Doug Barron, the first player to be suspended under the PGA Tour’s performance-enhancing drug policy on Nov. 2, has challenged his suspension and filed an immediate temporary restraining order that would allow him to play the second stage of Q-School next week and provide a possible legal avenue for him to play the Tour in 2010.
According to the complaint filed on Thursday in Shelby County Court in Memphis the prohibited substances Barron tested positive for under the circuit’s anti-doping policy, “were medications prescribed to him by his medical doctors for legitimate medical reasons.”
At the Tour’s request, the case has been moved to federal court in Memphis and will be heard at 9 a.m. (CT) on Friday.
Tour spokesman Ty Votaw was not immediately available for comment.
According to the 29-page complaint, Barron began taking beta blockers in 1987 when he was diagnosed at age 18 with mitral valve prolapse. In 2005, Barron was diagnosed with low testosterone and began taking monthly injections of testosterone. Both are prohibited substances under the circuit’s anti-doping policy which began in July 2008.In October 2008, four months after the circuit began testing for PEDs, the Tour told Barron to begin weaning off the beta blockers and testosterone. On June 11 at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Barron’s only Tour event this year which he played on a sponsor exemption, he was selected for testing and tested positive for both substances.
A year before Barron was tested in Memphis he applied for a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for both drugs, which the Tour denied in October 2008. Later that month commissioner Tim Finchem also denied Barron’s appeal.
One long-time official with the World Anti-Doping Agency who requested anonymity told GolfChannel.com TUEs for testosterone were extremely rare because the drug is considered, “the granddaddy of all performance-enhancing drugs.”
But according to Dr. Marco Pahor, a University of Florida researcher who studies the effects of low testosterone, normal levels of testosterone in males range from 300 to 1,200 nanograms per deciliter – although ranges vary from lab to lab based on statistical variations in the population and testing methodology – and Barron’s complaint maintains he tested as low as 78 nanograms per deciliter before beginning his injections.
Dr. Pahor also said when testosterone therapy is stopped normal symptoms – which include a drop in sex drive, changes in mood, an increase in body fat and a loss of muscle and bone strength – return within months.
Barron’s complaint maintains he began weaning off the beta blockers, dropping his doses from 160 milligrams to 40 milligrams in June, and he completely stopped taking them in July. He also stopped taking his monthly injections of testosterone in October 2008, although he told Tour officials he had a “single dose of exogenous (external) testosterone” in June 2009.
Barron’s doctors advised him it was not safe to stop taking the drugs “cold turkey” and he could suffer serious side effects as a result.
“He’s been taking (beta blockers) for 16 years,” said Art Horne, Barron’s agent. “His doctors tried to work through this with the Tour, but it’s dangerous to simply stop.”
The complaint also challenges the Tour’s contention Barron’s use of beta blockers and testosterone were performance enhancing.
Barron did not appeal his suspension, in part because the policy allows for a 45-day window to complete the appeal and that may have extended past next week’s Q-School and kept him from earning a 2010 Tour card.
The complaint also contends Finchem “made comments regarding the futility of an appeal . . . and that his punishment could be doubled if he appealed and lost.”
Barron is seeking unspecified “compensatory, punitive and other damages” for the suspension and last week’s press release which stated Barron had “violated the PGA Tour Anti-Doping Policy’s ban on the use of performance enhancing substances.”
“(The Tour) has unfairly singled (Barron) out and taken away his ability to support his family through his chosen profession for an entire year in an effort to show the world how tough it is on golfers who take banned substances,” the complaint reads.
Barron, who is in Houston preparing for the second stage of Q-School which begins Nov. 18, was not immediately available for comment.
Reaction to Barron’s suspension seemed to support the 40-year-old journeyman’s claim he was following doctors orders rather than trying to gain a competitive advantage through the use of PEDs.
“You could give me a list of 500 Tour players and I would not pick Doug Barron’s name off the list to be the first,” Brad Faxon said. “I was shocked.”