Drugs In Golf Story By Bloomberg

Here is a lengthy story courtesy of reader Tuco about golf's weak response to possible drug use and testing, courtesy of Bloomberg News writers Curtis Eichelberger and Michael Buteau. A few highlights:

Golf's most powerful organization, the U.S. PGA Tour, says there is no evidence of drug use in the sport and testing is unnecessary. Results from Europe suggest that rationale may be flawed.

While muscle-enhancing steroids aren't surfacing, other banned substances are: Marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy have turned up in French and Italian tests of amateur and pro golfers, according to documents from sports-testing agencies.   Golf's rule-making bodies have little control over the PGA Tour, whose 275 active players include Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. The tour's resistance makes it unlikely that mandatory, global testing of top pros will emerge in the next few years, current and former golf officials say.

"It's really a matter for the tours to embrace, and I think that's happening slowly, in the United States particularly slowly,'' says Peter Dawson, chief executive of Scotland's Royal & Ancient Golf Club, the sport's rulemaker outside the U.S. and Mexico."I don't think you're going to see a worldwide anti-doping policy in place in golf for some years.''

Because that look the other way approach worked so well for baseball, you know. Though I did find this encouraging from David Fay, who has been reluctant to push publicly for testing:

"It's just a matter of time before the sport of golf needs to deal with this in a comprehensive manner,'' says Fay, 55. The USGA, which oversees rules in the U.S. and Mexico, runs the U.S. Open. It has no control over the 47 other PGA Tour events, where $250 million in prize money is disbursed.


There are signs that young American golfers are using illegal drugs as well. The latest tests of U.S. college amateurs, in 2004, showed no positive results, yet an anonymous survey indicated drug use. The 2005 National Collegiate Athletic Association survey of a sampling of golfers indicated steroid use by 1.3 percent, amphetamine use by 3.5 percent, cocaine or crack use by 2.7 percent and marijuana use by 25 percent, according to the NCAA.


The view of South African Ernie Els, a PGA Tour member who has earned $26.7 million over his career, is common among touring pros. "We're all-natural,'' he says. Els, 36, labels calls for drug testing in golf "ridiculous.''

We're all natural. Wow. Let's test Ernie first, because he's smoking something if he believes that.

If Congress requires random testing, the PGA Tour will comply, Combs added. He declined to respond to questions about other banned drugs or to comment about results in Europe. He also declined to say whether any PGA Tour golfer has been asked to take a drug test under the current policy, introduced in 1992.

At a press conference in March that focused on steroids, Finchem said there was no evidence of drug use among golfers, and he stressed that players adhere to a code of honor. Without proof, there is no need for testing, he said.

This is fun...

"These excuses are so lame, it's like reading something out of a Monty Python script,'' says Charles Yesalis, 59, an anabolic steroids specialist and professor of health policy at Pennsylvania State University in State College. "We don't have a problem because there is no proof, and we aren't going to test to get the proof.' This whole notion that there is something about carrying a bag of clubs that places you in a high ethical and moral plane is naive.''
The Ladies Professional Golf Association, based in Daytona Beach, Florida, says it has no evidence of drug use among its members.

That's right, back acne and excessive facial hair have always been part of LPGA Tour life.

Drug testing will be conducted at the World Amateur Championships in October in Stellenbosch, South Africa, a first for the event."It's educational,'' says Fay, whose USGA is involved in organizing the tests. "We won't announce the results.''

 Golfing executives agree that any testing policy for pros or amateurs needs to be uniform across the globe. The European tour holds 46 events in 23 different countries.


Stewart Cink, a 12-year veteran of the tour, says testing is probably a good idea if only to erase any doubt about drug use. Nothing players might take will make them better golfers, says Cink, 32.

"Everything you could take would diminish your performance,'' he says.

German government anti-doping officials are operating on the opposite assumption. They are working with German golf association executives to come up with a testing program partly because the anti-doping officials say golfers can enhance their performance.

"In every type of sport, it's possible to gain an advantage with certain substances,'' says Matthias Blatt, director of Germany's National Anti-Doping Agency. "Theoretically, golfers could even dope to increase concentration.''

 Beta-blockers, used to treat hypertension, create a more regular heart rate, possibly reducing anxiety and giving a player a steadier hand. They are prohibited in the Olympic sports of archery, curling and shooting and are often outlawed at chess and bridge tournaments, doctors say.

And finally...

In the U.S., Fay says it will probably take a crisis to get drug testing on the fast track.

"The court of public opinion doesn't seem interested in how it relates to golf because they sense it is a clean sport,'' he says. If there is a documented case or strong suspicion, that is when the interest level will spike.''