Golfers in the spotlight as KGU okays World Anti-Doping Agency policing

  • June 8, 2021
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Big brother is watching! Golfers in Kenya will now be subjected to rigorous drug-testing procedures after the Kenya Golf Union, KGU voted at its last AGM to ratify the World Anti-Doping Agency, WADA, protocols. Kenya now joins several nations which have voted to be subjected to the stringent WADA requirements to keep the sport of golf clean.

However the golf fraternity will have to wait for KGU to come up with a blueprint to guide on the process as done in other jurisdictions.  Among the expected guidelines will be issues pertaining to prohibited substances, testing procedures, player availability and the cadre of golfers who qualify to be tested. Initial indications are that amateurs on international duty and professional golfers are the ones to submit to the WADA protocols.

“We have scheduled a high-level consultative meeting next week with Anti-Doping Association of Kenya, ADAK, who are the local representatives of WADA to get a  better understanding of how the process will be applied to golfers,” Peter Kiguru, KGU chairman disclosed.

The move to subject golfers to WADA protocols was necessitated when the sport was re-introduced to the Olympics in 2016. The sport has had its fair share of criticism with many pundits accusing the elite Tours of lacking stringent anti-doping checks compared to other sports.

Indeed, the controversies surrounding drug tests in elite golf are well documented. Current world number one Dustin Johnson has allegedly failed three drug tests in his pro career and was even suspended by PGA Tour for six months in the last incident, though he has never admitted to the offences.

In March 2019 it was reported that Robert Garrigus was suspended for three months for using marijuana. He was the first PGA Tour pro to be publicly suspended for testing positive for a “drug of abuse.” In October 2019, Matt Every was suspended for 12 weeks after testing positive for cannabis. So far, the PGA has suspended two golfers for marijuana use, while others received suspensions for different drug violations.

The PGA Tour introduced its anti-doping program in 2008.  When the program began, the Tour only used urine to test for violations, which detects the vast majority of drugs a player may use to gain a competitive advantage, but not every drug. Blood testing was introduced in the 2017-18 season and the list of prohibited substances expanded, which now includes the entire banned list from the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Under the WADA regimen, the exact timing of anti-doping tests is not disclosed and players can be tested at any time – before or after a round and even when a player is not at a tournament. Samples are sent to a WADA-approved lab.

Dustin Johnson

WADA has a Prohibited List which spells out a substance and/or method that has the potential to enhance or enhances sport performance, represents an actual or potential health risk to the Athlete and violates the spirit of sport. The Prohibited List is reviewed annually in consultation with scientific, medical and anti-doping experts to ensure it reflects current medical and scientific evidence and doping practices. The Prohibited List comes into effect on January 1st  of each year and is published by WADA three months prior to coming into force; however, in exceptional circumstances, a substance or method may be added to the Prohibited List at any time, WADA says.

According to scientists, drugs that athletes would use for help fall into four categories: anabolic steroids, synthetic hormones, beta-blockers and stimulants. Anabolic steroids block the muscles from being broken down, allowing an athlete to train longer, recover faster from that training and build more muscle mass. Hormone drugs increase the cells’ ability to carry more oxygen — both of which give an athlete more endurance. Beta-blockers are designed to block the flow of adrenaline and keep the heart rate and blood pressure under control while stimulants increase energy levels especially for sportsmen.

With the new sheriff in town, golfers in Kenya will also have to be extremely cautious on the use of dietary or nutritional supplements. WADA says the use of dietary supplements by athletes is a serious concern noting that in many countries the manufacturing and labeling of supplements do not follow strict rules, which may lead to a supplement containing an undeclared substance that is prohibited under anti-doping regulations. “A significant number of positive tests have been attributed to the misuse of supplements and attributing an Adverse Analytical Finding to a poorly labeled dietary supplement is not an adequate defense in a doping hearing. The risks of taking supplements should be weighed against the potential benefit that may be obtained, and athletes must appreciate the negative consequences of an Anti-Doping Rule Violation as a result of taking a contaminated supplement,” the agency notes in a Q&A on its website.

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