There has been a long-standing argument in sports about golfers, specifically whether those dudes, wearing the polo shirts with enough sponsor logos to qualify for NASCAR, are athletes.
Let's face it. Take one look at Tim "Lumpy" Herron, even with a golf club in his hand, and the word "athlete" doesn't exactly cross your mind, but "all you can eat buffet" just might.
Golfers walk, albeit a long way. They don't run, jump, throw (clubs don't count), block, tackle, spike, dive, etc. They hit a little white ball that doesn't move and scuff it around until they knock it into a hole in the ground.
Then you take a look at Tiger Woods, who's built like a free safety, or Camillo Villegas, who has the body of gymnast. Take them off the golf course and chances are pretty good they could do other things besides shoot 68. But for the most part, they are exceptions. Most golfers looked like they're chiseled from silly putty, not stone.
So, that brings us to this question.
Why does golf need drug testing?
The PGA Tour's new testing program went into effect last week, the European Tour is starting soon and the LPGA Tour has been passing out the tiny bottles since the first of the year.
Many of the pros don't think it's necessary. Rocco Mediate, who battled Woods into extra holes at the U.S. Open, called it "the biggest joke in the history of the world."
They contend there is no drug in the world capable of helping a player shoot lower scores, no drug (and beer doesn't count for all you hackers out there) that can help you consistently sink 4-foot, downhill putts with a 10-inch left-to-right break.
Meanwhile, experts maintain that the right kind of drug can help a player. Steroids, just like in baseball (how far could Barry hit a ball that doesn't move?), can help a player hit the ball farther, hack it out of waist-deep rough better. They say certain drugs could even help cure the yips. Maybe.
But all agree there's no drug to help what goes on between the ears. All the drugs in the world can't help you if you hit driver off the 18th tee at the U.S. Open into a sponsor's tent when you have the lead and the world is screaming, "Hit an iron!"
George O'Grady, head of the European Tour, joked that there was an easy way to do all this testing. Just have Tiger tinkle in a bottle.
"If he's clean," O'Grady said, "what does it matter what the rest of them are on?"
Still, golfers are going to be randomly tested whether or not they're athletes, and that is the right thing to do if for no other reason than to maintain the one thing those who play the game professionally and those who run it pound their chests about -- the integrity of the game.
Golf remains the one game where players police themselves, where rules are followed to the letter. Other sports test and some guys get caught. Golf should not be excluded, and no one should be surprised if some pro gets nailed for taking something he shouldn't, or smoking something he shouldn't. Golfers may not be athletes, but they are human and susceptible to the same shortcomings as the rest of us.
My guess is, drug testing will never be much of an issue in golf, unless someone wins a big tournament, is asked to tinkle in the bottle and gets nailed for some substance that's on the very lengthy list of banned substances.
For some of them, they'd best hope cheeseburgers aren't on the list.