Golf surpasses cycling and athletics for drug findings

Wada also puts sport only behind weightlifting and equestrian for positive tests

Golf has emerged in the most recent World Anti Doping Agency (Wada) figures as having a significantly higher percentage of Adverse Analytical Findings (AAF) than athletics, cycling, rugby or soccer.

An AAF identifies the presence of a prohibited substance or its metabolites or markers in any given sample.

The 2015 figures, which collates all of the samples analysed and reported by accredited Wada laboratories throughout the world in 2014, shows that golf scored a 1.6 per cent rate of positive drugs tests compared to 1.0 per cent for both athletics and cycling and 0.8 per cent for rugby.

More embarrassing for the sport is that golf came in with the third highest score for the percentage of positive tests.


It was worse than all of the other 21 listed sports except for equestrian sport and weightlifting.

Soccer, which provided more samples than any other sport in the umbrella group of the Association of Summer Olympic International Sports Federations, had a relatively low positive finding of 0.5 per cent.

Rugby’s position has improved since last year when the Wada figures showed it had a higher percentage of positive tests in 2013 than athletics or cycling. Cycling and athletics had rates of 1.2 per cent of positive tests, while rugby was marginally worse at 1.3 per cent.

Golf’s high finding comes from a relatively small amount of samples taken throughout 2014, certainly less than many of the other ‘suspect’ sports. The figures do not break down to what level of competition or where in the world the samples came from.

In total, golf, which takes part in next year’s Olympic Games in Rio for the first time in 112 years, supplied 507 blood and urine samples to the 33 accredited laboratories.

Of those, eight samples tested positive which accounts for the figure of 1.6 per cent.

Soccer, athletics and cycling provided significantly more samples than the other sports. In all of its guises from indoor to five-a-side and regular 11-a-side, soccer supplied 31, 242 samples.

Of those 144 were positive which gave the 0.5 per cent positive reading. Athletics provided 25,830 samples and cycling 22,471 samples and both came out with the same reading of 1.0 per cent positive.

In athletics, cycling, soccer and rugby the most abused banned substances were anabolic agents, while in golf the samples returned no blood or urine that tested positive for those agents.

The drugs of choice for golfers are diuretics and other masking agents as well as Glucocortico-steroids.

It won’t make comfortable reading for golf, which returns to the Olympic schedule in Rio having last made an appearance at an Olympic games in St Louis in 1904. The Olympic movement decided to reinstate the sport in 2016 following an IOC session in Copenhagen in October 2009.

Even more disconcerting is that the sport’s 1.6 per cent figure makes it the third worst offender of all of the ASOIF sports.

The 1.8 per cent score for equestrian comes from 619 samples taken, while weightlifting, a serial offender in doping scandals, scored 1.9 per cent positive. From 8,806 weightlifting samples 169 showed drug abuse.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times