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PGA Tour commissioner to decide fate of recreational drug users

The PGA Tour makes a distinction between performance-enhancing drugs and recreational drugs in its anti-doping policy, and commissioner Tim Finchem is in charge of doling out any penalties for the latter.

Drugs such as marijuana and cocaine are among the group of substances that now are banned by the PGA Tour.

For performance-enhancing drugs, the penalties is up to a one-year suspension for the first violation, a five-year suspension for the second violation, and a permanent ban for a third positive test.

In each case, there are exceptions for "drugs of abuse." Those penalties are determined by Finchem.

"If we got a positive test, it could conceivably be that a substantive abuse is being taken for a competitive advantage. We would doubt that, but it's possible," Finchem said Wednesday.

If it was determined the drug use was lack of judgment or addiction, punishment would be handled accordingly. Finchem said that could be disciplinary action, rehabilitation or continued testing.

"So it could conceivably be that a player is disciplined at some level and then if he's allowed to continue to play, he's tested on a regular basis to help him deal with those issues," Finchem said. "We view that as somewhat different than a player who has intentionally taken a substance to gain competitive advantage. That would be dealt with in a different arena."

The LPGA Tour policy does not discriminate between performance-enhancing drugs and recreational drugs.

The greater concern, which some players have expressed privately, is whether Finchem would have too much power to discipline players for recreational drug use, leading to the perception that he is playing favorites.

"Candidly, I don't think it puts me in an uncomfortable position," Finchem said. "I think it puts me in a position to make a tough decision. But we have a lot of comfort that we've managed in the discipline area for the last 30 years, and me for the last 15 years, and I'm called on to make those decisions frequently. They're not any different. It has to do with players' conduct.

"I think we have a pretty good history of dealing with that, and we would anticipate continuing that."


January 24, 2008

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