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Hensby Says, "Don't Call Me A Cheater"

Mark Hensby says he's never taken performance enhancing drugs. (Photo: Getty Images Matt Sullivan)
Australian golfer Mark Hensby has spoken following his one-year ban from the PGA Tour for failing to take a drug test, saying he has never taken performance enhancing drugs.

The PGA Tour announced yesterday that Hensby had, "violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification" and that he won't be eligible to compete on the PGA Tour until October 26 next year.

Hensby responded, in a statement and also speaking later to Episode 38 of The iSeekGolf Podcast, saying he was approached by a tour official to give a drug test after the first round of the Sanderson Farms Championship in October.

The 46-year-old - who has battled a loss of form for close to a decade - said he was contemplating retirement after an opening round of 78 but agreed to what he thought would be a blood test but soon found out he was being asked to give a urine sample.

Hensby said he had recently urinated on his second to last hole and would be unable to provide a sample for a couple of hours and told the official he would provide it the following morning and left the course.

"I know for a fact that I don't take any drugs, definitely no performance enhancing drugs," Hensby told Episode 38 of the iSeekGolf Podcast.

"Obviously I knew there would be consequences of leaving but to the extent, no.

MARK HENSBY SPEAKS AFTER HIS ONE-YEAR BAN

"It's my job to keep up on the rules, especially on the anti-doping ones, which I'm not fully aware of any of them and, to be honest, only just the ones that you kind of hear through other players.

"It was a bad decision but if people were there and knew the mood and just how it all went down, it was just a bad decision.

After leaving the Sanderson Farms Championship, Hensby was disqualified from the event later that evening and said he was notified about the year-long ban only two weeks ago.

"They sent me a letter notifying me about a week after the Sanderson Farms that I was in violation and I had seven days to write a letter to explain why I left, which I did and I went into deep detail of a lot of the things that have gone on in my life the last few years."

"I didn't totally refuse to take the test, I did mention that I would do it the next morning but apparently after you've been asked to do it, you can't do one after it.

"When people say that I'm trying to hide something, well if I was, I wouldn't have said I would do it and I was willing to do it, especially if it was a blood test it would have been quick and simple.

"I made a bad decision. I made a decision that was at a heated moment and obviously looking back now I wouldn't have left."

Hensby - whose world ranking is now 1623rd having reached a career high of 27th in 2005 - said his drop in form refutes any claims that he could have taken performance enhancing drugs.

"Being called a drug cheat, that's a little harsh in the fact that, if I'm cheat, what am I cheating at because my record over the last three years is, I think people can look it up and see that I've made probably 20-something thousand dollars.

"I had nothing to hide but I know what it looks like and unfortunately the way it was put out there, especially in certain media circles, it makes me look like I'm doing something but at the end of the day that's my fault and I take full responsibility.

"I know I didn't cheat. 

"I think my friends around me know that I don't do anything so to me that's all that matters."

Hensby finishes 142nd on this year's Web.com Tour money list with season earnings of US$19,399 and says he doesn't know if he will return to professional competition after serving his ban.

"I think it was probably more of a temper tantrum. I love the game and I think I've touched a club once since the Sanderson Farms."

"It's just hard when you're not as good as you want to be."

"Do I still want to play? I think I'll get the itch again but it's hard to play when you know you're never going to be back to where you wanted to be.

"I'm 46 and a half so, you know, only time will tell that."

 

Mark Hensby's full statement:

First of all I would like to apologize to the PGA Tour for putting them in a position to enforce their rules to ban me from competition for 1 year.

I made a mistake. It was an error in judgement which frankly I regret in hindsight. My error however had nothing to do with taking a banned substance. I have never taken any banned substances in my entire life.

I appreciate the opportunity to share the facts of what transpired on October 26th of this year.

I was playing in the first round of the Sanderson Farms PGA event in Mississippi. I had an afternoon tee time. While walking down the 9th fairway, my 18th hole, sitting 6 over par, I turned to my caddie and told him in a moment of anger and frustration, that I was not going to Q School the following week and maybe in fact, it was just time to retire from golf.

The last 10 years approximately has seen my world ranking plummet from 27 to 1600. It has been a very difficult pill to swallow and I hope people would understand the professional pain and turmoil that I have been experiencing for nearly a decade. None of this however is an excuse for my decision to not take the drug test after the round that day. But here is what happened:

1. After the round on that first day I signed my scorecard and immediately told my caddie to meet me at the car in the players' lot.

2. As I was approaching the car, I noticed that my caddie was walking with someone and he came to me explaining that I had been selected randomly to take the drug test which is protocol on the Tour. I knew the drill because I have taken these tests in the past.

3. While walking down to the testing area I was prepared to take the blood test. When we arrived at the facility I was required to sign a document and a gentleman informed that I was only required to take a urine test.

4. I was fully prepared to take the blood test because I knew it was going to be a relatively quick procedure. However I had just urinated on the 8th hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours. By this time it was already approximately 6:30 pm. Already frustrated and projecting having to sit around for another two hours, i told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that "they have no authority to require me to stay." Thus I left.

5. While in the car on the way to the hotel, I received a voicemail message from a Tour official whom I know well. This same gentleman texted me immediately after he left the voicemail message. I called him back and he asked me why I had left the testing area without giving the urine specimen. I explained to him that I had left because I was frustrated after not playing well (78), i thought that my career was pretty much over, that I knew it would take at least a couple more hours to provide the specimen and that I told them that I would take one in the morning. He responded something to the effect, "Oh I didn't know that.. .. ok, Mark."

6. Just a few minutes a later I received another call on my cell which I did not answer. This was followed by a text from another PGA official, explaining that I needed to get back to the golf course to complete the test and if I didn't, I would be in violation of the antidoping policy. I showed poor judgement in not responding.

7. Later that evening a Rules Official called me and told me that he was notified by the aforementioned gentleman that I was in violation of the Policy and that I was officially disqualified from the Tournament.

Again I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test. (I was fully prepared to take a blood because it is quick). However my emotions got the better of me. Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test.

Call me stupid but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents. And I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves.

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