November 13, 2009

Suspended Player Doug Barron Taking The Tour To Court

Doug Barron, the first player suspended by the PGA Tour for violation of its Performance Enhancing Drug policy, has decided to go to court in an attempt to be reinstated prior to his former slot in Q-School.

Alex Miceli of Golfweek reports:

Barron, banned from the Tour for one year, filed a complaint Nov. 12 in state court in Memphis, Tenn., where he lives. Barron is seeking unspecified monetary damages and injunctive relief so that he can play in the second stage of the Tour’s Qualifying School next week. A hearing was set for Nov. 13.

According to Barron’s complaint, the Tour suspended him on Nov. 2 for using the beta blocker Propranolol and exogenous testosterone. Both drugs, according to the complaint, were prescribed by a physician. They also are deemed to be prohibited substances on the Tour’s anti-doping list.

The plot thickens from here - apparently, Barron's grievance is deeper than him merely using a drug on the banned list - which he admits doing, but under the care and guidance of a physician. Barron, according to the lawsuit, sought a Therapeutic Use Exemption for the medication that he was legally prescribed by his doctor. According to the papers filed in court, the Tour refused him the TUE:

In October 2008, Barron was refused a TUE for Propranolol and was instructed by the PGA Tour to wean himself off the drug, the complaint alleges. In January 2009, Barron was denied a TUE for exogenous testosterone and instructed to immediately stop taking the drug.
On the other hand, Barron had exogenous testosterone in his system. That's a huge no-no, and red flags don't get much bigger than that. Tour de France winner Floyd Landis was stripped of his win for exogenous testosterone, which he appealed and ultimately lost to the World Anti-Doping Agency and the governing bodies of his sport. Landis is now widely considered a cheat in his sport, and served a suspension for failing his tests. To say the least, it will be interesting to see the results for a similar test on Barron's part tried in the court system.

It should be noted here that the exogenous testosterone in Barron's tests may be the result of therapy, or perhaps through the use of steroids. Even though Barron admits taking a drug that created exogenous testosterone, those drugs can and have served as masking agents - which is likely as not the rationale for him being refused a TUE. The problem here is precedence and apparently, the Tour wanted to set a high bar, higher than they felt Barron's case merited.

Back to the Landis case, writer Tom Sarazac has an interesting take on his suspension and the reliability of the testing surrounding his case. It serves as a good primer for those who may be following Barron's case, and want to know more about the testing that goes on behind the scenes:

Let me get straight to the point: it's impossible to tell for sure that anyone has taken synthetic testosterone.

Unfortunately, the way Floyd Landis' exogenous testosterone test has been portrayed in the media is as if it were a perfectly definitive test. Like pink for pregnant and white for not (not really a good example, since that isn't so accurate). Such tests do exist: tests with a binary outcome, yes or no, and an extremely low false positive or false negative rate. This is simply not one of them.

There is no difference between synthetic testosterone and naturally produced testosterone - they're one and the same chemical. Same atoms, in the same configuration, forming the exact same molecule, with identical chemcial properties. At least at the atomic level. Once you mix natural and synthetic testosterone, you can't separate them again, any more than you could separate Evian from Poland Springs bottled water after they'd been mixed. Actually that's a bad example. It would be more akin to separating two kinds of distilled water from each other. Even that would be easier than testosterone, since one would presume that distilled water sources don't change rapidly.

At any rate, natural and synthetic testosterone are usually different at the subatomic level.
Naturally, anti-doping officials and scientists vehemently disagree with Sarazac's take on this, and undoubtedly have contrary evidence of their own to fortify their beliefs. Sarazac is not a scientist or a physician by his own admission, and his opinions are just that, opinions. The thing is, Barron's trial won't be adjudicated by experts, instead, more than likely it will be decided by a jury of lay people with no more and probably a lot less technical knowledge than even Tom Sarazac.

To say the least, that means that this trial (and its ultimate appeals) will be extremely interesting, and its ramifications may reach far past professional golf. If the courts decide that Barron had good medical cause to therapeutically use a drug that introduced exogenous testosterone, that may change the drug policies in the mainstream sports to some degree. Whether that happens remains to be seen.


  1. What a dufus. Instead of appealing to the board with his doctor in tow to explain the situation AND apologize for being an idiot for not reporting the medical treatment before the testing started...this genius decides that the court system is the best way to go.

    Let's see...professional golfer...independent contractor...Tour PUBLISHED banned substance notification to the Tour by your and your doctor...

    I'm smelling an ambulance chaser lawyer, and a guy who really should think twice before this gets to the court. The judge should ask Barron if he REALLY wants to continue with this suit - and if he does, immediately dismiss the suit, hand Barron the bill from the PGA Tour's lawyers, then disbar Barron's lawyer for wasting the court's time.

    Be a man - go see the board - explain and apologize. Then realize that you have already made a public apology, so you've already lost the case. Oh, and realize that you lost more money than you made on Tour last year. Don't make an ass of yourself in court. This is NOT a good idea.

  2. Interesting post - I've read a couple on this subject.
    Everyone has their story I guess - some might think it's a way of justifying why they broke a rule.
    Personally I actually think it's a good thing that experts are not adjudicating this case as you say - you see the problem with experts is that they are not necessarily unbiased. Also experts can be proved to be wrong - as technology and science develops expert opinions evolve.
    If I've understood it correctly though - regardless of his guilt - he doesn't seem to have gained a big advantage or earned any money from it? Not saying that makes it right - but just might indicate that this is a complicated case. At the end of the day only one person knows if he cheated from a morale perspective. Lastly, what happens say if he says ok it's a fair cop - I made a mistake, I'll pay my dues etc... how long would it take to be re-instated?


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