This is part of a series of great golf arguments. We’ve asked Farrell Evans and Michael Bamberger to debate whether or not the Tour should test for steroids. After reading their arguments, tell us what you think in our forum.
Professional golf, at every level, should have drug-testing. It’s charmingly naive to think that no golfers — including the ones you see walk across your 55-inch screen on Sunday afternoons — are using performance-enhancing drugs. Please. Look how far they hit it. Look how big (some of them) are. Look at how much time they spend in the gym.
Drug use in sports is all about recovery. The players most attached to the gym are the players who have the biggest incentive to use. But the smaller players are not in the clear, either. You can have any physique you want with steroids and human grown hormone and “the clear” and “the cream” and all the rest. Right now, you might as well have every golfer in the game under suspicion because we have no way of knowing. And it’s not just muscle-and-gym drugs. What golfer wouldn’t want a drug for the head, or the nerves?
You want to say that golf is a game of honor, and you don’t need testing in a game of honor. It’s a quaint notion and a nice one, but not particularly true. Golf has a culture where players follow the rules in part because so many officials, professional and amateur, are watching. Your fellow competitor, an official of sorts, is watching. Millions of people on TV are watching. Cheat even once and you’re a pariah forever. Most golfers aren’t willing to risk becoming an outcast.
At the end of the round you sign your card to say you’ve counted your strokes correctly, and most of the time you have. But if you’ve been using performance-enhancing drugs, are you really counting your strokes correctly? Some would say yes, but most would say no.
The health of professional golf is rooted in one thing above all others: we believe the scores. The equation is so simple: four hours of work (plus so many more hours of practice) yields some score. For now, we continue to believe the scores are the byproduct of talent and effort. For now, they are about as pure as anything in all of sport.
If the drug testing is thorough, we will continue to believe. But without drug testing, we won’t know if creams and needles and pills could be helping to produce the scores, and the whole system falls apart.
We have to believe in the scores and the men and women who produce them. People, in general, are inclined to lie. Rigorous drug testing will keep professional golfers honest.