One of the leading voices in the fight against doping in sports is taking aim at golf.
Dick Pound, a former president of the World Anti-Doping Agency and leading advocate for the strict drug testing of athletes across all sports, accused PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem of ignoring the influx of performance-enhancing drugs in golf in order to protect the Tour’s clean image.
“We have all seen the shape changes in golfers and the distances they are hitting now and we know that the equipment is better and the balls are better but it isn’t just that,” Pound told The Scotsman. “But if you follow some of the shape changes in the golfers and follow how, at a certain point, if they happen to come off them, you see how many more injuries they get. There’s a problem there.”
Pound recounted a conversation he had with Finchem in which the commissioner dismissed Pound’s suggestion that golf could set an example to other sports by implementing strong anti-doping measures.
“He said: ‘Ah, but if I do that then they are all going to think my guys are just like those baseball players and football players and I don’t want that.'”
Tour spokesman Ty Votaw declined to respond to Pound’s comments or speak to the veracity of Pound’s account of his conversation with Finchem, but Votaw did defend the Tour’s anti-doping efforts.
“Since 2008, we have had a comprehensive and robust anti-doping policy, have conducted thousands of tests of our athletes since that time and have had a couple of suspensions announced, all of which demonstrates that while we continue to believe we have a clean sport, there have been instances in which players have made mistakes and have been sanctioned,” Votaw said.
Under the Tour’s anti-doping program, three golfers have been suspended for using PEDs — Doug Barron (2009), Bhavik Patel and Scott Stallings (both 2015) — but WADA chief David Howman told GOLF.com in 2015 that “there are gaps in the program, and that means someone might not be tested or might not be detected.”
The Tour does not blood test its athletes because of concerns that drawing blood could harm a golfer’s performance, but urine-based detection methods for popular performance enhancers like HGH have yet to be developed.
The Tour also claims to conduct both in- and out-of-competition testing, but a group of Tour stars headlined by Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy all told The New York Times in 2013 that they had never been tested away from a tournament site.