements or wears one of those copper bracelets. (Maybe it should bother Vijay's potential competitors on the senior tour, but they are probably trying to reach a similar end with diet or weight lifting or whatever.)
post #7 of 11

I don't have a firm opinion one-way or another on this particular topic, but as a forensic toxicologist with too many years of experience in controlled substance-testing both in civil (workplace) and criminal cases, I do have an opinion on their suggested approach here, so I'll say this much . . .


Traditionally, blood testing was reserved for instances where 'time-specific' altered- or impaired- behavior of the subject was the issue at-hand (e.g. DUI/DWI in a vehicular manslaughter or other negligent homicide, unattended death/suicide investigations or coroners inquest, etc.). In most other cases however, breath analysis, urinalysis, even hair and saliva analyses proved convenient, expeditious and sufficient in protecting worker or public safety. That all changed with the advent of steroid abuse. Not only are steroids (and their key metabolites) difficult to detect by traditional means, they are also therapeutic (pharmacologically active) at extremely low concentrations in blood or urine, relative to the typical drug of abuse (e.g., cocaine, methamphetamine, etc.). This makes them a somewhat problematic group of analytes, and the U.S Olympic Committee learned that firsthand back in the late 80's. 


Personally, if I'm the high-commissioner of golf, I don't much care about when a given subject was exposed to the controlled substance or illicit drug (be it anabolic steroid or otherwise), unless his/her actions were somehow 'time-sensitive' in nature, and let's face it, golf really ain't that. Some, like flamboyant boxer Floyd Mayweather, Jr., might argue that boxing matches or golf tournaments are in-fact "time-sensitive", but in the target case of steroids, are they, really? We're not talking here about the incidental, fast-acting influence of stimulants or depressants like amphetamines, cocaine, or ethyl alcohol on one's momentary driving ability. Rather, we're talking about the prolonged, chronic, low-level use/abuse of steroids and their purported influence on athletic prowess, and those are two radically different animals altogether.


How long ago the exposure occurred, how long a given drug is detectable, and in what specific biological matrices (blood or urine), should really be the only controlling factors in deciding whether to mandate blood vs. urine testing, and this evaluation in-turn hinges largely on the principal of "half-life" (or how long the drug is detectable in practical terms). As a commissioner or regulator of an athletic competition, if steroids are my chief concern, all that I should really care about, is whether the competitor in-question has been exposed to the regulated substance in his or her recent (perhaps 72-hour) history. Arguably, the use of blood for detecting the presence or absence of the parent steroid serves little to no purpose in this instance (i.e., detection of key metabolites hours or days after exposure via urinalysis is sufficiently incriminating in my view).


By example, when injected intravenously, heroin rapidly metabolizes to 6-mono-acetyl morphine (6-MAM), which then metabolizes to morphine and codeine, and those in-turn to still other (or further) opiates, and so-on. But the actual half-life of heroin itself (the parent drug) in whole blood, is typically less than 50-seconds. In other words, less than 1/100th of the initial dosage is present just ten-minutes later. So what good does it do me to test for it in blood? Or for that matter 6-MAM? They're both too short-lived! Unless the alleged infraction or crime was less than a couple of minutes ago, I've got no real chance of ever seeing it. Since the half-life of most drugs in blood (including steroids) is on the order of minutes or hours (not days or weeks), and since primary metabolites (in most cases) are more readily detected than the parent drug itself, its a non-starter. The parent drug continues to metabolize, and forensically significant metabolites continue to enter and pool-up (becoming more concentrated) in the individual's bladder for periods of up to 72-hours. So I say . . . who needs blood? Shoots, give me urine! Heroin or cocaine, androgens or estrogens, one-time abuser or frequent flyer, I''ll get it done perfectly well with pee-pee, baby! However, in the event that my preliminary results yield a confirmed positive in your urine, I'm likely to take a second run at you for a more invasive blood sample, and I'd then have probable cause to do.

Anyway, that's my 2-cents, but you didn't hear any of this from me! And if you try to say so, I'll deny it, most vehemently! a2_wink.gif

post #8 of 11
Originally Posted by zipazoid View Post

There he goes again, trying to stay relevant.

He was asked first.
post #9 of 11

With a guy like Vijay who is aging but still puts in long practice hours the recovery advantages to certain PED's could be pretty significant. I'm guessing his use was more about that than trying to get an extra 10-yards on the long par fives.

post #10 of 11

Thanks Watermark for the expert commentary.


As to Greg:  All I say is "you first Greg!".  It is just like when politicians call for drug testing for everything under the sun.  I would say fine as long as all the politicians take the same drug test first.

post #11 of 11
Originally Posted by boogielicious View Post

Thanks Watermark for the expert commentary.


Automatic! And you're quite welcome. It was probably far more information than anyone could have ever wanted or needed, but if nothing else, it should serve to underscore the lack of logical reasoning that often accompanies regulatory decisions of this type. The fact is, often times, the top-end programmatic decision-makers, are grossly ill-informed or downright ignorant of the relevant limitations in testing and pharmacology, making them the wrong people to be making such decisions. That's the basic point to be made.

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