golf-drug-ballOver the five years that Gorman and I have been debating golf-related topics, we have enjoyed taking cheap shots at each other, all in the name of fun, although we both have run into people who say, “You guys really hate each other”. This month’s debate centers around the PGA Tour’s drug testing policy. There’s nothing remotely amusing about it, no matter which side you support.

Gorman is arguing that since the players on tour are in reality independent contractors they should not be subject to drug testing, while I argue that it is perfectly acceptable in order to retain the public’s trust that the competitions are decided fairly. Gorman has a strong argument and to a certain degree we agree. PGA Tour players do not have guaranteed contracts as do most team oriented team athletes. If they don’t compete, they don’t get paid. If they don’t play well enough they don’t get paid and if they do earn money it’s the players who play the best who earn the most.

In 2008 the PGA Tour and the Players Policy Board agreed to drug testing. That knocks Gorman’s independent contractor theory out of the box. The players, as a body, agreed to this testing. If an individual does not want to abide by the agreement they can opt to be a club pro someplace or get a real job. Heck they could caddie if they so choose. I don’t think the tour tests its caddies for performance enhancing drugs.

Where the Dustin Johnson case falls is a different debate. Johnson was “suspended” from the tour for a third failed drug test, allegedly once due to marijuana and twice because of cocaine use. The initial statement said Johnson was taking time off voluntarily to improve his “mental health, physical well-being and emotional foundation”. Later it was leaked that Johnson had been suspended. The Tour denies that it suspended Johnson. The reason being that the Tour’s policy is to test and suspend players for using PEDs and not for recreational drug usage.

There are those who argue that the Tour suspended Johnson and denied it was for public relations reasons, but in reality it is hurting the image of the Tour for being secretive. Now, back to our debate. Whether Dustin Johnson was suspended for using recreational or performance enhancing drugs is not what Gorman and I are arguing. My reasoning is that in order to make sure the playing field is fair and level, the players should be tested for substances that will artificially give them an advantage over their competition.

The Fourth Amendment prevents unwarranted searches and yet Police and Fire Departments, the military and even private sector jobs such as airline pilots and school bus drivers often are subject to testing. Nobody can just arbitrarily test us for anything without gaining a legal warrant and then only if the authorities can demonstrate enough evidence that such a warrant is justified. But then none of us is forced to participate in a program or work at a job in which drug testing has been agreed upon, for whatever reason. You  don’t want to be tested? Fine, but you can’t be a police officer.

PGA Tour players don’t HAVE to be PGA Tour players. They can opt to work in a field that does not require one to be tested. And again, the Policy Board had to agree to this testing before it to go forward. We want our athletes to be as good as they can be based on their talent and their work ethic, not on who their chemist might be.

Tim Geary is a R.I. based freelance writer. No amount of PEDs would help his game.