International Olympic Committee

Asia's first drug test for golfers prompted by Olympics

Testing may start next year and would be a prerequisite to qualifying for 2016 Games

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 February, 2013, 6:07am

Asian golfers will face drug tests for the first time in the run-up to the 2016 Olympics but officials played down the likelihood of a major problem despite serious scandals in other sports.

As the Asian Tour, the region's biggest circuit, heads into its 10th season, executive chairman Kyi Hla Han said testing was yet to be introduced, but could start next year in tune with demands from the International Olympic Committee.

"If the players are going to qualify for the Olympics they're going to have to go through testing," he said. The Asian Tour's rival golf circuit, OneAsia, also does not test players.

But Kyi Hla Han and other high-level officials remain sceptical that players would resort to performance-enhancing drugs in golf, despite increases in the sport's athleticism and the prize money at stake. "It's hard to tell from a golf point of view what drugs are performance-enhancing or not," he said.

"I think as the governing bodies we're not sure whether they're performance-enhancing or not ... but I think we're all in agreement that we will comply with the enforcement regulations."

He added: "I don't really see how they can purposely try to enhance their performance. Golf is not like other sports [where you need] speed and recovery. It's difficult to judge, but all the players will have to follow the rules."

Kyi Hla Han's view is widely held in golf with world No 1 Rory McIlroy this week quoted as calling the sport "clean" and saying there were few substances that could benefit players.

Last year Tiger Woods, after seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong was revealed as a serial doping offender, said golf was too honourable to have much cheating.

"This is a sport where we turn ourselves in on mistakes. A ball moves in the trees, guys call penalties on themselves. Golf is a different sport," said the 14-time major champion.

However, Vijay Singh triggered a storm last month when he admitted using a substance called deer antler spray, which boosts muscle growth and contains a banned anabolic hormone. Singh, who denies cheating, is now under investigation.

Such cases are rare in golf but the sport has faced calls to tighten its comparatively light testing regime, in which America's PGA Tour and the European Tour rely on urine rather than more stringent blood tests.

A spokesman for OneAsia said the circuit has an anti-drug policy modelled on that of the Australian PGA Tour, which is approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency, but has no current plans to introduce testing.