FanDuel - WFBC

December 05, 2009

Golfer Challenges PGA Ban on Testosterone, Beta Blockers: Doug Barron, a PGA journeyman who in November became the first player ever suspended for doping, has filed a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act challenging the ban on synthetic testosterone and beta blockers. Barron, 40, has taken the blockers to treat a heart condition since 1987 and synthetic testosterone because he was diagnosed with a low testosterone count. "I was a 35-year-old man who, you know, wants to be living like a 35-year-old man," he said of the second treatment. "It wasn't easy on me or my wife."

posted by rcade to golf at 10:33 AM - 20 comments

Interesting case. At some point, the black and white rules on PE drugs is going to be blurred to gray and I wonder if this is the case to do it. His testosterone levels sound reasonable, however if someone's testosterone levels were, say, at 250, would it be okay to raise them to the upper level of the acceptable range? I don't know.

posted by dfleming at 12:29 PM on December 05

Well, that's fine that you need these treatments and all, but you wouldn't be the first person who can't work in a particular job (like, say, flying planes) because of medications you legitimately take.

posted by rodgerd at 12:38 PM on December 05

There should be medical exceptions, particularly with drugs like beta blockers that don't appear to offer any performance enhancement. A lot of people are treated for high blood pressure in this country, even from a young age. Why should that disqualify them from a chance to compete in pro golf?

posted by rcade at 12:45 PM on December 05

beta blockers that don't appear to offer any performance enhancement

They do provide a performance enhancement. Professional billiards players aren't allowed to use them because they, essentially, reduce the muscle tremors and sharpen focus that help with shot-making.

The same could be applied to golfers when they putt.

That said, I think he's got a legitimate case if he's been on them since 1987.

posted by grum@work at 01:17 PM on December 05

Just because Barron hasn't set the golfing world on fire doesn't mean they're not performance enhancing (as grum points out, beta blockers would have a beneficial effect on most golfers).

It's the old argument about PEDs - if his use of beta blockers for his condition brings his body to the same condition as a "normal" person, then fine. But there's no way to measure that. I feel for him - he's just been making a living (in golfing terms) - and from what I can gather, he didn't intend to cheat. But now he's branded the first ever to fail a golfing drug test.

That said, as rodgerd said, it might just have to be one of those things that it's unfortunate, but if you have to take those drugs, you can't do the job you want to do.

posted by JJ at 04:04 PM on December 05

If medically he needs these substances,he should be allowed to use them.Is no different than using eyeglasses.They make the golfer see better and so bring them to standard.One can say they are a special advantage.Are special clearer glasses permitted in competition?.I do not know but to me thay are an enhancement to the normal individual.Barron should be given a medical exception.

posted by ogomezmontes at 04:17 PM on December 05

There should be medical exceptions

Why? There never have been. Athletes with asthma can't take asthma medication and compete in anything that has oversight by WADA or its various national spinoffs. There never have been so-called "medical exceptions", so why should they start now?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 08:15 PM on December 05

Why not? As more drugs become available for preventative medicine and screening gets better, more and more young people will be on them. A friend's been on beta blockers since his early 20s. Should all people who fall into that category be barred from pro sports, or should sports make reasonable accommodations for them when the reason for taking them is clearly medical and not to gain any advantage?

posted by rcade at 10:16 PM on December 05

Should all people who fall into that category be barred from pro sports

Why not? They always have been. The argument that meds are better these days is specious: there have been effective meds for many conditions for many years that were still banned as PEDs by WADA and its spawn. Where was the outrage and the calls for reform then? Answer: nowhere. How is this any different now? Answer: it's not. The "black and white rules" that dfleming refers to have always ignored the fact that reality consists of gray areas. I'm no lawyer, but I fail to see how this guy has a legal case for himself, let alone anything that would have a chance of overturning decades of practice.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 07:43 AM on December 06

There never have been so-called "medical exceptions", so why should they start now?

For one, our knowledge of medicine is always increasing and as a result, we ought to go back and look at some of the assumptions involved in the black and white rules and see if they're as valid as they once were.

Second, screening is a lot better now than it even was ten years ago. We can better understand who is physically deficient and who is simply tipping the scales. I'm not sure we need to be so black and white because we've got a clearer look at what's running through the body.

Third, there's simply the argument that if we really believed that it should be what nature intended, we'd not allow things like knee replacements, ligament surgeries, eyeglasses and reconstruction surgeries of any kind. We're already in the realm of what is gray anatomically, why not approach the physiological with the same set of rules?

It's not that I think these arguments necessarily merit an exception now, but I think the sporting world needs to have these discussions to develop into the future.

posted by dfleming at 09:25 AM on December 06

For one, our knowledge of medicine is always increasing and as a result, we ought to go back and look at some of the assumptions involved in the black and white rules and see if they're as valid as they once were.

I agree that that would be reasonable, but again, "we" (meaning the testing authorities) have never been reasonable in the past, when "we" had knowledge of medicine that was sufficient to justify* a medical exemption. Why start now?

Second, screening is a lot better now than it even was ten years ago. We can better understand who is physically deficient and who is simply tipping the scales. I'm not sure we need to be so black and white because we've got a clearer look at what's running through the body.

I don't accept this as a blanket assertion, and if I don't, I know WADA won't. Remember that WADA has a very nice careerist racket set up right now. Creating a system of exemptions would mean more work for them, as they would have to identify the specific substances for which an exemption could be granted, and then quantify the conditions under which that would be done. Why would they put themselves through that? They hold all the cards, and they are under no pressure to change the status quo. They have created a system of "guilty until proven innocent"** that is entrenched and unquestionable at this point, and they have said "tough shit" to any number of athletes who had medical needs for banned substances. Don't hold your breath waiting for them to change.

Third, there's simply the argument that if we really believed that it should be what nature intended, we'd not allow things like knee replacements, ligament surgeries, eyeglasses and reconstruction surgeries of any kind. We're already in the realm of what is gray anatomically, why not approach the physiological with the same set of rules?

Because PED regulations are not now and never have been about "what nature intended", or fairness, or a level playing field, or any of that bushwah. Their sole intent, at their inception, was to create a deterrent to the use of substances or practices that are both performance-enhancing and harmful to the athlete's health. An athlete is not harmed by using eyeglasses; he/she is harmed by taking anabolic steroids. That is the rationale for banning them.

It's not that I think these arguments necessarily merit an exception now, but I think the sporting world needs to have these discussions to develop into the future.

I sort of agree, but I think the discussion needed to take place fifteen or twenty years ago. At this point, the horse has left the barn.

* ...justify to a reasonable person, that is. To a WADA fanatic? Eh maybe not.

** This is no exaggeration. In sports regulated by WADA and its offshoots, each athlete must prove his/her innocence on demand by providing a clean sample. If a sample tests positive, WADA has no obligation to determine how it got that way, and the athlete is automatically guilty. The only recourse that the athlete has is if they can come up with a smoking-gun proof that the sample was contaminated.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 07:38 PM on December 06

Why? There never have been.

The same can be said about Casey Martin and his use of a golf cart. He fought with the PGA for years for the approval to use a golf cart to get around while playing because of his disability and the case was taken to the Supreme Court who ruled in Martin's favor.

If Doug Barron has been taking beta blockers since 1987 to treat a heart condition, I don't see a legitimate reason as to why he's being challenged now by the PGA. No disrespect to him but it's not like he's actually challenging Tiger for the #1 spot year after year. I honestly didn't even know about Doug Barron until this story came out. Sure, I may have seen him playing on television but he's not someone who I made a point to watch.

posted by BornIcon at 01:14 PM on December 07

If Doug Barron has been taking beta blockers since 1987 to treat a heart condition, I don't see a legitimate reason as to why he's being challenged now by the PGA.

He's being "challenged" now because he tested outside acceptable limits on a recent test. It's the same reason that any athlete is "challenged" under PED regs: because they got caught.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 03:36 PM on December 07

It's the same reason that any athlete is "challenged" under PED regs: because they got caught.

Barron is doing the same thing he's been doing since 1987. The thing that's changed here is that the PGA is now testing for beta blockers. Since that's new, I think the burden falls on the PGA to justify why medicine that he's taken for 22 years to save his life is now illegal for golfers to take.

Do they have the same rule on the Champions tour? I would imagine that quite a few of its golfers suffer from high blood pressure.

posted by rcade at 04:11 PM on December 07

Barron is doing the same thing he's been doing since 1987. The thing that's changed here is that the PGA is now testing for beta blockers. Since that's new, I think the burden falls on the PGA to justify why medicine that he's taken for 22 years to save his life is now illegal for golfers to take.

Feel free to think that. It doesn't work that way. They can set whatever rules they want for playing in their sandbox, and change them whenever and however they feel like. You don't like the rules? Find another sandbox to play in.

You guys are making an argument of rationality and common sense and a reasonable amount of compassion. None of that has anything to do with PED regulations. Don't expect that to change as a result of this suit.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 08:49 PM on December 07

They can set whatever rules they want for playing in their sandbox, and change them whenever and however they feel like.

You could've said the same thing about Casey Martin.

posted by rcade at 10:36 PM on December 07

You guys are making an argument of rationality and common sense and a reasonable amount of compassion. None of that has anything to do with PED regulations.

... or the PGA Tour.

posted by JJ at 04:55 AM on December 08

rcade:

You could've said the same thing about Casey Martin.

Said what? That he can set the rules and change them wherever and however he wants? Well, you can say that if you really want, but then you'd be talking nonsense, because it's not his sandbox. That's the point. The suit will determine whether ADA has the ability to reach into this particular sandbox and and influence its rules. I'm betting it won't, because it never has before, and there have been plenty of athletes in the same situation. Puh-lenty.

JJ:

... or the PGA Tour.

Yup. That's the point. It's not about reason, it's not about fairness. It's about who gets to make the rules. I'm not saying it's right or good; I'm saying that's how it is.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:18 AM on December 08

Said what?

That the PGA can make an exception for certain individuals and change the rules due to their circumstances like they did with Casey Martin even though it took a Supreme Court ruling for it to happen.

posted by BornIcon at 09:56 AM on December 08

I'm betting it won't, because it never has before ...

It did when Casey Martin won his ADA case. The Supreme Court ruled in his favor. I don't know how courts would rule this time, but considering the fact that Barron played in the PGA for 20 years while taking blood pressure medication, it's not like allowing him to continue would be anything new.

Doping laws in sports should make allowances when possible for medication that participants take for chronic, medically documented conditions. A body such as the PGA should be able to use discretion.

posted by rcade at 10:00 AM on December 08

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