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Golf Appears Headed for Drug Testing

Finchem stated that the PGA Tour doesn't need it, but Woods' opinion might have turned the tide.

September 07, 2006|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

The PGA Tour inched closer to possible tests for performance-enhancing drugs when Commissioner Tim Finchem said Wednesday that recommendations are on the way and the tour's executive vice president said the topic would be addressed in November at the next meeting of the policy board.

Ed Moorhouse, who is also the tour's co-chief operating officer, said drug testing remains on the table when the policy board meets Nov. 13-14 at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

"If we thought testing was needed, we would probably go ahead," Moorhouse said. "Will [the drug testing topic] go away? That's not for us to say. I would very well expect we'll continue to have a discussion on that issue when we meet."

At a news conference in Ancaster, Ontario, where the Canadian Open will be played beginning today, Finchem said his position on drug testing has been misconstrued. "I've said several factors that we evaluate on a regular basis . . . could lead us to take a number of steps.

"We will, later this fall, make a comprehensive statement about what we are recommending to our board be done in the area of substance abuse and performance-enhancing substances," Finchem said.

The PGA Tour's policy, or lack of one, concerning drug testing became a major issue two weeks ago when Finchem reiterated that the sport is clean and because there is no evidence of illegal drug use on the PGA Tour, no testing is necessary.

But one day later, Tiger Woods suggested that a testing program be implemented and volunteered to be the first in line. Greg Norman has also been outspoken on the drug testing issue and criticized both Finchem and the PGA Tour for being out of touch.

With the 36th Ryder Cup matches beginning in two weeks in Ireland, the subject of drug testing has not receded.

Scott McCarron, a player-director of the PGA Tour policy board, said Wednesday that the start of drug testing on the PGA Tour might be only a matter of time.

"I think we're headed toward that way. We're moving in that direction, but we're not going to just jump in there. Before we do it, we have to do our due diligence and study it from all angles," McCarron said from his home in Reno.

"Are players using performance-enhancing drugs out there now? I haven't seen any evidence. But what about the young guys coming up? Possibly. We have to put something in place for the future."

Dick Pound, chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said Wednesday that it's time for the PGA Tour to lead rather than to follow.

Pound said he has tried several times to convince Finchem of the need for the PGA Tour to establish a testing program.

"I have said to him that it sets an example for a lot of sports, professional and otherwise," Pound said. "Although you say there is no problem in golf, there undoubtedly is, so don't play catch-up. He said he didn't want the PGA Tour to be viewed in the same light as football, or baseball.

"That sounds so much like the old NHL reasoning of 'We don't test because there is no drug use.' We know that was not the case."

Meanwhile, the NFL says it is considering altering its drug-testing program to include more frequent testing and adding more substances to the banned list.

The official stance of the PGA Tour, reiterated two weeks ago by Finchem at the Bridgestone Invitational at Akron, Ohio, is that there is no evidence of performance-enhancing drugs by players, so no testing is necessary.

Jim Colbert, a player-director policy board member from the Champions Tour, said he doesn't see a need for testing because he feels there are no cheaters on the major professional golf circuits.

"But I don't think this is going to go away, either," Colbert said. "Look, they were talking about putting golf in the Olympics, and nobody balked about drug-testing then. I'll tell you, the players out here, everybody is talking about it. Well, bring it on. Whatever you want to do is fine."

Ben Crenshaw, another board member and player from the Champions Tour, said he wouldn't be surprised if a policy was instituted that listed banned substances, followed by some sort of testing program. "There may be something on the horizon," he said.

Crenshaw said he is a strong supporter of Finchem's position.

"There's no policy, and if there's any drug usage on the radar screen, he hasn't seen any indication of it. We haven't either," he said. "Those of us who have played forever, we don't know what in the world that performance-enhancing drugs would do for a golfer.

"Somebody said the clubs are the ones on steroids. That was pretty funny."

Pound, a former vice president of the International Olympic Committee, has worked to push the scope of WADA beyond the Olympics and into pro sports. He said Finchem's position is wrong and urged a change to keep golf beyond reproach in the field of performance-enhancing drugs.

"The blanket denial does not compute. I think there is no sport in the world that is immune to drugs," Pound said. "The temptation is certainly going to be there. And if the leading golfer in the world is calling for it, it would behoove Finchem to move."

thomas.bonk@latimes.com

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