The Biggest Crime


PGA Tour

Rich Young once explained to a simple mind the scientific cat-and-mouse game that led to the conviction of cyclist Floyd Landis. Think CSI: Chess club with a dollop of Law & Order.

Essentially, Young and his anti-doping pocket-protected watchdogs nailed Landis because the ratio of Carbon 12 in his body was not equal to the amounts of Carbon 13, which are soy based and, he points out almost parenthetically, the basis of most synthetic steroids. Nature makes everything in equal portions, he finally explained, which makes an out-of-whack C12 to C13 ratio akin to a doping neon sign.

By comparison Doug Barron’s climb to doping immortality must have seemed like second-grade math to Young. After all, the 40-year-old journeyman had asked for permission to take testosterone and beta blockers, was denied and was promptly handed a sample bottle when he arrived at the St. Jude Classic, his only Tour event in 2009. Barron had likely already been flagged for banned substances by a lab rat somewhere by the time he missed Friday’s cut in Memphis.

Although U.S. Magistrate Tu Pham may, or may not depending on who you ask, have ruled on the letter of the law, the basic impulse for those watching from the sidelines is to establish right and wrong. But the truth is there are no sinners or saints in Barron v. PGA Tour Inc., only two distinct yet essentially noble personalities.

Barron the father and friend and family man no more wanted to circumvent the rules or gain a competitive advantage than Casey Martin wanted to upend the competitive integrity of the Tour with a golf cart.

“It’s a sad deal because the guy is not very competitive. If he needed something for his daily life he should have gotten (a therapeutic use exemption),” Jason Bohn said. “Is he really a threat to our system? He’s not gaining an advantage to play golf. His intent was to live a happy life with his family.”

Perhaps Barron’s real miscue was believing that a clear conscience and an utter lack of intent was all he needed to guide him through his troubled doping waters, when a lawyer and a mountain of legal briefs would have been much more useful.

Barron was not in the Memphis court last Friday when his lawyers argued his case for an injunction that would have allowed him to play this week’s second stage of Q-School. Perhaps he should have been because after just 10 minutes it’s evident that Barron’s conscience is clear.

“I went and saw a (Tour) 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.”

Without full disclosure of the facts from all parties, it seems Barron’s plight would have likely been a vastly different tale had he not undergone a testosterone treatment just before the St. Jude Classic.

The Tour may not have liked his use of beta blockers, but his doctors had warned him of the health risks if he stopped “cold turkey” and even Young admits it would have been a much more complicated case.

But the last-minute testosterone injection, at least in Young’s mind, is the smoking gun, regardless of doctor’s orders or the best of intentions.

“The testosterone question is pretty straight forward,” Young said. “It’s straight out of the (World Anti-Doping Agency) code.”

Which, in a Twitter-society way, sums up Young the lawyer, if not the man. Simply put, a banned substance in an athlete’s body is all the witness Young needs, regardless of intent.

“(Intent) doesn’t factor in,” said Young, a soft-spoken type with a sneaky-good sense of humor often masked by a dogmatic approach to his job. “It would be very hard to prove what’s in somebody’s head and why they used? Secondly, the rules are clear – they know what they are allowed to use, Doug clearly used testosterone even though he knew he wasn’t allowed to.”

Young is, with all due respect, a bulldog guarding an empty safe. A hired gun tasked to take down a sleeping kindergartener.

Landis, by all accounts, worked tirelessly to elude detection and was armed with an army of mad scientists whose only goal is a better body through chemistry. As was once the battle cry in NASCAR, Landis participates in a sport that adheres to the “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying” watchword.

It’s a reality in most sports, and the reason Young has become one of the most important people in sport. It’s why the Tour hired the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based attorney to help craft its anti-doping policy and why they sent him to the four corners of the circuit’s schedule in 2008 to educate its members.

But then golf is different. Barron is different. The guy who has called penalties on himself on the golf course did not walk into his doctor’s office more than four years ago looking for 20 extra yards off the tee or one fewer three-putt per round. But then, in fairness to Young and the Tour, they never said he did.

Barron v. PGA Tour Inc. is a story about collateral damage and a crisis of conscience. It is a tale without antagonist or hero, just two quiet and easily likable men on opposite sides of a doping reality that has no use for reason or common sense. And that may be the biggest crime.