Robert Garrigus opens up on his 3-month suspension for 'drugs of abuse'

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Robert Garrigus opens up on his 3-month suspension for 'drugs of abuse'

PGA Tour

Robert Garrigus opens up on his 3-month suspension for 'drugs of abuse'

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ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Robert Garrigus was suspended from the PGA Tour for three months earlier this year for what he says was medical marijuana prescribed by his doctor. Garrigus was randomly drug tested by the Tour after the opening round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February, and failed based on elevated levels of THC, one of the active ingredients in marijuana.

“When I failed my test for THC, I hadn’t taken a drop for 10 days. I didn’t do it that morning,” said Garrigus, who was suspended under the conduct policy that applies to substances of abuse. “I shot 81. It was the worst round of my PGA Tour career.”

That wasn’t the worst of his problems. Of the suspension, which began in March and caused Garrigus, 42, to miss as many as 12 tournaments, he said, “it crushed my year.”

So what is Garrigus, who shot 73 in the opening round of the RSM Classic, taking these days for his pain relief?

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“Advil,” he said. “That’s good for my liver. I can’t wait for that test.”

While marijuana is legal in some states, it is on the banned substance list under the Tour’s anti-doping policy. Garrigus became the first player to be suspended for a drug of abuse.

Garrigus, whose lone Tour victory came at the 2010 Children’s Miracle Network Classic, has a history of drug problems and has spoken publicly about it numerous times before, dating back to when he checked himself into a rehab program in 2003. But Garrigus claims that he was prescribed marijuana to treat knee and back pain, and had been monitoring his THC levels to make sure he remained within Tour guidelines.

“There’s something new that hurts every single day. Being a golfer for 25 years I guess that’s going to happen,” he said. “But I could be on Oxycontin on the golf course and get a TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) for that. I think that is ridiculous. The Tour can talk to me all they want about it but that is a double standard. If you think I’m better on the golf course on Oxycontin than I am on THC then you’ve lost your mind. It makes me laugh.”

“Under the WADA guidelines, there are exemptions for narcotics (such as Oxycontin) under certain circumstances but those circumstance would have to be extreme,” said Andy Levinson, the PGA Tour’s senior vice president of administration.  “Those aren’t the type of medications that would be given an exemption on an ongoing basis. It would be a limited time exemption.”

Getting back on track

While sidelined for three months, Garrigus lost 20 pounds and dropped to 175. He said it took 120 days for THC to leave his system. Garrigus returned to the Tour at the 3M Open in early July after two Korn Ferry Tour starts and said the pressure he felt to retain his playing privileges with only four events remaining in the regular season was overwhelming. He met with Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan at the John Deere Classic.

“It was a good conversation and I let him know my peace,” Garrigus said. “They had to deflect. They have an image to protect and uphold. There’s nothing the Tour can do right now because we’re following WADA’s guidelines. We’re not partners with WADA. If we were partners, every single drug test would be known, but since we’re following their guidelines there is Commissioner discretion and the Commissioner’s discretion, Rule 28-1, says he has discretion whether he wants to put it out into the public. I urged him to make sure there are no discrepancies.” (Levinson disputes this claim by Garrigus, stating via text: “Discretion on the section is wholly different than the public reporting. All suspensions for PED’s or drugs of abuse are reported under our regulations.”)

Garrigus also voiced his displeasure that the 12-week suspension isn’t created equal for all players, noting that Matt Every, who was suspended in October, will miss fewer tournaments based on the time of his violation.

“I get suspended in the middle of the year. Matt Every gets suspended at the end of the year and he misses three tournaments,” Garrigus said. “There also needs to be some discrepancy there. There’s a gray area there, but the Tour has always been black and white.”

So are Garrigus’s thoughts on the benefits of taking CBD and THC.

“The fact that it is socially unacceptable for cannabis and CBD right now blows my mind. It’s OK to take Oxycontin and blackout and run into a bunch of people, but you can’t take CBD and THC without someone looking at you funny. It makes no sense,” Garrigus said.

“I’m not mad at anybody but it makes me laugh at the whole way it is set up. There needs to be something different.”

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