Former world No 1 Greg Norman has welcomed the PGA Tour introducing blood testing next season as part of its anti-doping policy, saying “it is about bloody time” the step was taken.
The Australian is also delighted that, as part of the US circuit beefing up that policy, its list of banned substances is also being brought into line with the World Anti-Doping Agency.
“Congrats,” he wrote on Twitter in reference to that course of action, before signing off his reaction to the news on social media by adding: “Zero tolerance”.
As part of the changes to be introduced in October at the start of the next wraparound season, the Tour will also begin reporting suspensions related to abuse of recreational drugs.
That, of course, never happened when Dustin Johnson, now the world No 1, took a six-month break from the game in 2014 amid allegations in the United States of a positive test for cocaine, claims which he has always strenuously denied. Johnson, who would only say his break from the game was to tackle “personal challenges”, missed out on playing in the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles as a result.
Under the current policy, the Tour is required to announce when a player has been suspended only for performance-enhancing drugs. Recreational drugs fell under a private “conduct unbecoming a professional” disciplinary policy.
Jay Monahan, who took over from the long-serving Tim Finchem as the PGA Tour’s commissioner at the beginning of the year, announced the changes to the policy, which was started in 2008. “While we are extremely pleased with the implementation and results of the PGA Tour anti-doping programme to date, we believe that these changes to our programme 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,” he said in a statement.
Blood testing will allow the Tour to detect any use of human growth hormone, which is on the list of banned substances but cannot be detected through urine.
However, the Tour still plans to use urine samples for the majority of its drug testing next season, claiming it is the “far more efficient testing method” in golf as opposed to more high-endurance sports, such as cycling. In nine years, only three PGA Tour players have been suspended for performance-enhancing drugs – Doug Barron, Bhavik Patel and Scott Stallings. Former world No 1 Vijay Singh has sued the Tour after he was cleared of doping. He used deer antler spray, which is on the banned list by WADA, to stimulate muscle growth.
The changes, which follow golf’s return to the Olympics last year after more than a century, were also welcomed by Russell Knox. “We all want a fair playing field and, if that’s the step they want to take, then I’m right behind it,” said the Scottish No 1.