The Trainers View of Drug Testing

By Rich LernerSeptember 27, 2007, 4:00 pm
Civil liberties lose 3 and 2 to suspicion in the new century, so Commissioner Tim Finchem really had little choice but to establish a drug testing program for the sport thats long favored a good hamburger over HGH.
Jeff Handler trains Mike Weir, owns fitness centers in New England, and has worked with athletes from other professional leagues.
Its not an issue in golf, but lets make it a dead issue he told me, adding that hes not sure where Gary Player was coming from with his recent insinuation that several players were juiced. I spent more time on PGA TOUR than any other sport and just have not seen any evidence of it.
I think theyre doing it to tell the world, hey were an honorable sport and if its there well find it, added Joey Diovisalvi, the trainer who helped Vijay Singh become the most prolific winner over the age of 40. I understand the statement theyre making but I dont think it affects golf.
Diovisalvi spent considerable time in the world of bodybuilding, where steroid use was rampant. He explained that golfers are built differently, and not just physically They certainly dont understand the complexity of anabolic steroid use.
Handler stated bluntly, These are powerful substances. Theyre no joke. Theyre very dangerous. Any time you mess with human body chemistry youre flirting with disaster long term.
I dont think there are enough players who would be brave enough to take the risk, said Diovisalvi.
And yet Handler admits that from recovery to inflammation control to regeneration of tissue to strength and power, they work.
Weve seen the evidence of that in baseball, football, track and field and cycling. Its more widespread than the public knows, said Handler.
Most golfers, certainly not all, but most, prefer the range over the rigorous workout, the plate of Buffalo wings over Pilates.
I cant get half the guys to get on a proper nutrition plan, lamented Diovisalvi. We have the smallest number of guys taking advantage of what we have to offer. Were struggling to get them off the range.
Handler concedes that steroids could give a golfer much greater potential to drive the ball longer and the ability to recover more quickly from nagging aches and pains over the course of a grinding season. But in general he adds that its not like a lineman in football getting run over and he needs to be heavier and stronger to compete. Its not as cut and dried in golf.
Could they hit the ball further? asks Diovisalvi rhetorically. Sure they could. But they could also rip muscles right off the bone. I dont know that theres a real benefit. Its not like a guy doing the shot put or an NFL lineman where its all about strength. Golfs about flexibility and creating more length as it relates to your muscles. Were trying to get these guys as functionally strong but not explosively strong as possible.
Just because youre stronger and a bigger framed person doesnt mean youll play better golf, offered Handler. Theres not a correlation like in football.
It is, however, reasonable to suppose theres a closer correlation to baseball in terms of hitting it hard and taking it deep. Handler played plenty of baseball and countered with this: True, bat speed is the key in hitting a baseball a long way and steroids could help in that regard. In golf its not quite that simple. In baseball you swing a bat and you dont really care where it goes. You just hope it goes a long ways. You simply want to hit it hard. In golf theres still the matter of hitting a fairway or hitting a green. In other words while length certainly helps, accuracy and finesse are also factors. And with an increase in size you could potentially decrease in flexibility and a golfer cant risk that.
In any event, if someone was using steroids, what would be a red flag for Handler? Tremendous muscle growth and body fat reduction in a short amount of time, he said. If theres a golfer who doesnt spend an awful lot of time in the gym and suddenly he has a change in physique that would be a red flag.
You dont need a panel of judges to see that Tiger Woods owns the best physique in golf. In the last decade hes added 30 pounds of sculpted muscle that allows him to very confidently wear the kind of fitted athletic shirts that most of us wouldnt be caught dead in.
Tiger works his butt off and he should get credit for that, emphasized Handler. Thats appropriate growth for the amount of work he puts in.
And Barry Bonds? Thats a little different, he said. Certain things like increased hat size would lead people to believe that, while at this point nothings been proven, the growth wasnt natural. He meets the criteria.
Handler pointed out that Mike Weirs put on 15 pounds in some five years and I can promise you hes experienced appropriate growth for the work he put in.
On Tiger, Diovisalvi said, he wasnt afraid to take some advice from intelligent people as to how a high level of fitness could benefit his game.
Controlling anxiety also helps. Thats why beta blockers would likely turn up in testing before steroids. Cortisone, used to mask pain, is another possibility.
Players will need to be informed. Their doctors will need to be informed. Aches and pains from the knees to the back to the elbow to the shoulder are common in golf.
If guys do test positive, it might be that ignorance was the culprit.
Still, greed remains a powerful force.
If I were playing for a million dollars every week Id want to know that everyone else was playing by the rules, Handler said.
Ultimately, neither trainer expects much to come of the initiative, least of all a baseball style blowup.
I think the medias applied pressure through all the coverage and maybe the TOURs being proactive, said Diovisalvi.
What are they going to find? Very little if anything at all, other than to say look we have to do this because thats what you do in the modern times.
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