PGA Tour breaks silence in Barron case


PGA Tour

The PGA Tour’s silence regarding the ongoing challenge to its first anti-doping violation ended on Tuesday when Rich Young publicly addressed Monday’s ruling by a U.S. magistrate regarding Doug Barron.

Young, a Colorado-based lawyer who argued on behalf of the Tour the first challenge to the circuit’s anti-doping policy on Friday in Memphis, said U.S. magistrate Tu Pham’s rejection of  Barron’s request for a restraining order to play Q-School was “encouraging,” and called the one-year suspension “fair.”

“If a player wants a (therapeutic use exemption for a banned substance) he’s given every chance to submit his medical records to a committee and ask for one,” Young said. “The question is if he didn’t get a TUE would he suffer and, in Doug’s case, the recommendation from the committee was no, he would not and that didn’t justify a TUE request.”

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 Tour’s anti-doping policy which began in July 2008.

Barron asked for and was denied therapeutic use exemptions 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.

Young, an expert in anti-doping circles who spearheaded the litigation against convicted cyclist Floyd Landis in 2007 and helped the Tour develop its policy regarding performance-enhancing drugs, said the testosterone violation is “pretty straightforward” since Barron admitted to taking a testosterone injection shortly before testing positive on June 11 during the St. Jude Classic when symptoms from his low testosterone levels returned.

Despite almost blanket support from his fellow Tour players and a consensus among those who know the 40-year-old journeyman that he was not seeking a competitive advantage or a performance enhancement, Young said intent to gain an advantage is not an anti-doping consideration.

“Intent doesn’t factor in for a couple of reasons,” Young said. “It would be very hard to prove what’s in somebody’s head and why they used a banned substance. Secondly, the rules are clear on this. They know what they are allowed to use. Doug clearly used testosterone even though he knew he wasn’t allowed to.”

Young also addressed concerns the Tour’s punishment of Barron, who played just one Tour event in 2009 and has not made enough in the last three seasons to cover the potential $500,000 fine for his violation, was too harsh when compared to other sports like baseball, which suspended Los Angeles slugger Manny Ramirez for a blatant doping violation for 50 games this season, or one-third of a season.

“When he was told he couldn’t do (testosterone, although Young concedes Barron’s use of beta blockers is a more “complicated” issue), he may not have liked the decision, but for him to ignore the decision is a flat out intent to violate the rules,” he said. “He may not have done it to become Barry Bonds, but he was told what the rules were and chose to break them.”

Nor does Young consider Major League Baseball, an organization besieged by doping scandals, the benchmark for doping punishments. Instead, he said a similar violation under the World Anti-Doping Agency rules would result in a similar one-year penalty if not a two-year sanction.

As for where Barron’s case goes from here Young would not speculated, although he estimates it will be months, not weeks, before a challenge to the Tour-mandated suspension could be heard in court.

“No, I don’t know what he’s going to do,” he said, “but we’re encouraged by the judge’s decision.”

As for Barron, he planned to meet with his lawyers on Wednesday in Memphis to review his legal options, but his lawyer Jeffrey Rosenblum was similarly encouraged by much of Pham’s decisions.

“We saw a 33-page opinion (from Pham) that is packed full of good stuff for us,” Rosenblum said.