/ 24 January 2008

Tiger, Mickelson applaud golf’s anti-doping plans

World number one Tiger Woods and second-ranked Phil Mickelson applaud the new PGA Tour drug-test plan set to begin on July 1, even though it means careful monitoring when playing abroad.

Differences between the US PGA testing plan and other events, which feature more stringent World Anti-Doping Agency rules in some nations, put pressure on globe-trotting players like South Africa’s Ernie Els and top Australians.

”Guys like that, they are going to have to watch what they take, pay more attention to it,” Woods said. ”The rules are set up differently here. We’re still trying to figure it out. But I think overall the policy is fantastic.”

Woods was among several players who attended an informational session on Tuesday before the $5,2-million PGA Buick Invitational, which he has won the past three years.

Citing random testing requirements in other sports that mandate doping control monitors know where players are at all times, Woods said golf’s fledgling step into safeguarding against dope cheats is a good start.

”Our tests aren’t as stringent as tennis,” Woods said. ”I still think we’re moving in the right direction with our sport when it comes to testing.”

Mickelson said he sees no doping problem in golf but wants the anti-doping programme to ensure credibility with golf’s audience.

”I don’t think there’s anything there [to find] but better to have [testing] there,” Mickelson said. ”It’s good for the sport. It will show golfers hold the rules of golf in high esteem not just on the course but off the course as well.”

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said that golf needed to take the step of testing players in the wake of record-setting driving distances and doping scandals in athletics, baseball and cycling.

”I just don’t see it becoming a problem,” Finchem said. ”What I do see as a problem is people don’t believe that.”

Finchem could also see problems in Europe where some nations mandate tests if US players did not have some awareness of testing programmes and potentially left themselves open for an accidental positive test.

”The British Open was clearly going to test. Once that starts to happen, our players are under the same set of risks,” Finchem said. ”If they’re going to be in that arena anyway, they need to be educated.

”It’s just not worth going down that direction when we can take some steps to do something about that.” — Sapa-AFP