Shackelford: New PGA Tour drug testing, transparency rules offer upgrade

Jay Monahan-PGA Tour-drug testing Stan Badz/PGA TOUR

Shackelford: New PGA Tour drug testing, transparency rules offer upgrade

PGA Tour

Shackelford: New PGA Tour drug testing, transparency rules offer upgrade

 

The PGA Tour’s revamped drug testing and transparency policy will have positive long-term ramifications for the game.

Besides the glaring need to join the 21st century sports world’s enforcement standards, the shift was essential to golf’s credibility in the Olympic movement. While the IOC Executive Board’s endorsement of golf beyond 2020 came recently, the policy change ensures there will be no embarrassing last-minute Olympic issues caused by the PGA Tour’s insistence on protecting player privacy.

Among the positives in Tuesday’s announcement — besides getting WADA off their back — the ramifications for the PGA Tour “product” should be profound.  Here’s a look at some byproducts:

  •  Say goodbye to rumor mills. Without transparency, seemingly healthy players who took any protracted leave were increasingly susceptible to suspension rumors. Golf’s rumor mill can reach levels of absurdity not seen in other sports. But gossips and conspiracy theorists can no longer seize on the Tour’s secrecy policy. Transparency is a powerful antidote. 
  • Player image … boost? The PGA Tour attracts fans in part because the athletes are incredibly clean-living lads. The new policy and the anticipated absence of announcements will only reinforce their purity and quiet those who have been suspicious of the PGA Tour’s secrecy. 
  • Coddling no more. Former Commissioner Tim Finchem’s insistence on undisclosed suspensions may have contributed to an increasingly defiant PGA Tour culture. Too many players with thin resumes have been strutting around like they’re Hall of Famers above showing up at a sponsor cocktail party, induction ceremony or media interview room. Despite golf’s propensity to humble, this is a much-needed dent in the clubby culture Finchem fostered and which threatens to turn off fans.
  • Slow play next? If the PGA Tour can publish news of a drug policy violation and suspension, they can now let us know who annually pays fines for too many bad times. Letting us know who consistently refuses to play at a pace respectable to his playing partners and is willing to pay a small price for the privilege, might actually produce faster play. 
  • Golfers are athletes worthy of scrutiny. On the heels of Brooks Koepka and his biceps overpowering Erin Hills, golf fans already know today’s players are athletes. Even jocks in other sports admire golfers as their peers. But the sports world at-large snickered at the Tour’s holdout on blood testing and suspension transparency, adding the PGA Tour’s no-transparency peculiarity to the list of reasons golf was not a legitimate sport.

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