By DOUG FERGUSON
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The LPGA released Wednesday its policy for drug testing that will start next season, making it the first professional golf organization to require randomly selected players to prove they are clean.
The policy is similar to the outline released a day earlier by the PGA Tour, which will not start testing its players until July.
The LPGA will suspend players one year for a first positive test, two years for the second offense and a lifetime ban for any more violations. It will not discriminate between performance-enhancing drugs and recreational drugs.
“My hope is that we don’t have any positive tests,” LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens said.
The LPGA first announced plans for a drug testing program last November at the ADT Championship, giving it one year to pull together a plan. It relied heavily on the World Anti-Doping Association list of banned substances, eliminating some drugs such as allergy medicines that it felt should not apply to golf.
The LPGA used the National Center for Drug Free Sport as a consultant while developing its plan, but it has not decided who will administer its drug testing.
Jill Pilgrim, the LPGA’s general counsel who will be in charge of the program, said the tour will insist that results of drug tests be available within seven to 10 days.
“This is all about competitive equity,” Pilgrim said.
She also said the LPGA wanted a program that was easy to administer to make sure that every player is treated equally. If there is a positive test, players can be asked that their “B’’ sample be tested to confirm the result, and they will be offered an appeal process.
For positive tests, Pilgrim said the LPGA would disclose the name of the player, the tournament at which she tested positive, the penalty and the specific substance involved.
There were no guarantees that every player would be tested this year, and Pilgrim said the tour would not even disclose which tournaments would be selected for the random tests. But she said all testing would take place at tournaments immediately after competitive rounds.
“We do reserve the right to do target testing if we so choose, but a truly efficient and effective program, I think, has to do it randomly,” she said.
Pilgrim, who joined the LPGA Tour in January, previously worked eight years as general counsel and director of business affairs for USA Track & Field, where she worked on its Anti-Doping Task Force. The LPGA said she has published numerous legal articles on sports law, drug testing procedures and Olympic Games arbitration.
Other details of the LPGA Tour plan:
– If a winner tests positive, she will be treated like a disqualification. The runner-up will be declared the winner, and in case of a tie, the LPGA will award the victory to whoever had the lowest final round. If it’s the same score, the tie will be broken by using whoever had the best hole starting on No. 18 and going backward.
– For two-year suspensions, a player can only regain membership by essentially starting over. That means either a return to Q-school or getting sponsor exemptions.
– Any player who receives two doping-related suspensions will be ineligible for the Hall of Fame.