BERNARD Gallacher believes golf’s integrity is still intact despite a doping charge against Vijay Singh being dropped and Tiger Woods being spared disqualification in the Masters.
The former Ryder Cup captain also said he could not understand why Greg Norman is so keen to see blood testing introduced in golf, insisting he feels confident the game is clean of drugs.
Gallacher was responding to concerns being expressed about the sport’s moral standing in the wake of Singh being cleared of a doping offence despite admitting to using a substance that cannot be detected.
“In view of this, Tiger and others, is anybody else more than a bit concerned about the inequalities of our rules?” wrote former Ryder Cup player Andrew Coltart on his Facebook page.
Asked if he felt golf’s integrity was under threat, Gallacher said: “Not really. Regarding the Vijay Singh situation, I’ve read what (PGA Tour commissioner) Tim Finchem had to say and the fact this substance was taken unwittingly is the reason no action is being taken.
“I appreciate doping in any sport is a big issue and golf has perhaps been quite slow in reaching the position of introducing urine testing, but I don’t know where Greg Norman is coming from on this.”
Earlier this week Norman branded the current doping checks in golf as “disgraceful” and claimed that blood testing had to be introduced if the game wanted to treat its procedures in a “serious” manner.
“I don’t get it because I don’t think golf has any problems with doping,” added Gallacher. “What could someone take that would make them become a better golfer. It’s not like football, where energy levels are so important, and it’s not like horseracing either. When Gary Player came out a few years ago and claimed golf had a doping problem, I questioned him about that. But he wouldn’t name anyone. I honestly don’t see golf having that problem.”
Singh admitted using deer antler spray, which contains a banned substance, in a magazine interview in January. A subsequent investigation led to him being sanctioned by the PGA Tour on 19 February. After he appealed, howveer, the Tour contacted the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) and, in a statement issued on Wednesday, it confirmed that it no longer considered the use of deer antler spray to be prohibited unless a “positive test results”.
Asked if the PGA Tour should have been more open about the process, Gallacher added: “Tim Finchem likes to keep things in-house. It’s the same when it comes to all disciplinary matters on the PGA Tour.
“However, as golf prepares to become an Olympic sport again, I can see why people are calling for it to be more transparent on these sort of matters. To be honest, I don’t think any golfer would mind if random blood testing was introduced and they were asked to provide a sample at a tournament.”
Woods was hit with a two-shot penalty for taking an illegal drop at Augusta National, where he was only saved from disqualifaction because the Masters committee decided not to raise the matter with the world No 1 before signing his scorecard despite an eagle-eyed armchair viewer calling in.
“What people seem to be forgetting on this matter is that Tiger was actually penalised for unwittingly breaking the rules, having condemned himself when he came out after his round and said he’d dropped his ball further away from the original spot,” observed Gallacher.
“I think the big thing that will come out of this is that a two-stroke penalty rather than a disqualification will be imposed when players unwittingly sign for a wrong scorecard and I think that’s a good thing.
“In general, however, I think golf has to be careful. The game is struggling in terms of members and slow play is definitely a deterrent for a lot of people. But we’ve already seen square grooves banned and now anchoring could be on the way out as well. We’ve got to make sure the game stays enjoyable for all ages.”