Will Golf Remain Clean of Steroids?
Well, thankfully, we have golf. Not one golfer on the PGA Tour has ever failed a steroid test.
Not ... one.
Zippo. In the power age of golf, when fitness has started to include weightlifting because muscles help to keep up with the Tigers and Phils, every ... single ... golfer is clean.
Come on. That's suspicious in itself.
"I was tested last week,'' said Paul Goydos, as he left the course after shooting a 78 Thursday in the first of the Players Championship. "I think golfers have something called ... Integrity.''
I'm sure Goydos is a nice guy, and there was no particular reason I chose to ask him, no suggesting of anything about him. But you can choose the path of believing in integrity of athletes, or you can have the reaction I did, which was to giggle. It's the same response I have to the term "student-athlete.''
"Have you read the rule book?'' he said, getting a little worked up and defensive. "The second rule of our game talks about being a good sport. Not the 50th rule. We don't cheat. We call penalties on ourselves.
"We're not the NBA, Major League Baseball, the NFL. And to lump us in there with those failed places is stereotyping all of us.''
True enough. But one thing: If golfers police themselves because of unfailing integrity, then why did the PGA Tour put a steroid testing policy in at all?
Come on, zero cheaters since testing was put in in July of 2008?
That's just too perfect to believe.
High school kids take steroids for sports, or just not to look wimpy.
Actors take them. Athletes in every sport, even tennis, another gentleman's game, but not one golfer?
That doesn't pass the smell test. And that perfection serves less as a statement about golfers' integrity than it does as a condemnation of the testing itself.
A few years ago, I talked with some trainers in the fitness trailer of the tour event outside of Chicago, and they talked about a newfound importance that golfers have placed on weightlifting, with several taking nutritional supplements.
There are big rewards for big power now. Several golf governing bodies test for steroids, and there must be a reason for that. So what's to keep players from taking that next step?
Golf might well be cleaner than others. That's 100 percent believable.
But a 100 percent success on steroid tests is not.
In 2006, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem declined to put a testing program in place, reportedly saying, "We don't think it's prudent to test just because somebody someplace thinks all sports should test.
"Having said that, if some pattern emerged, or ... it just got to the point that no sport was considered clean, then we would have to take aggressive action. If we did test, we would not fool around. We would test aggressively and effectively.''
Not one failure. Goydos said he has been tested twice. A tour official said that golfers are eligible for testing any time, anywhere, and that results would be made public for any failure.
It sounds so open and credible. But here's a guess as to why Finchem changed his mind about testing: He wanted a public relations boost, by appearing to make his sport clean. And he also wanted to improve his chances of getting golf into the Olympics so he can spread his game even more. The Olympics don't like sports that don't take testing seriously.
At this point, our athletes are so dirty, getting caught cheating so often -- thanks, Manny Ramirez -- that it's easier, safer and less painful just to lump everyone together than it is to put faith in the spirit of golf.