Dawson: R&A Supports Drug Testing

A largely dull set of exchanges between the inkslingers and R&A head man today at Hoylake. Check out this rivetting opening exchange:

Q. You mentioned the fire engines. Were they going to be on the premises anyway, or have they been brought on because of the situation?

DAVID HILL: The fire station here is about two minutes from the course, and if we had normal weather conditions they would have stayed there because the chief fire officer was quite happy about that. But given the weather, it's prudent for them to come to the golf course, just in case anything should happen.

Q. Number of engines?

DAVID HILL: Two fire engines, which is more than adequate should anything occur. The chief fire officer is very happy with the current situation.

Q. I presume you heard what happened at Hillside yesterday?

DAVID HILL: Yes, we are absolutely aware of that and we've taken the advice of the chief fire officer.

Q. Have the players actually been warned about smoking?

DAVID HILL: Again, we've simply issued the same instructions as we have to the spectators to take due diligence as far as smoking.

PETER DAWSON: Just to be clear, this is not a smoking ban, just asking people to be especially careful.

Q. But they've been given it on a piece of paper, this due diligence, or just made aware of it?

PETER DAWSON: There are notices going on all the scoreboards. We're in the process of actually implementing it at the moment; that's why we're slightly deterring as to whether the players have gotten the paper, but they will be informed.
Jeese, if we couldn't only get them to ask that many questions about the distance issue. Dawson was asked if they had any interest in the winning score:
The score, it would depend on how windy conditions are. We don't particularly mind about the score, as long as we find the best champion. If the conditions stay as they are, I'm sure we're going to see a lot of birdies. And many of the most exciting and memorable Opens we've had have been low-scoring ones. And we don't have a particular problem with that.
Just like the USGA!
Q. One of the newspapers this week said that The R&A are coming under increased pressure to introduce drug testing. Do you particularly feel under pressure?

PETER DAWSON: I don't particularly feel under pressure, let me be clear. I did read some of the reports about this. Our position is that we don't think at the moment that there is much use of performance enhancing drugs in golf. There have been quite a number of drug tests, mainly in France, and the majority of the positive tests were for social drugs, which under The R&A code are just as important as performance enhancing ones.

But that said, we do support the introduction of drug testing in golf, just as we would do in any other sport; we would be anxious to keep the sport free of it. The issue is how do you do that effectively.

And these elite players are playing golf all around the world 52 weeks a year, so it's extremely important that the game, the administration of the game as a whole, professional and elite amateur, introduces drug policies, if not totally together, then close together. The thought that one event in one weekend in 52 can effectively do this I think is not practical, not least because The R&A Code calls for every competition tested at times of the year when players may not be tested. The R&A, while not feeling particularly under pressure in drug testing at the moment, you need anti-doping policies and drug testing to ensure that's the case.

Q. Wouldn't you be the pioneers and everybody would have to follow?

PETER DAWSON: We are pioneering it this year at the World Amateur Team Championships in South Africa. There is going to be drug testing there. The country and the players are aware of it. And we are, if you like, cutting our teeth on making sure that we can administer that properly, as our first step.

Q. Do you call that a dress rehearsal, then?

PETER DAWSON: It's a rehearsal. I don't know when you're going to see drug testing in professional golf around the world, but we would support it.
What better time than now to kill the rally?
Q. You mentioned some quite unprecedented level of interest in the practice rounds here this week. Does that encourage you to be more experimental or adventurous in your choice of Open venues, so The Open appeals to a non-Open Championship audience?
Back to the newsmaking...
Q. What is it that's so difficult about implementing an anti-doping policy, which all sports seem to be able to do so?

PETER DAWSON: There's nothing particularly difficult about it; it is administratively complex. Every sport you read about has disputes about drug tests, don't they? So there are a lot of administrative problems and also costs. But that aside, the difficulty in golf is that not all governing -- not all bodies, rather, in the game, seem to be quite ready to think it's a good idea.

Q. Taking that further, though, Peter, as the law making body for half the world, couldn't you get together these people and get talking about it, or are you already doing that?

PETER DAWSON: Well, we're certainly doing that in our area of what you might call jurisdiction, which is with all the national golf unions around the world who send teams down to the World Amateur Team Championships. There's 60 or 70 countries participating there, and all of those have agreed that there will be an anti-doping policy and drug testing in application there. We are not the governing body, if you like, for discipline on the professional Tours, in Europe, Asia, Australasia, South Africa, America, Canada or South America. That is not an area we could dictate or influence, because it will be influenced by discussion and participation.

Q. Are you planning on doing that?

PETER DAWSON: The conversations about this subject have been going on for quite some time.

Here's a brilliant question. And we can be sure it wasn't an American.
Q. Do you think if the hot weather continues like this that there's a danger the tournament may become a lottery?
MARTIN KIPPAX: Well, I'm not sure quite what you mean by that. I mean, the ball is going to bounce on the golf course, if that's what you're saying. But it's going to be the same for everybody. And they are true links conditions, as you all know. The situation is we've had a very hot period. The course is in good condition, and the fairways are, as we said they would be, perfectly fair. And the rough is the rough. We've had a very strong rough, which is now fading back, if you will, with the heat.

But the reality is that I'm quite sure there would be lottery; as such, it will be the person with the most skill that prevails.

PETER DAWSON: When the ball bounces this much, it's more skillful in some ways, not less skillful. When the greens are like they are, which is they will take a good shot from the fairway, then it's more skillful, not less skillful. This idea that it's a lottery is just the reverse of the truth.