One of golf’s top players says the sport needs to do more to prohibit the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Addressing the media ahead of the 145th Open Championship at Royal Troon on Tuesday, Rory McIlroy leveled harsh criticism of golf’s drug-testing efforts leading up to its return to the Olympics at the Rio Games in August.
The four-time major winner said if he wanted to cheat, he could, and no one would know.
“I could use HGH and get away with it,” McIlroy said. “So I think blood testing is something that needs to happen in golf just to make sure that it is a clean sport going forward … If golf is in the Olympics and golf wants to be seen as a mainstream sport as such, it has to get in line with the other sports that test more rigorously.”
The PGA Tour introduced a limited drug-testing program in 2008 but has resisted blood testing its players because of concerns that drawing blood could harm a golfer’s performance. According to several doping experts, that opens the door for players to use performance-enhancing drugs like HGH that are undetectable in urine.
Golfers eligible for the Olympics were supposed to be subject to more stringent doping controls, including random blood testing, administered by the International Golf Federation starting on May 6 and continuing for the 13 weeks leading up to the Games. According to McIlroy, however, the IGF gave him only a single urine test on the Friday of the U.S. Open at Oakmont before he withdrew from the Olympic competition on June 22.
“I haven’t been blood-tested yet,” McIlroy said. “It was only a urine test.”
In response to McIlroy’s criticism, an IGF spokesperson issued the following statement to GOLF.com:
“Mr. McIlroy was tested under the WADA accredited IGF program and would have continued to be tested had he not withdrawn. The IGF and national anti-doping programs are actively conducting testing on the IGF Registered Testing Pool and those athletes will continue to be subject to such testing through the Olympics which includes blood, whereabouts and out of competition testing.”
The World Anti-Doping Agency applauded McIlroy for voicing his concerns but stopped short of raising an alarm about the IGF’s drug-testing procedures.
“WADA welcomes calls from athletes to strengthen anti-doping programs in their sports and countries. In the end, they are best placed to know the reality of the field. We would hope that the comments made by Rory McIlroy will motivate all professional golf tours to become fully compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code. The International Golf Federation (IGF) has Code-compliant rules. We expect that the anti-doping program that the IGF is running in the lead-up to the return of golf to the Olympic Games in Rio in a few weeks time will also comply with the highest anti-doping standards.”
McIlroy conceded that he doesn’t know of a substance that could elevate a golfer’s performance “across the board” but argued that the allure of drugs that build strength, speed recovery and boost concentration is reason enough for the sport to be more vigilant.
“I on average probably get tested four to five times a year, which is very little compared to the rest of the Olympic sports,” McIlroy said. “Obviously I’ve gotten to know a lot of athletes over the years, and whether it be coming to their houses and doing blood and urine, I think drug testing in golf is still quite far behind some of the other sports.”
McIlroy might be “all for” more testing, but the PGA Tour issued a cryptic statement on the subject.
“The PGA Tour is always evaluating all methods of testing which includes gathering information from the Olympic testing process.”