Olympic hopefuls begin more stringent drug testing


CHARLOTTE, N.C. – For the 120 men and women who are currently qualified to play in this year’s Olympics the reality of being an athlete begins on Friday.

Players potentially bound for Rio in August will be placed into the Olympic testing pool, which is more stringent than the anti-doping protocols used by the PGA Tour.

On-site testing at tournaments will be similar to what players have seen since the Tour began its anti-doping program in 2008, with the exception of blood testing which is not a part of the circuit’s testing.

But the biggest differences will occur away from tournaments with an intensified focus on out-of-competition testing and the addition of whereabouts requirements.

“It’s something that has been aggressively presented to the athletes in as many formats as possible,” said Andy Levinson, the executive director of policy administration for the Tour. “Everybody has been educated about the process and at this point everybody that has been registered in the testing pool has fully completed the whereabouts requirements or is in the process of completing it.”

Under the whereabouts requirements players will need to inform officials where they will be spending each night as well as where they will be one hour out of each day for possible out-of-competition testing.

Tougher drug testing nothing new for some players

Potential Olympic athletes will use an app on their smart phones to fulfill the whereabouts requirements in a system called “ADAMS,” which tracks a players schedule and informs them when they are not compliant.

During in-competition days, like Friday for those in the field at this week’s Wells Fargo Championship, players don’t have to fulfill the whereabouts requirement, but – as an example of how attentive potential Olympians will need to be – if they miss the cut they will need to update their whereabouts accordingly.

Levinson said the whereabouts requirement has been the most asked about element of the new testing and for good reason. Three whereabouts failures are treated as an anti-doping violation, which are more common and concerning than one might think.

In a recent report from the World Anti-Doping Agency of the 1,693 anti-doping violations worldwide in 2014, 231 were non-analytical violations that did not include a positive test. A whereabouts failure would be considered this type of violation.

“I'll be taking care of all my whereabouts on the app so I'll be going over that and making sure I know how to handle everything,” said Rickie Fowler, one of four players from the United States currently qualified for the Olympics. “I want to make sure that I can change it on the fly and be able to, if there is a last minute change of plans, that way I'm on top of it and there's no question there.”

Only players who are currently qualified will go into the testing pool, but with each week’s new ranking if a player moves onto the list they will be added to the pool. Players who move into the testing pool will remain there, even if they fall off the qualified list, until July 11 when the final Olympic field is set.

Testing for pool players will be conducted either by officials from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency or a certified independent agency like Drug Free Sport, and golfers will now be subject to testing for the entire WADA list of prohibited substances.

The Tour’s anti-doping program varies slightly from the WADA list.

Although blood testing will be added for the first time, Levinson said players didn’t seem to have any problems over the new testing element.

“Aside from us telling them it’s going to happen it doesn’t really seem to be a concern for players,” Levinson said. “These are athletes who are used to going to doctors for annual physicals and having blood drawn.”