Singh puts spotlight on tour's anti-doping programme
The player most likely to be subjected to rigorous testing under the PGA Tour’s anti-doping programme would figure to be Tiger Woods, a 14-time Major champion and one of the brightest stars in the sporting firmament.
But Woods said on Tuesday that he had never been tested away from a tournament site. The only time he has been tested outside of competition, he said, was at the World Golf Challenge in 2008, the year the tour’s anti-doping policy was instituted. Woods played host at the tournament but did not play in it because he was recovering from knee surgery.
Referring to testing away from a tournament site, Woods said: “I know guys who have, but I have not.”
This week’s Accenture Matchplay Championship is Woods’ first competition since Vijay Singh admitted that he used deer antler spray, which contains IGF-1, an insulinlike growth factor that is on the tour’s list of prohibited substances.
Singh’s admission has thrown a spotlight on the tour’s anti-doping programme, which states that players can be tested in and out of tournament competition, and the PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw insisted the tour conducted tests on and off tournament sites. He did not provide details, citing privacy issues.
Rory McIlroy, who has been the world’s number one player for the better part of the past year, was asked when he was last tested outside of a tournament. “Never,” he replied.
Luke Donald and Lee Westwood also said they had never been tested away from a tournament site. Nor had Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson, who have won four Majors apiece.
They were among the 54 players asked in Arizona and at the Northern Trust Open; not one said he had been subject to testing outside a tournament week. The sampling represents roughly 25 per cent of the PGA Tour.
“No, we don’t do that,” Jerry Kelly said when asked about out-of-competition testing. Scott Piercy, a two-time tour winner, said: “I’d be surprised if they did that. That’s borderline illegal.”
A few golfers, all former collegiate players, said they assumed they could be tested out of competition because that was the NCAA’s doping protocol. Luke Guthrie, Charlie Wi and Harris English said they had been tested outside of a tournament setting in college but not since turning professional. Votaw said that collecting players’ urine samples at a tournament site before the competitive rounds began – on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays during most tour events – was considered out-of-competition testing.
“Wada accepts out-of-competition testing as Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and we have done that,” Votaw said, referring to the World Anti-Doping Agency, which has developed the anti-doping code to which all Olympic sports must adhere.
The athletes under the Olympic umbrella must provide Wada with a daily one-hour window of availability, listing when and where drug testers can find them. Urine and blood samples can be collected.
The PGA Tour does not require players to give their whereabouts, which would make it difficult for testers to collect samples outside of competition sites, because some tour members maintain multiple residences on different continents.
In 2016, golf will be contested at the Olympics, at which time the players designated as possible participants in the Rio de Janeiro Games will be subject to out-of-competition testing at their homes and training facilities.
Testing could include the collection of blood, which is not part of the PGA Tour’s programme. Out-of-competition testing is considered important because it provides a deterrent to athletes who might want to take banned substances to aid their recovery from hard training or an injury.
Out of competition
Stuart Appleby, who is among the top 20 on the career money list, said: “If they have the ability to test outside of competition, the question is, have you exercised the option? If they’re not doing it or not disclosing it, is there a reason behind it?”
Of the tour players questioned, many said they had been tested fewer than three times in the past year, and always at a tournament site.
By comparison, Missy Franklin, a swimmer who won four gold medals at the London Olympics, has been tested 14 times by the US Anti-Doping Agency since March 29th, 2012, including four times outside of competition. In two of the tests, urine and blood samples were collected.
The privacy issues that prohibit the PGA Tour from disclosing more information about testing will not be an issue starting in 2016. “That won’t happen when the players come under the Olympic jurisdiction because it’s contrary to the principles of independence and transparency,” Tygart said.
Singh’s admission last month to Sports Illustrated that he used deer antler spray and was “looking forward to some changes in my body” landed the tour in an unexpected quandary.
New York Times Service