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Rio Olympics pivotal for golf's inclusion beyond 2020

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ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – In 12 months the field will be set for the 2016 Olympic Games, but for golf’s decision makers another deadline also looms for the game’s future Olympic hopes.

While golf has already been approved for the 2020 Games, the decision whether it remains an Olympic sport beyond ’20 will be made before the Games in Tokyo, which makes next year pivotal if the sport is to remain in the Olympic fold.

On Saturday at the Open Championship, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said golf’s future in the game will depend on a number of factors in Rio, including the quality of competition and player participation.

“The Olympic Games are about the best athletes of the world coming together, and we do not need any additional spectacular or great action,” Bach said.

The other part of the game’s long-term Olympic outlook may also hinge on golf’s compliance to the established anti-doping code. When the PGA Tour began drug testing in 2008 it mirrored its policy after the World Anti-Doping Agency with a few notable exceptions.

The Tour, which is not a signatory to the WADA code but will produce the greatest number of Olympic athletes as the world’s preeminent circuit, omitted certain substances from its banned list that are not allowed under WADA rules, including corticosteroids (anti-inflammatories) and certain allergy and asthma medications.

Nor does the Tour follow the WADA code for disclosing violations, like earlier this year when it was announced Tour player Bhavik Patel had been suspended with no mention of the substance that caused the violation.

“I can only encourage the PGA [Tour] to follow the WADA code, and finally to accept the WADA code and to be compliant with this so that you have harmonized anti-doping regime there for all the players and that you have a level playing field for all the golfers,” Bach said.

Bach said drug testing, as well as other aspects of the ’16 Games including format and fan interest, will be assessed after Rio and that WADA may be the ultimate arbiter.

“This will very much depend on WADA,” Bach said. “If WADA will tell us that the non-compliant test procedures of [the Tour] would have a negative impact on the Olympic requirements, then of course we'd have to take this into consideration, again, to have a level playing field for all the players and for all the athletes.”