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Golf to begin drug testing

PGA Tour will start the process next year, with details and penalties still to be worked out.

September 21, 2007|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

The PGA Tour is getting into the drug-testing business in 2008, after an announcement Thursday that the World Golf Foundation has agreed in principle to an anti-doping policy.

According to Dr. Gary Wadler, an expert on drugs in sports and a member of a key World Anti-Doping Agency committee, the timing is right for such a move, if not overdue.

"I applaud the PGA Tour and all of the other bodies in professional golf," he said. "I've said on many occasions, there's no sport that's inherently immune to doping. It's a sad commentary, but it's true."

In addition to the PGA Tour, the World Golf Foundation is made up of Augusta National Golf Club, the European Tour, the LPGA, the PGA of America, the USGA and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. The Asian Tour, Canadian Tour, Australasian Tour and the Japan Tour also have signed on to support the drug-testing plan.

Ten prohibited substances are on the list for testing, including anabolic agents, hormones, anti-estrogens, diuretics, stimulants, narcotics, cannabinoids and beta blockers. Methods such as enhancing oxygen transfer and chemical and physical manipulation also are listed.

The number of prohibited substances and methods represents only a small percentage of what is banned by WADA. Its lengthy doping list is a 19-page document. While WADA chair Dick Pound said the entire list should have been adopted by professional golf, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said some substances were not included because of high testing costs and their irrelevance to golf.

Wadler said the inclusion of hormones on the banned list could be interpreted as testing for human growth hormone, which he said needed to be on every professional sports anti-doping list.

"It sounds to me as if they should not try to reinvent the wheel when that wheel has already been invented, so it sounds as if they used the World Anti-Doping Agency's prohibited list as a guide, and that's good," he said.

The second phase of professional golf's new doping policy will involve testing protocols, results management, penalties and sanctions. According to a statement, those elements are expected to be in place by the end of the year.

The anti-doping office of the World Golf Foundation will be created in 2008.

The LPGA announced last year that it would begin a drug-testing program in 2008. The Royal and Ancient and the USGA conducted a sample test at the World Amateur Team Championship in South Africa last year. The 12 golfers who were tested came up negative.

Tiger Woods called for some sort of anti-doping plan last year and volunteered to be the first in line to be tested. Finchem, who believed at one time that there was no call for an anti-doping plan because golf policed itself, changed his view in the last 12 months.

"It's unfortunate that these realities are with us, but they are," Finchem said. "And we have to deal with them, and I think it's important that golf deal with them collectively."

Pound said recently that Finchem might have been late to the party but that he's on the right track now.

"He had an opportunity to lead and to do it right from the start, and he let that get away from him," Pound said. "Now he's saying, 'I get it now, everybody else is doing it.' It's a welcome change."

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thomas.bonk@latimes.com

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Begin text of infobox

Off the course

Substances to be banned on the PGA Tour beginning in 2008:

* Anabolic agents

* Hormones and related substances

* Agents with anti-estrogenic activity

* Diuretics and other masking agents

* Stimulants

* Narcotics

* Cannabinoids

* Beta blockers

* Enhancement of oxygen transfer

* Chemical and physical manipulation

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Source: pgatour.com

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