Ivan Morris Column - Drugs, golf and the Olympics

Limerick Leader golf columnist Ivan Morris
THE Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are exactly one year away. For the first time since 1904, golf will be featured but how many would know that George S. Lyon, a gifted Canadian all-round, sportsman, won the Olympic gold medal for golf back then?

THE Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are exactly one year away. For the first time since 1904, golf will be featured but how many would know that George S. Lyon, a gifted Canadian all-round, sportsman, won the Olympic gold medal for golf back then?

A fascinating character and an impressive, all-round, athlete Lyon took up golf as late as 38-years old. A true blue amateur, golf was intuitive and easy for him. Lyon worked in the insurance business and was also first-rate cricketer, baseball and tennis player. As a teenager he held the Canadian National Record in the pole vault.

Eighty-four golfers competed at the Glen Echo golf course in St. Louis, Missouri. After two qualifying rounds, 32 made it through to compete for the medals. Lyon, 46, was not exactly a young man but he was up to the task of playing 36-holes matches. In the final, he faced Chandler Egan, the heralded reigning U.S. Amateur champion, exactly half his age. A sizable crowd gathered. Lyon went 2-up after four holes and eventually won on the 34th hole. When called to receive his gold medal, he walked to the podium on his hands and insisted on being allowed to sing his favourite song: “My Wild Irish Rose.” It’s most unlikely there will be a repeat performance in Rio one year from now.

One year away, the 60-man strong Olympic field and their current World Ranking would look as follows: Rory McIlroy, Ireland (1); Jordan Spieth, United States (2); Bubba Watson, United States (3); Jason Day, Australia (4); Rickie Fowler, United States (5); Jim Furyk, United States (6); Justin Rose, Great Britain (8); Henrik Stenson, Sweden (9); Sergio Garcia, Spain (10); Adam Scott, Australia (11); Louis Oosthuizen, South Africa (13); Hideki Matsuyama, Japan (15); Martin Kaymer, Germany (19); Danny Willett, Great Britain (24); Bernd Wiesberger, Austria (25); Branden Grace, South Africa (28); Thongchai Jaidee, Thailand (38); Victor Dubuisson, France (41); Francesco Molinari, Italy (42); Shane Lowry, Ireland (48); Anirban Lahiri, India (52); Joost Luiten, Netherlands (55); Miguel Angel Jimenez, Spain (56); Byeong Hun An, South Korea (58); David Lingmerth, Sweden (59); Alexander Levy, France (65); Danny Lee, New Zealand (66); Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Thailand (67); Soren Kjeldsen, Denmark (79); Graham DeLaet, Canada (91); Emiliano Grillo, Argentina (96); Hiroshi Iwata, Japan (100); Marcel Siem, Germany (105); Mikko Ilonen, Finland (106); David Hearn, Canada (107); Thomas Bjorn, Denmark (109); Sang moon Bae, South Korea (111); Brendon de Jonge, Zimbabwe (116); Ryan Fox, New Zealand (135); Angel Cabrera, Argentina (137); Fabrizio Zanotti, Paraguay (152); Li Haotong, China (159); Ricardo Gouveia, Portugal (161); Wu Ashun, China (162); Camilo Villegas, Colombia (168); Carlos Ortiz, Mexico (171); S.S.P. Chawrasia, India (186); Nicolas Colsaerts, Belgium (194); Edoardo Molinari, Italy (214); Vijay Singh, Fiji (219); Angelo Que, Philippines (220); Thomas Pieters, Belgium (234); Felipe Aguilar, Chile (238); Mardan Mamat, Singapore (245); Roope Kakko, Finland (255); Antonio Lascuna, Philippines (266); Lucas Lee, Brazil (291); Chan Shih-chang, Chinese Taipei (297); Adilson da Silva, Brazil (333); Mark Tullo, Chile (334)

The recent Sunday Times article on performance enhancing drugs in sport reinforced my instinctive distaste for professional sport especially when there is a win at all costs mentality. Apparently the drugs issue in golf has grown at an alarming rate, probably entirely due to an increased testing and discovery regime as next year’s Olympic Games draws nigh. I do not pretend to fully understand the drug issue in sports or support golf being in The Olympics but if participation in the games means helping to keep PEDs out of golf, I am in favour.

It is dumbfounding that golf has registered the third highest percentage score for positive drug tests by WADA. The 2015 figures show golf scored a 1.6 per cent rate of positive drugs tests compared to 1.0 per cent for both athletics and cycling and 0.8 per cent for rugby. It seems golf is worse than all of the other 21 listed sports except for equestrianism and weightlifting. There was some good news for the golfers. The sample size was small and anabolic steroids were not an issue.

In athletics, cycling, soccer and rugby the most abused banned substances were anabolic agents, while in golf the drugs of choice for golfers are diuretics and other masking agents. One wonders who all these ‘failed’ testers were? As far as I know, only two golfers have ever failed drug tests and one of them was ‘voluntary,’ namely Scott Stallings who could use asthma as an excuse. The other a ‘no name’ called Doug Barron also had a genuine medical issue. It makes one think that the majority of ‘fails’ were perhaps due to recreational drugs. Or, maybe it’s just that golfers are not as clever and clued in at avoiding the legal line, as the participants in other sports are?

At club golf level so many senior golfers, for example, would be unable to step onto the tee without taking Advil or Ibuprofen. Is that really cheating? It’s fairly obvious that good eyesight is a huge advantage when judging distances and on the putting green. I understand there are pro golfers who use eye drops, which are sometimes given to patients after certain eye surgery procedures because they have Beta Blockers in them that help when putting. Now, that might be clearly seen as cheating but maybe we should all try it - as we won’t be seeking a place in the Olympics?

Words of the Wise:

When that same old, question arises: “What is the most important part of the game” is thrown at me I don’t have to think twice. I answer, “The grip.” Without a sound grip anyone’s form is bound to be erratic - Louise Suggs