For any professional golfer looking to play the 2016 Olympics class is in session.
After nearly eight years of anti-doping on the PGA Tour, officials from USA Golf, the organization tasked with running golf’s Olympic teams in the United States, and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the performance-enhancing drug watchdog in America, have 12 months to teach potential Olympians the ways of the anti-doping world.
On May 6, 2016, would-be Olympic golfers will be placed into the registered testing pool, a group that will include the four men and four women currently qualified for the Games via the Olympic Rankings, where they will be subjected to a much higher anti-doping standard.
“The PGA Tour has already started that process,” said Travis Tygart, the CEO of USADA. “It’s a multifaceted approach to making sure they have all the accurate information and are educated on what the process is and the purposes behind the program.”
Among the notable differences between testing programs on the PGA Tour and that used by USADA will be the addition of whereabouts testing, blood testing and more-focused out-of-competition testing.
“We addressed about 150 players on the subject at the annual player meeting at the Farmers Insurance Open, and the LPGA conducted similar education at their first player meeting of the year in January,” said Andy Levinson, the executive director of USA Golf.
That education process intensified this week at The Players with officials from the International Golf Federation hosting an anti-doping meeting on Monday and another meeting was held on Tuesday between Tour officials and various player managers to discus the anti-doping differences.
Levinson said there will also be a document issued later this summer and distributed to potential Olympic golfers outlining everything they need to know about the Games from anti-doping to travel and athlete housing in Rio. He said he also expects to have one-on-one meetings with golfers as the May 6 deadline approaches.
“I do anticipate players will have more questions as they focus on it more and we get closer to the Games and as we sit down with them I fully expect to answer any questions they might have,” Levinson said.
The biggest adjustment will likely be the addition of whereabouts testing, which requires athletes in the pool to inform USADA where they are one hour each day between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. for testing.
“There is an education process and them understanding the reasons behind it and the importance of it, so while it might be a little inconvenient it’s less inconvenient then if someone robbed them of their opportunity to be on the Olympic team and win a gold medal for their country,” Tygart said. “Those pro athletes, hockey, the NBA, they’ve been totally supportive of the effort and we haven’t had any issues.”