Miceli: Nicotine probe catches Tour’s attention

Darren Clarke, of Northern Ireland, smokes on the fifth hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011, at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Ga.

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Is nicotine a performance-enhancing drug? That is what the World Anti-Doping Agency is trying to answer by adding the drug to its 2012 monitoring list, and the PGA Tour is paying attention.

The WADA has taken initial steps toward classifying nicotine as a performance-enhancing drug, citing a report from its laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland, that details alarming evidence of tobacco use by athletes in 43 sports.

“It is not WADA’s intention to target smokers, rather to monitor the effects nicotine can have on performance when taken in oral tobacco products such as snus,” Terence O’Rorke, a spokesman for the WADA, wrote to Golfweek in an email. “The sole purpose (of including nicotine on the monitoring list) is to collect data on the potential abuse of nicotine as a performance enhancer.”

The PGA Tour, which started testing in 2008 for recreational and performance-enhancing substances, has adopted most of the WADA list of banned substances and procedures.

“If WADA put nicotine on its anti-doping list, the PGA Tour would review the addition and determine if it warranted inclusion on the current PGA Tour banned list,” said Ty Votaw, the Tour’s executive vice president of communications and international affairs. “However, we do not believe that such a change in imminent.”

If the Tour were to ban nicotine, dozens of its members would be affected.

Lucas Glover, who regularly uses smokeless tobacco on and off the course, called the idea “crazy.”

“If you’re going to do that, you might as well outlaw drinking, too,” he said. “Alcohol is a drug, as is nicotine. I mean, if you really wanted to get down to it, caffeine is a stimulant, too.”

Glover said tobacco does not help his game and does not affect him on the course.

Spencer Levin, who smokes cigarettes, said he reluctantly would abide by a Tour restriction on tobacco, should it come to that.

“Half the guys out here dip,” Levin said. “I don’t think it’s going to happen because you can buy it in a store. I mean, if anybody else goes to work at a 9-to-5 job, they get a cigarette break, and guys chew in an office if they dip.”

Journeyman Doug Barron is the only player known to have been suspended by the Tour for having used performance-enhancing drugs. Barron said he was under a doctor’s care for low testosterone and took prescribed medication before the Tour suspended him for one year, beginning in late 2009. He since has been reinstated and granted a therapeutic use exemption for testosterone treatments.

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