R&A Scraps Doping Tests at Royal Birkdale

The issue of doping in golf was raised again when the Royal & Ancient, one of the two most influential global bodies, decided to delay drug testing at this year’s British Open at Royal Birkdale.

The reason is that many golfers had already qualified for the tournament from tours that do not apply anti-doping measures.

Surprisingly, the normally stringent World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) is okay with the decision, though it has not completely let golf off the hook.

In a BBC report, a spokesman for Wada urged the global golfing community to come together in formulating doping policy, saying:

“No sport is immune to doping and anti-doping measures protect the game’s integrity. 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.”

Organisers of this year’s Open were hoping that the tournament would be the first major to conduct doping tests. It is now forced to postpone these plans until next year’s event.

The PGA Tour and European Tour will start drug testing in July. Officials from the Asian, Australia and South African circuits have yet to come up with a coherent anti-doping framework.

Wada has for many years frowned on golf for being too relaxed when it comes to doping in sport. But its lenient stance towards the R&A is because of the body’s genuine efforts to start a doping programme, according to the BBC.

Wada realises that in order to be fair to golfers, they must be properly educated on the perils of doping, its consequences and regulations.

Before last year’s Open, South African great Gary Player said there were at least 10 professionals who were on performance-enhancing drugs, though he refused to name them. “We’re dreaming if we think it’s not going to come into golf,” he was quoted as saying at the time.

Although many players rejected Player’s statement, it forced the PGA Tour to act and, soon afterwards, it announced the introduction of dope testing in 2008.

Wada, however, remains unhappy with the PGA Tour, which has yet to recognise doping body’s list of prohibited substances. This means, a golfer could be on something that is banned in almost every other sport, but not in golf.

It is believed that the kind of substances that help golfers are not so much the muscle-building steroids but drugs to help players keep calm.

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