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Page last updated at 16:18 GMT, Wednesday, 30 April 2008 17:18 UK

Drugs chiefs ask golf to do more

By Matt Slater

The Open Championship
The 2008 Open Championship starts at Royal Birkdale on 17 July

Anti-doping bosses have backed the Open's organisers over the decision to delay introducing drugs tests, but want golf to go further in policing itself.

The R&A had to scrap plans to screen every player this year as some tours have not implemented drugs policies.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) agreed with the R&A's decision but warned the sport against complacency.

"No sport is immune to doping and anti-doping measures protect the game's integrity," a Wada spokesman said.

"It would be helpful for all golfers if each of the tours had the same rules, the same prohibited list and the same education activities.

"We expect the players themselves will see the sense in such harmony and look forward to its development."

The R&A had hoped the 2008 Open would be the first major to implement drugs tests but was forced to postpone them until 2009 when it realised players from tours without adequate doping education programmes had already qualified.

Drug testing on the PGA and European Tours, world golf's two richest circuits, starts in July. But the Asian, Australian and South African tours - who have all already held Open qualification events - have not yet agreed their anti-doping plans.

The news is disappointing but we know it's not through a lack of effort or willingness on behalf of the R&A

UK Sport spokesman
This meant the R&A, which has taken a lead in persuading golf to take the doping threat more seriously, had to shelve its testing plans.

Wada, which has long criticised the sport for not doing enough to address the issue, was sympathetic to the R&A's position.

"While Wada regrets that no testing will take place at the Open, we recognise that proper education of the players is important so that they are fully informed of the dangers and consequences of doping as well as the rules," the spokesman told BBC Sport.

"The R&A has been a driving force for the implementation of anti-doping programmes in golf, and we expect that it will implement testing soon."

Wada's comments were supported by UK Sport, the body that runs Britain's anti-doping programme.

"The news is disappointing but we know it's not through a lack of effort or willingness on behalf of the R&A," a spokesman said.

"Golf is a complex sport in terms of its global structure, which has led to delays in the introduction of testing, but we are confident the issues will be resolved and there will be testing in place next year."

The R&A, the governing body for golf outside of the US and Mexico, introduced limited testing at the World Amateur Team Championships in 2006 but was forced to deal with embarrassing headlines before last year's Open when Gary Player claimed the sport had a doping problem.

A day before the tournament started, Player told reporters: "I know for a fact that some golfers are doing (drugs). We're dreaming if we think it's not going to come into golf."

BBC Sport's Iain Carter
He refused to identify any players as cheats but said there were at least 10 professionals taking performance-enhancing substances and that it "might be a hell of a lot more".

The South African legend's allegations were given short shrift by players and administrators alike but they clearly forced the issue higher up the sport's "to do" list.

And it was not long after that the previously reluctant PGA Tour confirmed that it would be introducing mandatory drugs tests this year.

The American circuit's belated acceptance of the need to start testing has not, however, been universally welcomed.

Wada remains concerned that the PGA Tour has not signed up to its globally-recognised list of prohibited substances and some of the tour's members, the players themselves, have reacted angrily to the prospect of testers turning up at their houses unannounced.

But with golf one of seven sports under consideration for inclusion in the 2016 Olympic Games, the sport is likely to have to move towards the kind of Wada-sanctioned programme that athletes, cyclists and swimmers accept as routine.

see also
Golf drug tests ruled out
07 Jan 01 |  Golf

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