Tour and News

Doug Barron files lawsuit against PGA Tour

Photo: Dave Martin/Getty Images

"This was never a case of a guy in a back room taking creams or using needles," said Art Horne, Doug Barron's agent.

Doug Barron, who sued the PGA Tour on Thursday after becoming the first player to run afoul of the circuit's new anti-doping measures, is still waiting to find out if his hopes of playing in the Tour's annual qualifying tournament will be derailed by a one-year suspension.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Tu Pham heard more than three hours of argument in Memphis federal court Friday, and said he would make his decision by early Saturday, according to a report by the Associated Press. But as of Sunday afternoon, there was still no word from the judge.

Rich Young, an attorney for the Tour, called Barron's testosterone level within the normal range and accused the golfer of using supplemental testosterone, which he called "the granddaddy of anabolic steroids," according to AP. He added that beta-blockers, which Barron also tested positive for, can be used to calm an athlete's jittery nerves and thus also constitute an unfair advantage.

Barron contends both drugs are medically necessary. He was in Houston on Friday preparing for the second stage of Q school, but his wife, Leslie, was in court as plaintiff's attorney Jeffrey Rosenblum made the case that Barron is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to AP.

Low testosterone, Rosenblum said, "impairs a major life activity and that is intimacy with your wife." The Barrons have two children.

The beta-blockers, according to Barron's lawsuit, were to control anxiety brought on by a heart condition.

Barron tested positive at the St. Jude Classic last June, his only start on the PGA Tour in 2009. He missed the cut. His suspension was announced Nov. 2.

Barron's suit, which was filed Thursday in Shelby County (Memphis), Tenn., seeks unspecified monetary damages and a temporary restraining order against the Tour that would allow him to play in the second stage of Q school in Houston, Nov. 18-21.

The preliminary hearing with Rosenblum and representatives of the Tour was scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday but ran later than expected.

The lawsuit was first reported on Golf.com on Thursday night.

"This was never a case of a guy in a back room taking creams or using needles," said Art Horne, his agent. "This was a guy taking what was prescribed to him by medical doctors for conditions that others have been given exemptions for. We feel Doug has been treated unfairly."

The 29-page complaint claims that Barron has been taking beta-blockers since he was diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse in 1987. Barron has long suffered from anxiety attacks thought to be brought on by his heart condition, a fact that was widely known on Tour and that he shared with at least one reporter.

The suit contends that he was also diagnosed in 2005 with abnormally low testosterone, with a reading of only 78, well below the normal range for his age. The condition affects fellow Tour pro Shaun Micheel, among others, and leads to feelings of lethargy and depression.

After an arduous four-month medical-review process, Micheel was granted a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for testosterone cream, according to his agent, Alan Bullington. A TUE allows a player to continue using a banned substance for legitimate medical reasons.

Barron applied for a TUE for the beta-blocker, Propranolol, and testosterone in June of 2008, before the Tour's testing policy went into effect. The suit says that the Tour denied the beta-blocker application on Oct. 10, 2008, and that Commissioner Tim Finchem denied an appeal on Oct. 22. The Tour denied his application for the testosterone exemption on Jan. 20, 2009, according to the suit.

The suit also says that Barron "believes that there may be one or more golfers who have tested positive for illegal drugs, such as marijuana," but that the Tour has failed to punish or publicized those results.

By the time Barron tested positive for prescribed substances on June 11, during the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, he was complying with the Tour's October 2008 order to wean himself off Propranolol, the suit contends.

He also claims he was getting off testosterone, as the Tour told him to do in January of this year, after denying his final TUE application. Although he stopped taking monthly injections in October 2008, he had a one-time shot last June.

"He was told very clearly, 'You are not to use testosterone,'" said Young, the attorney for the Tour, in Friday's hearing. "To get ready for the St. Jude Classic he got a shot."

Barron is now off Propranolol in favor of a similar but conforming drug, Horne said.

Many Tour-watchers have believed from the start that Barron, an unimposing 40-year-old without a victory, inadvertently broke the rules.

"I think it's a complete misunderstanding," said Grant Robbins, who played junior golf with Barron and is now the head golf coach at the University of Memphis. "I know Doug very well and he would not do anything to cheat or jeopardize his status with the PGA Tour."

By invoking the Americans with Disabilities Act, Barron's case brings back memories of Casey Martin, the golfer who went to court to win the right to ride a cart in competition.

The discovery process in such cases could force the Tour to name the players who have been granted therapeutic use exemptions.

At no time did Barron's doctors attempt to increase Barron's testosterone above the normal range, his suit contends, and so the Tour's statement that he tested positive for "performance-enhancing substances" was false, defamatory and made with "reckless disregard for the entire truth."

Barron's 170-pound frame before and after his testosterone injections, and his unspectacular results, are proof that his performance was not enhanced, the complaint says.

Clay Homan, who played college golf with Barron and now coaches the Mississippi State team, said: "Doug called me the night before this all came out. He said he couldn't go into detail, but that the truth would come out and his side of the story would be told."

 

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