Barron can’t play on PGA Tour, judge rules

Doug Barron plays a shot at the Nationwide Tour's Melwood Prince George's County Open in May 2008.

Doug Barron plays a shot at the Nationwide Tour's Melwood Prince George's County Open in May 2008.

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Doug Barron’s bid to play in the second stage of Q-School this week was derailed Monday evening when a federal judge did not grant the journeyman’s request for a temporary restraining order against the PGA Tour.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Tu Pham heard more than three hours of argument Friday in Memphis, Tenn., and took three days before ruling against Barron, halting his attempt to seek a Tour card.

The PGA Tour announced the suspension of Barron, 40, on Nov. 2 for violating its anti-doping policy, citing in a news release his use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Second stage of Q-School begins Wednesday at six sites around the country.

In court documents, Barron maintained that the two drugs prompting his suspension were the beta blocker Propranolol and exogenous testosterone. Barron contends that both were prescribed by a physician for medical purposes.

photo

Doug Barron hits from the fifth tee during the final round of the 2005 EDS Byron Nelson Championship.

Timeline of events

A case decades in the making: Doug Barron vs. PGA Tour

“While we are disappointed in the court's denial of our request for a temporary restraining order, we are encouraged by a number of findings made by the court,” said Jeff Rosenblum, Barron's attorney. “We consider this ruling to be a partial victory for Doug Barron. The court's ruling supports our allegations that there are serious questions to be addressed regarding the PGA Tour's application of its anti-doping policy.”

The Tour released a statement minutes after the ruling. “We are pleased with the court’s decision and have no further comment at this time.”

Barron started using beta blockers at age 18, while a freshman at LSU, when he was diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse, a heart problem in which the valve that separates the upper and lower chambers of the left side of the heart does not close properly. He since has used the drug consistently under a doctor’s care.

His use of exogenous testosterone dates to the fall of 2005, when Barron was diagnosed with low testosterone levels, manifested by fatigue, lethargy and a loss of sex drive, according to court documents.

Barron had requested and was denied a therapeutic use exemption, or TUE, in October 2008 for the beta blocker, three months after the Tour enacted its drug policy. He was instructed to wean himself off the Propranolol. In January 2009, he was denied a TUE for exogenous testosterone and was told to immediately stop using the drug.

After the denial of the TUE for Propranolol, Barron followed the Tour’s mandate and started weaning himself off the drug. However, Barron said that as he started to lower the dosage, he began experiencing side effects, which caused the weaning process to take longer than he or his doctors anticipated.

When drug-tested June 11 by the Tour at the St. Jude Classic, Barron had reduced his intake of Propranolol from 160 mg to 40 mg. By the end of July, he was totally free of the drug and is using Lyrica, a substitute that is not on the banned list.

“I was willing to do what the Tour wanted me to do,” Barron said from Houston, where he was preparing for Q-School, before the ruling. “But I felt awful for a long time and experienced tremors in my hands for the first three months. My heart would race, and I would have severe tightness in the chest.”

Barron could not play golf in the spring because of side effects from quitting Propranolol. It wasn’t until his psychologist suggested Lyrica that Barron was able to continue to wean himself off the beta blockers.

Since being diagnosed with testosterone levels that fluctuated between below normal or in the low end of the normal range, Barron was receiving monthly injunctions of exogenous testosterone.

Once he was denied a TUE for exogenous testosterone, Barron went cold turkey in January, but the same problems returned: fatigue, lethargy and a loss of sex drive. As Barron put it, “I was driven to a point” of an injection in early June 2009, just weeks before the St. Jude Classic. 

“He was told very clearly, ‘You are not to use testosterone.’ To get ready for the St. Jude Classic, he got a shot,’’ said Rich Young, an attorney for the Tour. Young called testosterone “the granddaddy of anabolic steroids’’ and said “clean sports are a very important public interest.’’

Barron agrees with Young, at least in part.

“Golf is the last game of any integrity, and I respect that,’’ Barron said. “It’s my passion. I was not trying to beat the system in any way. I was trying to work with my doctor to be a healthy male.”

Barron played a full Nationwide schedule last year, making only five cuts in 17 starts to earn $33,446. He played four times on the Nationwide Tour this year, and his lone PGA Tour start came at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, where he missed the cut. He played eight full seasons on the Tour, with his best finish a tie for third at the Byron Nelson Championship in 2005.

According to Barron, his doctor says that he still should be on the exogenous testosterone therapy, but has tried to defer to the Tour’s wishes for one reason.

“All I want to do is play golf.”

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