STAFF EDITORIAL: PGA’s treatment of golfer’s medical condition unjust

Golfer Doug Barron of Memphis, Tenn. was given a double dose of reality when PGA Tour officials informed him Monday that his medical conditions didn’t meet the criteria to allow him to take drugs while playing golf.

In a time of rampant abuse of performance enhancing drugs by athletes in all sports, Barron’s case seems to be one of a sport’s governing body overstepping its bounds to curtail abuse.

Barron was diagnosed in 1987 with mitral valve prolapse, a heart murmur that causes tightness in the chest and leads to a heart attack-like experience. He was 18 years old when diagnosed and put on a beta-blocker to treat the murmur and alleviate the accompanying anxiety attacks.

Then, he was diagnosed in 2005 with low testosterone levels, which required regular testosterone injections. The beta-blocker, propranolol, and the testosterone injections are banned under the PGA’s new anti-doping policy.

All this seems on the up-and-up, but Barron’s current problems started when the PGA refused to give him a therapeutic-use exemption (TUE) for the banned substances.
Barron applied for the TUE in June of 2008 before the PGA policy went into effect, but was denied four months later for the Propranolol request and in January of 2009 for the testosterone request.

Barron tested positive for testosterone in June of 2009 and received a one-year suspension Nov. 2.

Throughout Barron’s process, he provided the PGA with all the necessary documentation supporting his condition, but the tour has insisted on having its own doctors examine him. Although it’s understandable for officials to want to verify medical conditions, one must question whether they are employing ‘company doctors’ who will most likely opine in favor of the PGA.

What the PGA and other sports may need to do is use neutral doctors who will not have a vested interest in either side’s case. This is especially necessary when professional opinion is the basis for judgments.

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