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Drug testing at Open Championship delayed until 2009

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Players competing at Royal Birkdale in July will not be subject to drug testing as originally planned due to a delay in implementing the testing program at various Open Championship international qualifying sites.

SOUTHPORT, England (AP) -- Drug testing at the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale will be delayed a year because some international players have not been exposed to doping education programs.

Royal & Ancient Chief Executive Peter Dawson said Tuesday the Open Championship was not ready to begin the testing program because of the tournament's international qualifying system. He expects anti-doping controls will be in place for the 2009 championship at Turnberry.

The professional game adopted an anti-doping policy in November and testing was expected to begin on the PGA TOUR and European Tour in July. It had been expected that testing would be conducted at the Open Championship from July 17-20.

International qualifying events have already been held in Asia, South Africa and Australia, and the players at those events have not had the same doping education program open to those in Europe and America.

"We have decided that drug testing will not take place at this year's Open, but we very much plan and hope, and intend, that it will take place next year," Dawson said at a news conference. "Slightly unsatisfactory that. It is a function of timing."

Dawson said the R&A, which runs the Open Championship, had played a big part in the new anti-drug stance.

"The PGA TOUR and the European Tour have both announced that they expect to start drug testing round about July of this year," he said. "Both tours are engaged in quite extensive and very important player education programs. It is very important that players understand what drug testing is all about.

"If the Open was in October we would probably be drug testing this year," he said.

Even with no actual testing this year, the R&A has a "no drugs" clause in the championship entry form.

On the eve of last year's championship at Carnoustie, three-time winner Gary Player made headlines with claims that a number of players were using performance-enhancing substances.

"I know for a fact that some golfers are doing it," the South African said last July. "And the greatest thing that the R&A, the USGA and the PGA can do is have tests at random. It's absolutely essential that we do that.

"We're dreaming if we think it's not going to come into golf."

Under golf's doping program, penalties for a positive test range from a one-year suspension for the first offense to a lifetime ban if a player is caught three times.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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