CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (AP) - Golf doesn't have a drug problem.
What it does have are too many players and officials clinging to the notion there's nothing in a bottle _ save Guinness _ that would help them play better. They see normal-sized people, for the most part, playing a game that rewards hand-eye coordination more than bulging biceps and assume the most a rival will do to enhance performance is spring for contact lenses.
Of course, baseball commissioner Bud Selig believed many of those things for years, and look at where his sport is now.
In what sounded like a dire warning, former British Open champion Gary Player said on the eve of the tournament that he knew at least one player using steroids and guessed as many as 10 worldwide might be. He urged golf's ruling bodies to speed up work on a proposed plan and begin random testing right away. Doping expert Dr. Gary Wadler said that couldn't happen soon enough.
There's no sport which is totally immune from performance enhancement by some drug or other," said Wadler, an associate professor of medicine at New York University and a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Even the World Chess Federation has begun testing competitors at events, and though he doesn't play golf, Wadler provided two examples of how doping might pay dividends in less time than it takes to pull a tee out of your pocket.
What comes to mind are anabolic steroids and beta blockers," he said. "One provides an advantage at one end of the game, one at the other. The stronger you are, the more acceleration you bring to the swing and the farther you hit the ball. At the other end of the spectrum, beta blockers can help with tremors, or to relax, or even slow the heart rate sufficiently so you can putt between heartbeats _ just like archers train themselves to release the arrow."
More than a few golfers wondered who Player was aiming at. Usually, when the subject of testing comes up, players joke about being caught with too much Advil, or last night's hangover, still polluting their system.
But few were laughing Thursday, questioning Player's timing and suggesting it was irresponsible to use his invitation to platform like a bully pulpit. Especially without naming names. No argument there.
I don't know if he is trying to damage the sport," fellow South African Retief Goosen said. "He must not come and say, 'I know of 10 guys taking drugs out there' and not say who it is. He might as well not have said anything."
Tiger Woods, like Player before him, made fitness a cornerstone of his game. As a result of his success, plenty of his peers and nearly all the youngsters who followed Woods onto the tour spend more time in the gym.
That much was apparent to anybody parked on the first tee at Carnoustie. But there were plenty of pear-shaped players, too, a few of whom _ like two-time major winner John Daly and just-crowned U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera _ also lit cigarettes soon after walking off the tee.
Woods said last summer he didn't suspect any players of doping, though when asked how soon he'd like to see testing begin, he replied, "Tomorrow would be fine with me."
Questioned again Thursday about whether performance-enhancing drugs were a problem, he said only, "I don't know. I think we'll find out."
And apparently, soon.
Drug testing is set to begin on the European and LPGA tours next year. The PGA Tour is in talks with those organizations, as well as the Royal & Ancient Golf Club to develop a drug policy that includes education, testing and penalties. It could be implemented as early as next season.
Commissioner Tim Finchem staved off earlier calls for testing by arguing that golf's tradition of integrity made it different from other sports _ golfers still call penalties on themselves, sometimes at the cost of a win and considerable money. But he reluctantly reversed his position.
That's not an indication that drug use is prevalent, just the opposite," PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw said.
It's more a reflection of what's going on in other sports, and society's perception that in order for you to be perceived as a 'clean sport,' you have to test."
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org