The news of blood testing to more comprehensively test for doping and the decision to announce suspensions for all violation is a fascinating one on many levels. **I elaborate here at Golfweek.com.
(A) It's about time. Golf took too many hits for appearing to protect players. Given the repeated assurances that there would be few violations, those protections seemed particularly unnecessary.
(B) Odd timing. This was probably planned for announcement in anticipation of the IOC's upcoming consideration of golf going forward in the Olympics. That was, until they jumped the gun last week and committed to golf through 2024. Take that WADA!
(C) Odd timing, part 2. The folks at the Travelers, who have assembled a stellar field this year, should not be pleased to have this announcement on their press conference Tuesday.
The full press release:
Anti-Doping Program, which will take effect with the start of the 2017-18 PGA TOUR Season. The revisions, approved by the PGA TOUR Policy Board, include the implementation of blood testing, supplementation of TOUR’s Prohibited List to include all of the substances and methods currently on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List of Substances and Methods, and the reporting of suspensions related to drugs of abuse (recreational drugs).
The TOUR will begin a comprehensive education program to ensure that all players understand the changes to the testing procedures, the Prohibited List and the adjudication process in advance of the 2017-18 season.
“While we are extremely pleased with the implementation and results of the PGA TOUR Anti-Doping Program to date, we believe that these changes to our program are prudent in that they further our objectives of protecting the well-being of our members and better substantiate the integrity of golf as a clean sport,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan.
Blood testing will be added to the Anti-Doping Program as one of the TOUR’s regular testing protocols, beginning next season. Urine testing will continue to be the predominant method.
While the vast majority of the substances on the Prohibited List are best detected through urine testing, there are some, like Human Growth Hormone, that are only detectable through blood. To date, the PGA TOUR has not implemented blood testing, although those substances have been prohibited. The scientific community has made substantial advancements with the creation of new detection methods, which have been successfully implemented throughout the world of sport. In addition, golfers who competed in the Olympic Games underwent blood testing with no issues.
The PGA TOUR Prohibited List will include all of the banned substances and methods from the current WADA Prohibited List of Substances and Methods and be reviewed annually, by calendar year, to determine what (if any) changes TOUR deems advisable to make to the PGA TOUR Prohibited List based upon any changes to the WADA List.
Since the inception of the Program, the PGA TOUR Prohibited List has differed slightly from the WADA Prohibited List, primarily in three categories: asthma medications; allergy and anti-inflammatory medications, such as corticosteroids; and pseudoephedrine over a designated threshold level. Although not a signatory to the WADA Code and not required to consult with WADA on the TOUR Prohibited List, given the global nature of professional golf, consistency with the WADA list ensures professional golfers need to comply with just one list in competition around the world as well as in Olympic competition.
The TOUR has maintained a comprehensive Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) program, which enables players with legitimate medical conditions to use prohibited substances as prescribed by their physicians and under the advisement of the TUE Committee. The application, review and monitoring of TUEs has been successfully functioning since 2008, and the addition of three new categories of medication will be implemented for the TUE program beginning with the 2017-18 season.
Reporting of suspensions related to violations of the Program for performance enhancing substances have been part of the TOUR’s protocol since the inception of the Anti-Doping Program in 2008. Beginning with the 2017-18 PGA TOUR Season, suspensions related to violations of the Program, whether for performance enhancing substances or drugs of abuse, will be reported publicly. Once the adjudication process has been completed, the TOUR will issue a statement containing the name of the player, the fact that a violation for either a performance enhancing substance or a drug of abuse has occurred and the length of the suspension.
Currently, violations for drugs of abuse are handled under the PGA TOUR Tournament Regulations as Conduct Unbecoming a Professional. Disciplinary matters related to Conduct Unbecoming a Professional are not reported to the public; thus, violations related to drugs of abuse have been treated confidentially.