Drug testing on the way for amateurs

GolfWeek Sean Martin
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Drug testing is coming to the US Amateur.

The US Golf Association informed past US Amateur participants Tuesday that drug testing will occur at the 2013 US Amateur and US Women’s Amateur.

The USGA began drug testing at the 2009 US Open and US Women’s Open. This is the first time it will test at an amateur event. The US Amateurs, like the Opens, will follow the International Golf Federation’s Anti-Doping Policy, which adopts the World Anti-Doping Agency List of Prohibited Substances.

Joe Goode, the USGA’s managing director, communications, said golf’s inclusion in the 2016 Olympics was the reason behind the decision.

“The USGA has determined that it is in the best interest of the sport of golf and the players to begin the introduction of drug testing with a program that is approved by the International Olympic Committee,” Goode said.

There are no current plans to expand the program to other USGA amateur championships, he added.

The majority of competitors at the US Amateur and US Women’s Amateur are college athletes, who are subject to NCAA testing.

“I don't see any problem with it at all,” said Martha Leach, the 2009 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Champion. “To me, it's not a big deal."

Players who use a banned substance for medical purposes can apply for a "therapeutic use exemption."

Alabama head coach Jay Seawell said he was “surprised” by the decision.

“I think it is helping our sport,” he said. “For (the USGA) to want to do it at the US Amateur, they must be serious about keeping it clean.”

Oklahoma head women's coach Veronique Drouin Luttrell said she thinks it's important for the USGA and NCAA to have similar drug-testing policies in place so the two organizations can work in unison. At the elite amateur and college levels, it ensures the equality of the field.

"They (Oklahoma players) also think the USGA and NCAA should have similar rules with regards to drug testing," she said. "They already are getting drug tested during their collegiate season, so this is no difference to them."

The PGA Tour, European Tour and LPGA began drug testing in 2008. Drug testing also has occurred at the World Amateur Team Championship and Women’s World Amateur Team Championship for many years.

Nathan Smith, the four-time US Mid-Amateur champion, said: “You wouldn’t think enhancers would trickle into golf, but I guess recent circumstances or events . . . have proved otherwise. As sad as it is in sports not to see athletes competing on pure talent, there is a lot of money and a lot on the line in these competitions, and athletes unfortunately go that route.”

Golfweek's Julie Williams contributed to this report.

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