Drug testing to arrive on Tour next summer

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida (AP) — The PGA Tour plans to start its new drug-testing program as early as July, with penalties for a positive test that could range from a one-year suspension for a first offense to a lifetime ban if a player is caught three times.

Leaders from golf's most influential organizations signed off last month on an anti-doping policy. The tour's plan was approved by its policy board.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said players will receive a manual next month as part of an education program that will extend through June, with testing to follow.

The manual will contain a list of prohibited substances that fall under 10 categories, ranging from anabolic steroids to human growth hormones to narcotics to beta blockers.

Finchem said the tour can test players without notice anytime and anywhere, and testing at a PGA Tour event can occur before or after practice or competition. There was no limit to how many times a year a player can be tested. It was not clear if there would be any mandatory testing or players, such as the winner of a tournament.

Penalties could include ineligibility for up to one year for the first violation; up to five years for the second violation; up to a lifetime ban for multiple violations; and fines up to $500,000.

Finchem said violations for recreational drugs, such as marijuana or cocaine, could be treated differently from steroids. The program allows the commissioner discretion to require treatment instead of sanctions, or a combination of the two.

He also said the tour would disclose violations and will report the penalty. That's typical of other sports, noteworthy in golf because the tour has never disclosed fines for such things as conduct unbecoming a professional.

An education program for the Nationwide Tour will begin in the middle of next year, with testing to start toward the end of the 2008 season. On the Champions Tour for players 50 and older, the education program will start in January 2009, with testing expected to start in the middle of that year.

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