The three-time Tour winner never failed a drug test, but after suffering from fatigue and being advised by his doctor to take DHEA, an anabolic agent that is the precursor to testosterone production and banned by the Tour, he realized he’d violated the policy and turned himself in which is tantamount to a positive test under the anti-doping program.
“Whether I intended to or not, I took something that wasn’t allowed. I called a penalty on myself, that’s the best way to look at it,” Stallings told GolfChannel.com. “I did it immediately, so much so it took [the Tour official] by surprise.”
The Tour released a statement on Tuesday announcing only the violation, the length of the suspension and that he self-reported the infraction and released a joint statement, which is the circuit’s policy when it comes to violations involving performance-enhancing drugs.
DHEA can be purchased over the counter at most health food stores and can lead to elevated testosterone levels, a “red flag” used by testers to detect doping.
But Stallings took a drug test at the Humana Challenge while he was still taking DHEA and did not produce a positive test, according to a letter sent to Stallings from Andy Levinson, the Tour’s vice president of tournament administration and anti-doping.
In September 2014, Stallings’ doctor Raye-Anne Ayo administered multiple blood tests and, according to a statement provided to the Tour, found his testosterone levels “sub-optimal.” Dr. Ayo recommended Stallings start taking 25 mg of DHEA each day “if it was permissible by the Tour.”
“I’d been feeling like crap for two months, I have a 2-year-old son and I was sleeping as much as he was,” Stallings said.
The 30-year-old said he never checked the Tour’s prohibited substance list beforehand and took the supplement for about two months.
At a player meeting at the Farmers Insurance Open in early February officials outlined the Tour’s anti-doping policy and the need for continued vigilance as golf moves closer to inclusion in the 2016 Olympics. After that meeting, Stallings became concerned he may have violated the policy and called the Tour.
“I turned myself in immediately [Feb. 10],” he said.
On March 23, the Tour notified Stallings that he had violated the anti-doping program, which the circuit initiated in 2008.
Doug Barron was suspended for one year in 2009 after testing positive for supplemental testosterone and a beta-blocker, both of which were prescribed by a doctor.
In 2013, Vijay Singh was originally suspended by the Tour after admitting to using deer-antler spray, which contains IGF-1 and is banned by the anti-doping policy. But the Tour reversed its decision after the World Anti-Doping Agency refined its ruling on the use of IGF-1.
In January, Bhavik Patel, a Web.com Tour player, also received a one-year suspension for taking an undisclosed substance and said in a statement he made a “lapse of judgment” to recover from an injury.
Stallings’ suspension – which will not include any other sanctions or fines – will end on Oct. 4, a day before Patel’s one-year ban concludes, and will make him eligible to play the 2015-16 season-opening Frys.com Open (Oct. 15-18).
Stallings has 19 starts this season on Tour, including a tie for 67th place at last week’s Greenbrier Classic, and is currently 101st on the FedEx Cup point list. He is fully exempt to play the Tour next season via his 2014 victory at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Stallings said doctors continue to administer tests to discover the cause for his lack of energy and he plans to be busy the next three months despite the suspension.
“Get healthy,” he said, noting he has four doctor’s appointments this week. “I’m going to really try to make the rest of my life and the rest of my body work as best it can. I’m never going to get this time again in my career, so I’m just going to enjoy this time with my friends and family.”
Stallings said he didn’t intend to gain a competitive advantage by using DHEA and admitted that the issue has been a distraction on the course this season.
“This whole thing was a unique situation that could have been dealt with differently,” he said, “but I made a mistake and I owned up to it.”
Here is a timeline of events:
- Sept. 23, 2014: Scott Stallings’ doctor, Raye-Anne Ayo, recommends the three-time PGA Tour winner take 25mg of DHEA a day to help combat fatigue, which was possibly caused by a testosterone level that was “sub-optimal”
- Dec. 15, 2014: Stallings begins taking DHEA
- Jan. 23, 2015: Stallings is administered a drug test while playing the Humana Challenge, which produces no positive results
- Feb. 10, 2015: After a player meeting at the Farmers Insurance Open, Stallings informs Tour officials he has been taking DHEA
- March 23, 2015: The Tour notifies Stallings he has violated the circuit’s anti-doping program
- July 7, 2015: The Tour announces Stallings has been suspended for 90 days for violating the anti-doping program