IGF Report: Olympic Golfers Aced Drug Tests for Rio Games

November 4, 2016

The International Golf Federation says its Olympic athletes competed clean.

The governing body released a summary on Thursday of its anti-doping efforts for golf’s return to the Olympics this summer, reporting that anti-doping officials conducted 197 drug tests on male and female golfers between May 6 and the end of the Rio Games on Aug. 21.

According to the IGF, officials tested every athlete in the registered testing pool (RTP) at least once and discovered no anti-doping rules violations.

“The IGF was the only sport to place all participating golf athletes on the RTP and was successful in meeting the commitment to test all RTP athletes at least once between 6 May and the start of the Games, ensuring a clean field of play for Golf’s return to the Olympic Games in Rio 2016,” stated the IGF in a release.

Of the 197 tests, 124 were conducted by the IGF, 47 by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and 26 by national anti-doping organizations.

In light of the Independent Observers report detailing “serious failings” in the World Anti-Doping Agency’s methods at the Rio Games, including the revelation that over 4,000 athletes (about half of whom were competing in sports with a high risk of doping) had no record of testing in 2016, the IGF’s testing of its entire pool of athletes could be viewed as a triumph. The IGF report does not differentiate, however, between urine and blood tests or in- and out-of-competition testing, so it remains unclear how rigorous its testing program truly was.

WADA set the minimum level of analysis of golfers for some popular performance enhancers like human growth hormone (which is undetectable in urine) at 5 percent of the testing pool, meaning that Olympic golfers were blood tested far less than other Olympic athletes.

Before he withdrew from the Games, four-time major winner Rory McIlroy revealed that he had not been blood tested by the IGF and claimed that he “could use HGH and get away with it,” while several Rio-bound golfers told GOLF.com at the PGA Championship that they had still not been blood tested a week before the Games began.

Roger Pielke, a professor at the Sports Governance Center at the University of Colorado and author of the book The Edge: The War Against Cheating and Corruption in the Cutthroat World of Elite Sports, says the report leaves several questions unanswered — “Do we know whether the tests reported are urine or blood? Does that mean some athletes were tested in early May and then not again? Is that sufficient?” he asked. — and suggested that the program could benefit from independent evaluation.

“The IGF report indicates that anti-doping remains a patchwork affair across sports,” Pielke said. “The release of data by IGF is suggestive, but not nearly as rigorous as one would like to judge success or failure. Wouldn’t it be great if the IGF asked a few independent experts to evaluate their program and report those results?”