Golfers on the PGA TOUR will face stricter tests for anti-doping from the 2018 season in a bid to clean up the sport’s image.
News from PGA TOUR officials have revealed that the sport will align itself more closely with the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) list of prohibited substances as golf looks to clamp down on the use of drugs in sports.
Golfers are already subjected to urine tests as part of the PGA TOUR’s current anti-doping programme in operation since 2008. Things will be taken up a level next year when blood tests are introduced and WADA’s list of prohibited substances followed more closely.
Previously, golf has self-tested. But the results have been kept secret, particularly when players failed doping tests for recreational drugs. Current world number one Dustin Johnson took a six-month voluntary break from the sport in 2014, after he allegedly tested positive for cocaine and marijuana.
Now, such transgressions will be reported with PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan admitting that openness would “better substantiate the integrity of golf as a clean sport”.
The blood testing will certainly help the case; something former world number one Rory McIlroy says is a good thing for golf. He had previously claimed golfers could take Human Growth Hormones (HGH) without detection.
“If we’re not blood testing we’re not doing all we can to make sure that golf is a clean sport, so I obviously welcome the news,” McIlroy told The Daily Telegraph. “If golf wants to be a sport in the Olympics, it needs to get on board with everything that all the other sports do as well.
“I really don’t think anyone should be fearful as I don’t think that golf has any sort of drug problem at all. You have to be so careful about what you take, but that’s part and parcel about being an athlete.”
Previously, the PGA TOUR’s banned list excluded asthma medications, allergy and anti-inflammatory medications when compared to WADA’s advice. Glucocorticosteroids and Beta-2-Agonists will remain off golf’s banned list, however.
Testing—golf had the fewest test of any sport in the Olympic cycle according to official WADA figures—has been ramped up become much more random in nature.
The new measures will include a one-year ban for a first offence, a five-year ban for a second offence and a lifetime ban for three offences—although positive tests will only be revealed after all avenues of appeal have been exhausted.
“We are all in a position to put this rule to effect, enforce it, keep the kind of problems out of the sport that we have seen in other sports,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem. “And in three, four, five years, we’ll look back and say, ‘Did we keep these problems out of our sport?’ I’ve got a high degree of confidence that the answer will be yes.”
Testing has also started on the European Tour and LPGA Tour in a bid to combat drug use across all levels of the professional game.