CROMWELL, Conn. – Since the PGA Tour began drug testing in 2008 the most glaring hole in the policy has been a lack of blood testing.
Although the vast majority of drugs the Tour tests for, more than 98 percent according to the circuit’s testing guru, can be detected via urine tests, human growth hormone can not and most experts agree it’s the most likely performance-enhancing drug to be used by a golfer.
On Tuesday, the Tour announced it will begin blood testing next season. Although there had been concerns that blood testing could somehow impact a player’s performance, last year’s Olympics and an extensive education program convinced most players it was time to start.
“I’ve gotten the answers I wanted. The Olympics have done this for a long, long time and there are guys who participated in the Olympics who didn’t have any issues with it,” said Billy Hurley III, a member of the 16-member player advisory council. “It’s important for the credibility of our drug testing system because there are things we can’t test for in urine. I don’t think anyone is taking any of these things, but now we can prove that.”
According to Andy Levinson, the Tour’s vice president for tournament administration and anti-doping, blood testing will be similar to the current urine testing, which largely occurs after rounds and will not be administered in “any way that could impact a player’s performance.”
“It’s such a small amount of blood that the sample that will be taken is about a spoonful, very little,” said Jason Bohn, one of four player directors on the Tour’s policy board. “The only concern was there will be about a 10 minute process where they will want the guys to hydrate before they do it. I don’t feel like anyone will be effected at all.”
Levinson said testers will draw 10 milliliters of blood, about two-thirds of a tablespoon, and that after testing the samples will be stored for “a specific period of time,” which for urine tests is up to two years. He also said there will not be as many blood tests given as urine tests because the vast majority of drugs on the circuit’s list of banned substances can be detected via a urine test.
Most player concerns over potential blood testing were put to rest during last year’s Olympics when players were subjected to blood testing without any issues, and one of the primary motivations to add blood testing to the circuit’s policy was to more closely mirror the World Anti-Doping Agency’s policy which is used during the Games.
“Lining up with WADA makes the most sense, for the players in the Olympic mix transitioning from our policy to WADA’s policy was difficult,” said Geoff Ogilvy, who is also a member of the PAC. “It was just a different style and threw players in a situation they weren’t used to. It makes sense to line up with what the rest of the world does.”