We’re used to golfers self-policing. Whether it’s a friendly match or a major championship, players calling penalties on themselves for everything from balls moving and twigs breaking to rogue 15th clubs hiding under headcovers are so commonplace that they are no longer news. The Bobby Jones standard (and for you youngsters, Jones called a penalty on himself on the 11th hole of the first round of the 1925 U.S. Open because his ball moved in the rough, an infraction no one but Jones himself saw and one that cost him the championship) is expected of all. Nothing short of total integrity will be tolerated in our game.
But golfers are human. Away from the course they face the same temptations as everyone else. Do some fudge on their taxes, nudging up charitable contributions while conveniently forgetting some cash income? Probably. Just as it’s highly likely that they’ve used company equipment for personal gain, traded on an inside stock tip, or hooked a defender with an elbow during a rec-league basketball game. All have sinned and fallen short. It’s what people do.
That’s what makes the actions of Canadian pro Brad Fritsch so exemplary.
On Monday afternoon, the PGA Tour released a statement announcing Fritsch had been suspended for three months for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy’s ban on performance-enhancing substances. As most Americans nestled in to watch the college football national championship that evening, Fritsch, who made 10 PGA Tour cuts during the 2016-17 season but didn’t earn enough for any Tour status in 2017-18, went on Facebook to explain the suspension, a penalty that retroactively went back to Nov. 30 and will end on Feb. 28.
The reason? Fritsch inadvertently ingested a banned substance, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), as part of a weight-loss program he began the day after failing to advance from the second stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.
Fritsch, who turned 40 in early November, was the heaviest he’d ever been and was losing a few steps to his kids who were, in his words, “getting really fast.” So, he contacted a friend who owned a weight-loss clinic and began a low-calorie program that included using a spray called BioSom. When he texted one of his brothers and told him about the program, the reply was, “Hey, that’s not that spray that got Vijay in trouble, right?”
“It felt like my heart sank into my stomach,” Fritsch wrote on Facebook. “I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t checked all of the supplements against our Anti-Doping list.”
He could have let it go. It was Nov. 30. He wasn’t going to play again until the new year. He could have stopped taking the spray, kept his mouth shut, flushed the stuff out of his system and nobody would have been the wiser. But that was not Fritsch.
“I immediately sent a text to Andy Levinson, head of the Tour’s anti-doping program,” Fritsch wrote.
Taking into account the circumstances of Fritsch’s consumption as well as his self-reporting, the Tour issued the three-month suspension, which could cost Fritsch a handful of Web.com Tour starts.
“I’ve been a huge advocate in expanding (the) transparency (of the Tour’s anti-doping policy) both in meetings for the (Web.com Tour) and PGA Tour and also in private conversations with multiple PGA Tour employees,” Fritsch wrote. “I like the truth and I hate rumor and innuendo. I’ve been adamant that we should publicize every offender, no matter the offense. Truthfully, I was mainly thinking of recreational testing when I formulated my opinion, and never for one second considered I would one day be a part of a potential ‘performance enhancing’ violation. The only thing I would ever test positive for is excessive Chick-fil-A.”
Fritsch told the truth when he didn’t have to, when doing so would hurt him and not doing so would almost certainly slip by unnoticed. But behaving otherwise is not who he is. He’s a professional golfer who broke a rule. Accidentally, yes, but that doesn’t matter. He knew he’d done it.
He likely will recoil at being heralded for such an act. Fritsch could even rehash some old quote like, “You might as well praise a man for not robbing a bank.” But in an age when “getting away with it” is the rule instead of the exception, we should all point out men of character like Brad Fritsch, not just in golf but wherever they roam the earth.