Rory McIlroy calls out golf for second-rate drug testing

Rory McIlroy ruffled feathers during yesterday’s pre-tournament press conference. He was lambasted for saying it wasn’t his job to “grow the game” – one of the reasons often cited by supporters of Olympic golf. Turning the knife with every answer, he went on to say he would only watch “the Olympic sports that mattered (and not golf),” before insisting he “got into golf to win major championships…not to get other people into the game.”

His comments were probably a little unnecessary. He could have easily just toed the party line and said “it was with deep regret” and “the toughest decision of his career” – and lie like Jordan. But he decided to be honest and tell the media how he felt with his brutal assessment of a flawed Olympic concept.

Rory McIlroy

The gloves were off and everyone knew it. That’s when Rory started attacking golf for any reason he could find. He said that golf is behind other sports in drug testing and he “welcomes’’ a more rigid system.

“I’ve been tested by the IGF or Olympic testing once this year and that was the Friday of the US Open, but it was only a urine test,’’ he said. “I haven’t been blood-tested yet. It was only a urine test. On average, I probably get tested four to five times a year, which is very little compared to the rest of the Olympic sports. 

The PGA Tour’s ability to protect their reputation is legendary. Urine testing is such an archaic method for effectively picking up drugs. Look at cocaine for example, very low concentrations may be detected during the initial few hours, however, benzoylecgonine persists in urine at detectable concentrations from 2-4 days.

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“I’ve gotten to know a lot of athletes over the years, and whether it be coming to their houses and doing blood and urine, I think drug testing in golf is still quite far behind some of the other sports.”

Rory isn’t wrong. A review of the PGA Tour’s drugs section is laughable. They address recreational drug use like Mr Mackey and oversee a drugs policy that has failed to mirror the updates made to WADA’s banned substance list. For instance, Meldonium – the drug of choice for Maria Sharapova – can still be used by professional golfers. Will this help? We all know that no drug will make you a better putter, or help you pitch from 30-yards, but what about recovery?

“I’d say it’s pretty low, the threat of doping in golf,’’ McIlroy went on. “I don’t know myself of a banned substance that could help a golfer across the board, with driving, with putting, with concentration. Physically, obviously, you can get stronger, recover faster. So, I mean, for example, HGH … you can’t really pick it up in a urine test. I could use HGH and get away with it.

People criticise golfers for giving vanilla answers in their press conferences. Finally we have a golfer who is brutally honest and nobody can handle it. I think some of the comments Rory made were unwise, in particular, his insistence that he doesn’t care about growing the game. What did people expect from a man at the top of the Sport? He ain’t got time to worry about that.