Mark NessmithThis Week at March 14, 2006

What's it going to take for pro golf to
get a serious plan to combat steroids?

Reading online excerpts from "Game of Shadows," the book by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams about Barry Bonds, I couldn't help but wonder what it will take for the governing bodies of golf to get serious about steriods.

Clearly the issue has blown up in the face of Bud Selig, "commissioner" of Major League Baseball. A century from now, baseball historians and nerds will be talking about the Steroid Era the way we talk about the Black Sox scandal. Besides pushing MLB's credibility to the brink, Selig's pussyfooting around the issue (not that combating the players' union would have been a walk in the park) did the impossible - made Jose Canseco look like a trusted voice of reason and clarity. Any time you've ceded the high ground to Jose Canseco you know know you've botched things.

So the question is, why would PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem and the heads of the other pro tours wait to take action? Why not enact a strict steroids policy with teeth now?

The argument has long gone that steroids would have no benefit to a golfer. Most of the game is played close to the pin where finesse, not brute force, wins the money. There's something to be said for that argument. But one passage of "Game of Shadows" really caught my eye and got me thinking this really could happen in golf:

"(Bonds' trainer Greg Anderson) had expertise with drugs ranging from old reliables like Deca-Durabolin and Winstrol to more exotic substances like human growth hormone. The drugs could quicken recovery after workouts, build stamina, add muscle. They could eliminate that slump in August, when the minor injuries and fatigue of the long season would otherwise wear a ballplayer down."

For skilled golfers, stamina and durability can make a tremendous difference in performance. With the money that's at stake even for tour cling-ons, how can you not think steroids are a temptation!? I could see a scenario where a guy in his 40s, struggling to prolong his career, suddenly finds a "Greg Anderson" of his own. This, in my mind, is far more likely than any of the top-ranked players bulking up, going bald and sporting a back full of pimples and the temperment of a despot, ala Barry Bonds. How many beer truck drivers with dreams of making it on the senior circuit would be willing to go on the juice for an edge in stamina and durability?

Speaking about steroids in golf with Palm Beach Post sports columnist Greg Stoda at the Honda Classic, Frank Lickliter admitted "There might be one or two guys try that. Maybe." Of course he quickly added: "But for the most part, I think we have guys who respect their bodies and aren't going to put anything into it that might be detrimental to their health." Sure.

If that sentiment is what Finchem and co. are banking on to keep professional golf untainted by steroids, their heads are deeper in the sand trap than I thought.

As always, welcomes your comments.

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