Golf.com’s piece details that Johnson has three positive drug tests- a 2009 positive test for marijuana and 2012 and 2014 positive tests for cocaine.
If math isn’t your strong suit, that’s three positive drug tests over a five-year period. For one athlete. In most Olympic sports this would get Johnson a lifetime ban.
Remember when drug testing started back 2008 and you heard players remarking how drugs 1) wouldn’t help 2) that somehow by magic the players would police themselves 3) that steroids don’t help?
Well, come to find out that there are PED’s that don’t have the effects that steroids do, and there are PED’s that help with recovery after a grueling round or workout.
As for marijuana? The IOC (remember, golf is now an Olympic sport starting in 2016) explicitly bans the use of marijuana and hashish. You can argue the merits of this (and Golf Digest had an article about recreational golfers lighting up earlier this year), but for professionals it’s illegal, and I say this as someone who smoked marijuana for a period of just over 12 years on an occasional basis. The ATP and WTA (tennis) have to abide by similar protocols since they are also an Olympic sport (if you’re looking for a comparable).
The difference is that, while the ATP (men) and WTA (women) announce suspensions, fines, and the like, the PGA Tour does not. The PGA Tour would have you believe that Dustin Johnson is taking a voluntary leave of absence for a period of time, and this morning Golf Channel’s Morning Drive show was trotting this line out. At some point I can only hope that they regained sanity and began conducting themselves like professionals.
For Tim Finchem to think that he is, in some way, protecting the field/rank and file players by failing to announce suspensions and fines is laughable. You announce these things because you want to let your sponsors and the public know that you’re serious about policing the game. You announce these things because you want to protect the players by letting them know that actions have consequences. By not announcing them, people assume you’re letting the players run amok.
Maybe, just maybe, if you announced fines every time players spit on the green or in the hole, or threw a club followed by a slew of profanity that people would understand that you’re serious about policing the game.
The major team sports announce suspensions and fines, even “individual” sports (tennis, auto racing) announce fines and suspensions (so the “team sports have collective bargaining agreements that govern this” canard is just that). Chris Kermode (President of the ATP Tour) and Mike Helton (President of NASCAR) both announce fines and suspensions.
There’s no question that history will show that Tim Finchem’s 20 years of being PGA Tour Commissioner has seen massive growth in revenues, prize money, and taking the game global. With that being said, Finchem certainly has benefited from having Tiger Woods show up in 1996. Finchem also borrowed heavily from Greg Norman (who first proposed what became the World Golf Championships back in 1994). The PGA Tour have their own international team competition (The Presidents Cup- the PGA of America controls the US portion of the Ryder Cup) and the FedEx Cup has been a work in progress that I have tried to fix in an earlier blog, but the FedEx Cup feels all too similar to NASCAR’s season-ending races and something that the professional tennis tours have been doing for nearly four decades.
In other words, beyond lucking out by having a generational superstar show up on his watch and creating a tournament series and a team event that others had proposed and/or are doing, there hasn’t been a new idea out of Ponte Vedra Beach since Deane Beman (Finchem’s predecessor) first came up with the all-exempt Tour in the early 1980’s.
Beyond that, Finchem has allowed John Daly to misbehave both on and off the course, then Tiger Woods, then Sergio Garcia, and now Dustin Johnson. To not hold people accountable for their actions only allows further misbehavior. It’s time for this to stop. It should have stopped a long time ago, but it didn’t. Look at the actions of Daly, Woods, Garcia, and Johnson and imagine if they were in a team sport.
It’s time for the Tour to embrace transparency and the realities of the 21st century. It’s time for a new commissioner. Twenty years of letting the inmates run the asylum is twenty too many. It’s time for Tim Finchem to resign and it’s time to hire a commissioner who will truly protect the field and think about the greater good.