LPGA to implement drug-testing program in '08

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens said she has no knowledge of drug use among tour players.

The tour still plans to start checking.

The LPGA Tour said Wednesday it will begin testing players for performance-enhancing drugs in 2008, a move that makes it the first major golf tour to announce a drug-testing program.

Specifics of the testing plan will be worked up over the next six to nine months, Bivens said. The tour plans to announce the program details, including testing methods and banned substances, in the second half of the 2007 season.

"While we have no evidence to date that any of our players are using performance-enhancing drugs, we need to have a very clear policy and a program in place," Bivens said. "We want to take a proactive role."

Players learned of the decision with Wednesday's announcement.

Annika Sorenstam, the top-ranked women's player, said she had no problem with the decision, yet called it "sad that we have to have testing."

"Golf is not like other sports," said Sorenstam, who was tested as a college player. "I believe in this sport. I believe in the people out here. ... I don't think you're going to see anything out here, so it might be a waste of time. But if it's peace of mind for people and if we need to prove that the LPGA's clean, then let's do it."

LPGA player Cristie Kerr said the testing would protect "the honor of the game."

"If you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to worry about," Kerr said.

The PGA Tour released a statement Wednesday afternoon that its board this week authorized the tour to develop a list of prohibited substances, and to create an education program that would inform players about banned substances; how they might get into the body; the health risks; the nature of any potential testing and possible penalties.

Currently, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has the authority to impose drug testing at his discretion, but he has said there has not been any evidence of drug use that would cause him to do that.

"We need more than somebody just saying, 'Why don't you go test and make sure?' " he said in August.

Tiger Woods is among PGA Tour players who have said there should be drug testing.

The European Tour is working on a policy that chief executive George O'Grady said will be effective "in the near future." Players at last month's World Amateur Team Championships in South Africa were tested, and other tests have been held at events in France and Portugal, O'Grady said.

"Most people will tell you they are unclear of which drugs help a golfer and which drugs don't help a golfer," O'Grady said last month. "I don't actually know. To go straight to the Olympic code is unrealistic for modern day golf because it's a different kind of performance."

And in September, Finchem called the notion "complex," but he said his tour is studying the topic and plans to make recommendations to its board about how to progress on the testing issue.

The LPGA will work to develop the new policy with the National Center for Drug Free Sport, which also manages testing programs for the NCAA and other organizations.

"We recognize the concerns regarding drug use in sport and the need to have a clear policy and program in place," Bivens said.

The announcement was made on the eve of the LPGA's season-ending ADT Championship, a 32-player event that begins Thursday and carries a first prize of $1 million, the largest in tour history.

The LPGA's 2007 schedule was released Wednesday, with 31 tournaments -- along with four unofficial events. Tournaments previously held in Las Vegas and Stockbridge, Ga., are not on the 2007 schedule, and the May 17-20 weekend is still without a tournament.