LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – A U.S. magistrate denied Doug Barron’s request for a temporary restraining order late Monday that would have allowed the 40-year-old journeyman to play in the second stage of Q-School.
U.S. Magistrate Tu Pham needed more than three days to make his ruling and he said Barron made a strong case that irreparable harm would be caused but decided the harm to others and the public interest weighed in favor of denying the “extraordinary remedy” of the restraining order.
“We are pleased with the court’s decision and have no further comment at this time,” was the only statement released by the PGA Tour.
Barron, who was in Houston preparing for the second-stage of Q-School which begins on Wednesday, now turns his focus to an even more challenging hurdle – the Tour-mandated one-year suspension.
“I’m disappointed about the decision. I have to live with it. Life goes on. I hope my peers know I never tried to enhance my performance,” Barron said. “I wouldn’t say we are done yet. There are very good merits for a case.”
Barron began taking beta blockers in 1987 when he was diagnosed at age 18 with mitral valve prolapse, a heart condition that can cause chest pain and difficulty breathing. In 2005, Barron was diagnosed with low testosterone and began taking monthly injections of testosterone. Although he was taking both substances under doctor’s orders, they are both prohibited under the circuit’s anti-doping policy which began in July 2008.
Barron asked for and was denied therapeutic use exemptions (TUE) for both drugs, first in 2008 for the beta blocker Propranolol and again in January 2009 for testosterone. He was told to stop using both drugs.
“To me it’s crazy I can’t be treated as a healthy male and people can go out and do all kind of drugs and get away with it,” said Barron, whose lawyers alleged that as many as 10 current Tour pros have taken illegal drugs but were not suspended.
When Barron tested positive on June 11 during the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, his only Tour start this season which he played on a sponsor exemption, he said he was slowly weaning off Propranolol and had stopped taking testosterone injections in October 2008.
However, according to Barron’s compliant filed in Shelby County (Tenn.) Court, he took a “single dose of exogenous (external) testosterone” in June 2009 when symptoms from his low levels of testosterone continued, including fatigue and a loss of sex drive.
“I went and saw a (Tour mandated) doctor for one day out of my life who said I didn’t warrant (testosterone) therapy over a doctor that has seen me my whole life who said I did. That’s my biggest problem with all of this,” Barron said. “I don’t understand their thinking about this.”
During a three-hour hearing last Friday, Barron’s attorneys argued their client had been denied his due process by an anti-doping policy that gives Tour commissioner Tim Finchem the final say in all proceedings and does not allow for legal challenges.
“Tim Finchem couldn’t pick me out of a one-man lineup,” Barron said. “I was on Tour for eight years.”
Section 2, subsection J of the Tour’s Anti-Doping manual states, “As a condition of membership and the opportunity to participate in PGA Tour co-sponsored, approved or coordinated tournaments, players expressly waive the right to seek judicial review of final decisions under the program.”
That, said Barron’s manager and lawyer Art Horne, is an “unconscionable” violation of his client's, if not every Tour player’s, right to due process.
“Players need some representation,” Rosenblum said. “Look at the policy, it allows the commissioner to have the final decision himself. Shouldn’t it be heard by a panel that includes at least one player?”
The Tour’s attorney, however, said the policy is straightforward and that Barron chose to continue taking the banned substances after being told to stop, following the advice of his own doctors – who warned him of the risks of going “cold turkey” – over the recommendations of the Tour’s experts.
“He was told very clearly, ‘You are not to use testosterone.’ To get ready for the St. Jude Classic, he got a shot,’’ argued Rich Young in court on Friday, the Tour’s Colorado-based attorney who helped craft the circuit’s anti-doping policy. “(Testosterone is) the granddaddy of anabolic steroids.’
Although a TUE for testosterone is extremely rare, at least two Tour players – including Shaun Micheel, who was diagnosed with low testosterone by the same Memphis doctor who diagnosed Barron – have been granted an exemption.
Although Pham cut short Barron’s legal bid to play Q-School, Barron’s attorneys said they plan to still challenge the one-year suspension, and support among the rank-and-file seems to favor Barron.
“It’s a sad deal. The guy is not very competitive out here and he needed to take something for his daily life. We should give him a TUE,” Jason Bohn said. “We don’t want a premium player to test positive, but a guy who has played five Tour-sanctioned events: Is he a threat to the system?
“He’s not gaining an advantage to play golf. His intent was to live a happy life with his family.”