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Smoking is drug taking and should be banned, warns anti-doping chief

28 August 2011

The sight of European golfers puffing on cigarettes during rounds could soon become a thing of the past.

A leading anti-doping expert is recommending that nicotine be added to the list of banned substances for sportsmen.

This would mean an end to scenes like last month at Royal St George’s, where Ulsterman Darren Clarke smoked his way through four rounds to win The Open.

Open smoker: Darren Clarke

Open smoker: Darren Clarke

And it would put an end to the pictures of pony-tailed Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez drawing on his massive cigars.

The campaign for a ban is being led by Olivier Rabin, sports director of WADA, the world anti-doping agency.

He claims to have extensive evidence that nicotine is a stimulant that can be used to boost athletes’ performance.

And he is recommending that WADA create new sanctions.

It was only in 2009 that the European Tour introduced random testing at all golf tournaments, adhering to the WADA list of banned substances.

Cigar man: Miguel Angel Jimenez

Cigar man: Miguel Angel Jimenez

If nicotine is added to that list the European Tour will enforce the ban.

But a grey area could be the issue of passive smoking.

Many caddies chain-smoke on the course, so what would happen to a player who was drug-tested after passively breathing in the smoke?

News of the potential ban came as a surprise to Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn, who finished fourth behind Clarke at The Open and who is chairman of the European Tour players’ committee.

A heavy smoker himself, Bjorn said: ‘I don’t think nicotine is performance-enhancing. It’s a habit on and off the course. But I suppose I’d have to give up and eat more.’

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