• European Tour

Tiger Woods refutes 'lenient' anti-doping claims

Paul Mahoney In Belek, Turkey
November 6, 2013
Tiger Woods reacquaints himself with a more familiar golf course during practice for the Turkish Airlines, following his drive across the Bosphorus Bridge a day earlier © Getty Images

Cheating and drug testing were the toxic topics on the agenda for Tiger Woods on the eve of the Turkish Airlines Open, where the World No. 1 has been paid a reputed $3 million to play is this event in Antalya on the south coast of the country.

Woods flew 12 hours from his home in Orlando to Turkey but it still wasn't far enough to escape being asked how he felt about American TV commentator Brandel Chamblee's insinuation that he had cheated in 2013, or for his thoughts on allegations by Vijay Singh that some players receive preferential treatment when it comes to drug testing by the PGA Tour.

On the former, all he would say behind a steely stare was: "I've said everything I'm going to say." So in the unlikely event that he has received a satisfactory apology, he still wasn't going to admit it. On the latter, he said it was the first he had heard of it. Killing any suggestion that he might be one of those players being treated leniently by the PGA Tour, Woods said: "I know we get regularly tested throughout the year. I may have been tested like five times this year."

Singh's accusation has come to light in a court case in which the Fijian is suing the PGA Tour for the way it handled his banishment for using deer-antler spray, which is believed to contain IGF-1, an insulin-like chemical that is on the World Anti-Doping Agency's list of banned substances. Singh's lawyer Peter Ginsberg says he has evidence the PGA Tour not only repeatedly exempts players from being tested but also has not punished players for a positive drug test.

"The PGA Tour has made exception after exception after exception, both with regard to whom it was administering this drug policy, and against whom it was disciplining, violators of the drug policy," Ginsburg said in Singh's lawsuit filed in the New York Supreme Court.

Justin Rose admits he hasn't been drug-tested on the European Tour, but averages around four tests a year on the PGA Tour © Getty Images

Golf is coming under increasing pressure to be more transparent and vigilant with what many critics believe is a cavalier approach to drug testing. In this age of drug scandals that have rocked the credibility of athletics, cycling and tennis, Singh's allegations, if proven to be true, will pour shame on golf and its players and administrators.

David Garland, director of European Tour Operations, would not comment on how many tournaments have drug testing but said there wouldn't be any this week and when they do test, 10 to 15 percent of the field are targeted and they liaise with the PGA Tour in the States.

"I haven't been tested on the European Tour but I have been on the PGA Tour many times," said Justin Rose, who will play the first round in the company of Woods and Henrik Stenson. "I would say four times a year would be average.

"It's incredibly random. You have no idea. It's pretty frustrating at times when you come off a round. But the rules are the rules. Golf's now a pretty major sport and should fall in line."

The only drugs Woods may have needed upon his arrival in Turkey was a stiff drink to calm his nerves as no sooner had he stepped from his private jet in Istanbul, he was asked to smash balls across the Bosphorus Bridge that links Europe and Asia - a spectacular publicity stunt that no doubt endeared him to commuters across two continents that were stuck in an equally spectacular traffic jam as one side of the bridge was closed.

"The scary thing was I just flew in from 12 hours' flight and hop off a plane and have to hit a driver down the narrowest fairway I've ever seen," Woods said. "The wind was coming off the left and all these cars were driving on the right so if I lose any balls to the right, there's an international incident right there," he added with a grin.

"That was a little nerve-wracking. But it was pretty cool. Someone was telling me I hit one 550 metres. So, not bad. I'll take that this week."

Woods is the star attraction in an elite 78-man field playing for a first prize of £725,000 in a total purse of £4.3 million. His presence here is part of Turkey's ongoing campaign to raise its profile as a host of major sporting events in its bid to one day stage the Olympics.

Stenson is leading the end-of-season Race to Dubai money list having already won the $10 million bonus for winning the US Tour's equivalent FedEx Cup finale. But he is being closely chased by US Open champion Rose, Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell as the Final Series nears its Dubai climax after arriving in Turkey via two weeks in China.

Rose has his sights set on Stenson and plans to end a year that he already calls "a dream-come-true season" in which he won his first major by becoming European No. 1. Does he fancy his chances of pulling it off? "Yeah," he said. "You always back yourself."

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