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PGA Tour already teaching about drugs

Drug counseling experts have already started explaining the new US PGA Tour anti-doping program to players ahead of a July 1 start for tests on golf's elite, tour commissioner Tim Finchem said Wednesday.

The first seminar to explain banned substances and random testing to PGA players was conducted Tuesday here at the Sony Open with personalized sessions Wednesday so everyone can ask questions regarding their own vitamins and drugs.

"Our focus is to educate the players because honestly we think if we do that job we will not have a problem," Finchem said.

"The core value in the sport is too strong as it relates to following rules. This is a complicated area and players need to understand the substances that are a target of the rule and how to keep the substances out of their bodies."

Players, who will be subject to testing starting July 1, have already been given a written handbook on the anti-doping program. The tour has established a 24-hour hotline and made experts available starting at this week's tour event.

"We have an outside provider that will be doing our testing program and we have outside professional consultants that we've made available to players to discuss what's on the list, what kind of substances you should be concerned about in terms of supplements, vitamins, other substances," Finchem said.

Players also have a mandatory meeting set for San Diego, where the tour stops in two weeks, and later in the season.

"We're just not going to leave this to chance," Finchem said. "It's a lot of work, but we're going about it very aggressively."

There are differences between US, European and LPGA plans. The US tour does not exactly follow the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) ban list.

"Would we like in a perfect world for everything to be uniform? Probably yes," Finchem said.

"The variations are not significant, however, we don't think at this point. And they come about because the various organizations have gotten involved in this at different rates of speed, if you will."

"We're comfortable with where we are now. We will be comparing information, sharing information, and that may result in even a closer alignment. But right now it's fairly close to begin with."

Finchem saw no problem with adjusting global golf's doping plans should the sport ever rejoin the Olympics because leaders would have seven years to find common ground.

"There's no problem at all with golf taking the steps that it may need to take to align its programs exactly with what is necessary for an Olympic involvement," he said. "It's just not a big issue.

"We have every reason to believe that the basic alignment we have now may very well be the alignment that the IOC uses by the time we were to get into the Olympics, if ever, and that's a big question mark."

Finchem says he has seen no evidence of a PGA doping problem, crediting only fitness and equipment technology advances for the longer drives compared to a generation ago.

He is more concerned about image in an era when athletics, cycling, baseball and other sports have been rocked by doping scandals that have destroyed the credibility of results, records and leaders charged with preventing corruption.

"We have never concluded that there are any substances out there that if you take, it might enhance your performance. We're actually not certain that there is today. That's not the reason we're going down this path," he said.

"We're going down this path because the public fan base around the world for sports generally are more and more concluding that athletes, regardless of the sport, are enhancing their position because of use of substances.

"We think it's important that sports generally be on the same page. The way we're headed, if players were to start taking stuff, regardless of a rule, it could jeopardize the image of the sport... our number one asset."

The World Golf Foundation, formerly led by Finchem and now chaired by US Golf Association executive director David Fay, is charged with overseeing the doping patrol. Fay is confident golf is clean now and will stay that way.

"We believe passionately, at least I do, that golf is a clean sport, and now we're going to be able to provide evidence of that," he said.

 

January 10, 2008




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