If you watched any significant portion of the PGA Championship last week, you probably saw an ad - quite frequently, in fact - for a product called Androgel.
As far as the PGA Tour is concerned, that is a banned substance.
The product is a topical solution created by Abbott Laboratories to boost the testosterone of men who have low levels of the hormone that impacts male development, sex drive, recovery and energy levels, among other things.
For all of the horrifying side effects, it might well be appealing to men looking to get a boost back to feeling normal. Men on the PGA Tour, however, could not take the drug under the Tour's anti-doping program.
Androgel is considered an anabolic agent - yes, a steroid - that could be used to boost a player's performance. Testosterone is what got San Francisco Giants star Melky Cabrera suspended by Major League Baseball for 50 games. Perhaps more importantly to the golf connection, the hormone - or a known lack there of - is what got Doug Barron suspended from the PGA Tour and its umbrella for a year.
Barron was the first and only player to have a publicly announced suspension under the Tour's anti-doping program since its inception in 2007. He suffers from naturally low levels of testosterone. To treat the condition, he twice sought a waiver from the Tour called a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) to undergo hormone therapy, as well as continue to use a Beta blocker he had been on since age 18. He was denied.
Barron was injected with testosterone anyhow, two or three weeks prior to his lone PGA Tour start of the '09 season in Memphis. Naturally, he was randomly selected for testing. He tested positive. He got a year-long ban for 2010.
A lawsuit Barron filed against the Tour in Memphis was settled in September of that year, coinciding with the Tour granting Barron a TUE for the testosterone treatment.
Since then, no player has been suspended under the Tour's anti-doping program. Or, at least, no suspension has been publicly announced. Under anti-doping program guidelines, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem can decline to suspend a player for a positive test for a banned substance or simply not sanction a player at all.
The history is worthwhile background because it's what triggered this post in the first place - the calls and interviews with Barron, reading Barron's lawsuit and discussing its merits with Tour officials at the time, convinced they would lose in court.
The PGA Championship is run by the PGA of America, not the PGA Tour, and any company can buy TV time. This isn't a rip of capitalism whatsoever.
It's just kind of funny to note that a PGA Tour player who was watching highlights of the '09 PGA - like Y.E. Yang - last Saturday during the weather delay that they wouldn't have any use for the drug. And for the fan, unlike with ads for equipment and the like, they'll never see a player endorsing Androgel, at least as long as they intend to play.
I wonder what Doug Barron thought when he saw it.