PGA Tour nears drug testing policy
CROMWELL, Conn. (AP) The PGA Tour is getting closer to a rule on performance-enhancing drugs, and with testing likely to follow, commissioner Tim Finchem says golf organizations around the world should make sure they're on the same page.
Even with Tiger Woods among those in favor of drug testing to prove golf is clean, Finchem has defended the tour's lack of plan because he has found no evidence of performance-enhancing drugs or evidence of players using them.
He conceded, however, that drug testing in sports has become a reality.
"It's unfortunate that these realities are with us, but they are," Finchem said Wednesday at the Travelers Championship. "And we have to deal with them, and I think it's important that golf deal with them collectively."
Woods said last summer that he didn't think anyone was using steroids, but it could be a problem in the future. Asked when he would like to see a drug-testing plan, Woods replied, "Tomorrow would be fine with me."
Finchem has moved a little slower.
The PGA Tour policy board in November authorized the tour to develop a list of prohibited substances, along with creating an education program to inform players about how they might get into the body, the health risks, potential testing and possible penalties.
"We don't have a rule on performance-enhancing drugs; we never have had," Finchem said. "We're getting close on that. I suspect we'll be done with that certainly this year."
Finchem said he is working with other golf organizations "to see if we can't move forward together with respect to what a rule is, and then beyond that, in terms of the execution of the rule."
He said that likely would mean a testing program "so that we have a legitimacy to the rule."
The LPGA Tour announced last year it would start drug testing in 2008. Commissioner Carolyn Bivens said the tour would develop its policy through the National Center for Drug Free Sport, which manages testing programs for the NCAA and other organizations.
The penalty for testing positive would be 25 tournaments for the first offense, 50 tournaments for the second offense and a lifetime ban for a third violation.
European Tour chief executive George O'Grady said last month that his tour would have a drug policy in January, and he urged that the golf world unite on any such policy.
"I personally don't think we've got a drug problem in professional golf. I haven't met anybody yet who thinks we have," O'Grady said. "But we work with governments in so many different countries. They are insisting on a wider list."
In amateur golf, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club and U.S. Golf Association which govern golf around the world did a sample test at the World Amateur Team Championship in South Africa late last year, and all 12 golfers came back clean.
Finchem recommended that all golf organizations develop a single standard on what to test for and how.
"In Europe, in particular, and in certain other areas of the world, the idea of testing in athletics is just a reality, because it's government required," he said.
J.J. Henry, back in Connecticut defending his first tour win last year, said he doesn't think testing will have a big impact on the sport.
"A lot of people have talked about that integrity and honesty of golf is what makes it so special," he said. "I'd like to think there's none of that going on out here, to be honest with you."