http://www.golfdigest.com/magazine/2007 ... chsteroids
You are obviously a nongolfer.
Golf Tech: Steroids In Golf?
Forget the old image of muscleheaded maniacs: In today's climate, here's why the tours plan to test.
Golf Tech: Steroids FAQ
Sirak: A bad week for sports...
Hawkins: Drug testing? Do it
Forum: Join The Discussion
By Matthew Rudy
Illustration By Harry Campbell
"I know -- I know -- there are golfers who are doing something, whether it's HGH or creatine or steroids. I know for a fact some golfers are doing it."
-- Gary Player
As far as sweeping indictments of a sport's pharmaceutical cleanliness go, Gary Player's allegation before the British Open at Carnoustie was hardly at the top of the controversy Richter scale. It came just a week before the leader of the Tour de France was kicked out of the race after missing pre-race drug tests, two other full teams withdrew because riders flunked screens during the race, and more doping allegations swirled around baseball.
Player revealed that a tour pro confided in him that he was taking steroids, something Player said he suspected because of "a massive change in him," and estimated that at least 10 golfers around the world are using some form of performance-enhancing drug. "It might be a hell of a lot more," said Player, who also estimated that 50 to 60 percent of athletes in sports are using some sort of performance-enhancing drug. "We're dreaming if we think it's not going to come into golf."
Judging from the reaction of those inside the golf community, Player was either (a) crazy; (b) exaggerating; (c) an out-of-touch, fading star looking for attention -- even if it came at the expense of the facts; or (d) all of the above.
"I'm actually shocked at his comments, to be honest," said fellow South African Retief Goosen. "I don't know what Gary is trying to prove. Is he trying to hurt the sport?" Tiger Woods said the most he'd expect a tour player to test positive for was "a hangover." Phil Mickelson said he'd never heard of players using steroids, as did Ernie Els, who said he'd be in trouble only if the tour tested for Advil.
But a wide cross section of scientific experts, trainers and instructors say Player is neither crazy nor wrong. Many of them not only believe performance-enhancing drugs would significantly help golfers, but that far more than the approximately 10 pros Player estimated to be taking drugs are using them to recover from injuries quickly and hit the ball longer.
How many more? As many as half of the top 100 players in the world, according to one prominent trainer.
Even if the true number is closer to zero than 50, it's clear that the idea of professional golf not needing to worry about steroids is as outdated as the notion that golfers aren't athletes. "The reality is that the public is slowly coming to the view that performance-enhancing substances are prolific in sports," says PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, who is expected to announce a set of anti-doping rules for the tour later this year. "Whether we have an issue or not doesn't matter if people think we have one."
HOW DO STEROIDS HELP A GOLFER?
Regardless of how many athletes in other sports either admit to using steroids or are caught by their sports' testing programs, many people on and around the professional golf tours remain skeptical about the drugs' bottom-line benefits on the scorecard.
"I don't think there's a pill that can help you do what we do," says Els. "Go ahead and test us, but I just don't see it as a big issue." Woods has said he's willing to be tested "tomorrow," but echoed Els' statement that drugs wouldn't be much of a benefit to a golfer because the game isn't just about strength.
Pia Nilsson, who has taught Annika Sorenstam since Sorenstam was a junior player, says she doubts golfers would get long-term benefit from the drugs. "You need strength, feel, mental clarity -- it's a very complex combination of skills," says Nilsson. "I haven't seen any evidence of drugs, but I've heard the rumors, and they've been very unfair. Testing is good -- I think it will let us know what's actually happening."
Some drug experts, trainers and other teachers call the idea that a golfer wouldn't benefit from getting stronger naïve. "Tell me a sport where a good big man doesn't beat a good little man," says Yesalis, who has researched steroid use in sports for almost 30 years. "Why are so many players lifting weights if strength doesn't help? Tiger Woods started training seriously when he came out on tour, and he's put on 15 to 20 pounds of muscle. I don't hear anybody saying getting stronger hasn't helped him."
Dr. Jim Suttie, former PGA Teacher of the Year, gives a qualified endorsement of that view: "There's no doubt steroids build muscle and increase strength," says Suttie, who holds a Ph.D. in biomechanics. "Bigger muscles mean more explosive core strength, more explosive hip strength, more arm strength." Suttie believes players taking steroids would be able to hit the ball longer -- provided they didn't get too bulky and lose flexibility.
The first piece of any golf doping regimen involves ambitious weight training and cardio work. Anabolic steroids have no effect on a player who isn't adding muscle by working out. The chemical component most commonly mentioned by trainers and experts interviewed for this story was a 5 percent testosterone cream, applied just before each workout. A week's supply of that cream would cost approximately $40. "That level of steroid would have minimal side effects," says Yesalis. "Certainly nothing that would prevent a golfer from being able to concentrate on the course. At least five different studies have shown that doses far, far larger than this cause no psychological response."
Experts estimate a player could generate 10 percent more clubhead speed using testosterone cream in addition to working out. That translates into roughly 30 more yards of carry for a tour player swinging at 110 miles per hour with a driver. Managed with expert supervision, a player could get the benefits from that relatively small amount of testosterone without even triggering a positive result on a drug test.
"The best players aren't going to be testing positive for steroids," says Randy Myers, who trains more than a dozen tour players. "Small doses of impact drugs -- HGH, things like that -- that's what the modern athlete is doing. It's barely testable, and it doesn't bulk you up. It builds explosive muscle, which is what all golfers want."
Doctors routinely prescribe HGH to middle-age men to help fight muscle loss and increase suppleness -- two things that would obviously help a player prolong a competitive career. HGH is widely available on the Internet illegally without a prescription, or an athlete could visit an anti-aging clinic, where a physician-supervised HGH and nutrition regimen can run more than $15,000 a year. "You've got a small window of opportunity in sports, and players are threatened with the loss of millions of dollars if they don't perform," says Yesalis. "You don't think that would tempt somebody to go to the 'dark side,' so to speak? As competitive as golf is, people are going to be doing this just to keep their job."
Myers says he believes no more than a handful of tour players are using performance-enhancing drugs, but that group includes players who could be doing so unknowingly. "There are trainers out there that nobody knows anything about," says Myers, who has trained tour players since 1989. "There's a lot of money at stake, and players pay bonuses to trainers, teachers and psychologists for things like major championships and money-list finish. There's a lot of pressure on trainers, for sure, to not just show results, but show them fast."