Golf

August 1, 2014

PGA Tour refutes Dustin Johnson suspension report

The PGA Tour on Friday denied a report that Dustin Johnson’s leave of absence from pro golf is a six-month suspension for having tested positive for cocaine.

The PGA Tour on Friday denied a report that Dustin Johnson’s leave of absence from pro golf is a six-month suspension for having tested positive for cocaine.

Responding to a story from Golf.com, which cited an unnamed source, the Tour issued a statement that said Johnson “is not under a suspension from the PGA Tour” and has taken a leave, as the golfer had said in his own statement Thursday, when he referred to unspecified “personal challenges.”

Johnson, a top player who has come close to winning two majors and had clinched a spot on the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup team, will miss the rest of the season, including the PGA Championship, the playoffs and the Ryder Cup.

The PGA Tour has a drug testing program. But unlike major team sports leagues, it does not make public its suspensions or fines for any breach of conduct. It is unusual for the Tour to make any comment whatsoever about the issue of suspensions, which added an air of urgency to the association’s late afternoon announcement.

Golf.com, a subsidiary of the Sports Illustrated Golf Group, cites an unnamed source who disclosed that Johnson has failed three drug tests: one for marijuana in 2009 and two for cocaine, in 2012 and 2014.

The source said Johnson was previously suspended for the 2012 failed test, but that suspension was never made public. Under the PGA Tour’s drug-testing policies, the tour does not announce disciplinary actions against players who test positive for recreational drugs, only those against players who test positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Johnson, who is from Columbia and attended Dutch Fork High, announced Thursday that he is taking a leave of absence from professional golf, effective immediately.

“I will use this time to seek professional help for personal challenges I have faced,” Johnson said in a statement. “By committing the time and resources necessary to improve my mental health, physical well-being and emotional foundation, I am confident that I will be better equipped to fulfill my potential and become a consistent champion.”

He asked for privacy “as I embark upon this mission of self-improvement.”

The PGA Tour offered little in a statement Thursday. “We have nothing to add to Dustin's statement, but we wish him well and look forward to his return to the PGA Tour in the future,” the tour said.

According to Golf.com, when asked directly about Johnson’s failed drug tests and suspension, Ty Votaw, executive vice president of the PGA Tour, reiterated Friday that the Tour would have no further comment.

The PGA Tour began drug testing in July 2008.

There was skepticism among those involved in the game in 2012 when Johnson missed nearly three full months of the PGA Tour schedule from early March to late May. He blamed the absence at the time on a lower back injury incurred while lifting a jet ski. Johnson won the FedEx St. Jude Classic in early June that year in his second tournament back from the purported injury.

Meanwhile, the PGA of America issued a new Ryder Cup points list that removed Johnson from the standings. He had been No. 5, virtually certain to be an automatic selection when qualifying ends after the PGA Championship next week.

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