I'm serving a one-year suspension on the PGA Tour, and three weeks ago I got a letter from the USGA informing me that my Tour ban will keep me out of U.S.Â Open qualifying, too. My crime? Bad genetics.
I'm 40 and have played in 338 events on the PGA and Nationwide tours, earning $3.2Â million. I've been taking propanolol, a Âbeta-blocker, since 1987, when I was found to have mitral valve prolapse, a heart condition. In 2005 low testosterone was diagnosed, and I began taking synthetic testosterone.
My last full year on Tour was 2006, but when the Tour announced its drug–testing policy in 2008, I applied for a Therapeutic Use Exemption, or TUE. The Tour's physician looked at my records and ruled that my testosterone level of 296 was within the Tour's normal range. My doctors disagree. So does the Food and Drug Administration, which calls a level of 400 low for a man my age.
I haven't changed much. I weighed 165 before 2005 and I weigh 165 now. My Âdriving-distance average has gone up exactly .8 of a yard. Last year, against doctors' orders, I stopped taking testosterone and began weaning myself off propanolol. Without the supplemental hormones my testosterone level dropped, my sex drive and energy flatlined, and my concentration waned.
I played four Nationwide events early in 2009 and was never tested (I think because officials knew about my condition). In June, I received a sponsor's exemption to the Tour's St.Â Jude Classic. As the tournament approached, I was so depleted I could hardly get out of bed, so I took a shot of testosterone. I knew I was tempting fate.
I shot 72 in the first round, and was then asked to supply a urine sample. Last November, I was notified that I'd tested positive. I was suspended and blocked from QÂ school. I planned to appeal, but commissioner Tim Finchem, the sole arbiter in such cases, told me I'd never win.
Other players have reportedly received TUEs. Why? What are their levels and what are they taking? I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but one Tour round, one drug test, for a guy with a widely known issue, didn't feel right. Was I being made an example?
I've filed a federal lawsuit,and my lawyers are negotiating with the Tour in an attempt to settle the case. If they don't succeed by the end of this month, the suit will proceed and the Tour may have to reveal the results of every drug test it has administered and what TUEs it has granted.
My peers have been supportive. They know I'm not looking to start a witch hunt. All I'm trying to do is clear my name and ensure that the Tour creates a transparent process so that all players with legitimate medical issues are treated equally.