And it left a bad, bad taste.
At Carnoustie, on the eve of the 136th British Open, Player sat in front of the worlds sporting press and cast a pall over the proceedings by alleging the use of performance-enhancing drugs at golfs highest levels.
If, one day, Players charges turn out to be true, we will applaud his candor and record his bravery in this games history books. For now, we must condemn him for, if nothing else, tarring every top player with the same brush.
Player, you see, did not name names.
Everybody now, thanks to Player, is a suspect.
I know there are golfers doing it, said the 71-year-old Player when asked about drug use in golf. Whether its HGH (human growth hormone), whether its creatine, whether its steroids, I know for a fact that some golfers are doing it.
Player won nine major championships, including three British Opens, in a brilliant career. He said the greatest thing the R&A, the USGA and the PGA TOUR could do would be to have drug tests at random.
Its absolutely essential that we do that, Player said. Were dreaming if we think its not going to come into golf. I would say on the world tour today, I would say theres 10 guys taking something. I might be way out. Definitely not going to be lower. But might be a hell of a lot more.
Player wasnt finished.
One guy told me, I wont tell you who, and I could see the massive change in him.
Finally Player fired a parting and wholly unfair shot at the medical profession with a blanket statement. He said he had been offered HGH. Asked from whom, he answered, From every doctor I go to.
All right, lets review the bidding here: If Gary Player is to be believed, every Tour pro, from Tiger Woods to Boo Weekley, is now under suspicion. And every doctor, from Quackenbush to Spock is a potential malpracticer.
Yo, Gary: The tabloids are going to feast on your aspersions for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Meanwhile R&A secretary Peter Dawson was worlds more responsible when asked how golf organizations were addressing drug testing in a sport where it virtually doesnt exist on the mens side. These discussions, Im pleased to say, are at a pretty advanced stage, Dawson said. What I do support is getting on with this in a measured but quick fashion.
Dawson was telling us, among other things, that if drug use exists in golf, random testing will put an end to it. He was also saying that if drug use doesnt exist in golf random testing will erase any doubts.
Player said he doesnt have any doubts.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, the No. 1 and 2 players in the world respectively, disagreed with Players conclusions when asked, one day earlier, about drug use in golf.
I dont think theres even a remote chance that that will happen, Mickelson said when asked if he thought random testing of top golfers would produce any positive results.
I really dont see anybody doing anything (drugs), Woods said. Or havent heard of anybody doing anything.
Neither Woods nor Mickelson was choosing their words in a way that made you want to parse their language. Player, on the other hand, was the loose cannoneer who triggered an explosion thats now ringing in golfs ears.
Consider the source: Player has always been enchanted with the sound of his own voice. I once stood next to him near the first tee at Augusta National and listened to him tell a group of reporters that players would one day regularly be driving the first green, more than 400 yards away.
We should not be so nave as to think there isnt fire somewhere near the billows of smoke Player sent up Wednesday. The growth of weight-training as a conditioning aid among golfers has advanced in quantum leaps in the last decade. There are very specific performance-enhancing drugs that allow athletes, golfers included, to recover faster from a Monday workout in order to lift weights again on Tuesday.
Meanwhile Player should have known better. Now there will be fans, media and other players who will wonder about players who wouldnt dream of using drugs.
Shame on Gary Player. He has been a terrific ambassador for golf for a long time. But this time the man they call the Black Knight has created a black cloud. And it is indefensibly irresponsible.
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