Testing the Tour

A look inside the ASP's anti-doping policy

| posted on April 10, 2013

The talent on Tour is as entertaining as ever, yet the legitimacy of competitive surfing still struggles. Will drug testing help? Photo: Ellis

On January 16, 2012, the ASP formally announced its plan to initiate an anti-doping policy for World Tour surfers. The newly formed policy was said to prescribe to the standards set forth by the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA). Proponents of the initiative argued that by implementing a regimented form of drug testing, the sport was taking the necessary steps to create a more professional World Tour. But more than a year after the anti-doping policy was implemented, some of the sport’s most esteemed athletes have been questioning elements of the policy, openly stating that the ASP was infrequently testing only a portion of their athletes.

According to the ASP’s official anti-doping policy, the organization would begin testing World Tour surfers throughout the season at World Tour stops, with surfers selected at random. The tests (urine samples) would screen for a predetermined set of prohibited recreational substances as well as performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) and would be examined at WADA-approved facilities.

In the event that an athlete were to test positive for a recreational substance—marijuana, cocaine, etc.—at a maximum, they would be given a reprimand and face a mandatory substance-abuse education class and enter a rehab course for their first two violations. If the athlete were to test positive for a recreational substance a third time, he or she could potentially be kicked off the Tour for up to two years.

The penalties for testing positive for PEDs are more severe. Current anti-doping rules stipulate that if a surfer were to test positive for PEDs (the ASP follows the banned substances outlined by WADA) they would face a minimum of a one-year suspension from the Tour. Much of the policies set forth by the ASP fall in line with the anti-doping policies outlined by the PGA, MLB, and NFL. But according to multiple surfers on Tour, the ASP isn’t testing their athletes enough.

Questions were recently raised at the Quik Pro Gold Coast when Kelly Slater was quoted as saying that he only took one drug test last season. Adding to further speculation, Steph Gilmore, the current women’s world champion, said that she had not been tested at all in 2012. Following the statements from Slater and Gilmore, the ASP encouraged World Tour surfers not to speak to the media in regards to drug testing. While the majority of World Tour surfers that SURFER reached out to—Gilmore and Slater included—were unable to comment on the story, we were able to speak to a handful of athletes under the condition that they remain anonymous.

“I wasn’t tested at all last year,” said one World Tour surfer. “I think that if they [the ASP] say they’re gonna test, they should do it all the way. I can’t see any positive effects recreational drugs would have on your surfing, but if there’s a surfer that’s taking performance enhancers and I lose to him, I’d be pissed.” When asked if he knew of, or thought that any World Tour surfers were using PEDs, he paused and said, “I’d think it would be naive to think that surfing at this level would be any different than any other sport.” He went on to say that “if you’re surfing four heats a day, that can take a toll on you. You’ll see some guys fall apart by the end of the day. I can see why some surfers would view performance enhancing drugs as an extra edge in surfing.”

Another World Tour surfer, who also wasn’t tested last year, said that while he didn’t personally know of any surfers using PEDs, he wouldn’t be surprised to hear that some surfers had or were using them. He also felt that by not testing all of the athletes, the ASP was making a mistake. “If they’re not really going to test everyone, then what’s the point? Either do it or don’t,” he said.

Some World Tour surfers that SURFER spoke to believed that the ASP only tested competitors who reached the quarterfinals. But according to the ASP’s Dave Prodan, that’s a total misconception.

“That’s completely inaccurate. The formula for testing on Tour is designed to be random and occurs at different points in the event windows,” said Prodan.

When asked why some athletes like Steph Gilmore were not tested, Prodan justified, “When testing is conducted at random, there’s always the potential that some surfers may not be tested.” Prodan went on to say that the ASP views the implementation of its anti-doping policy as being “a step in the correct direction in terms of legitimizing the sport of professional surfing.”

Because of privacy concerns, many of the details surrounding the tests are held in secret. However, SURFER was able to speak to an anonymous ASP official who believed that part of the reason the ASP doesn’t test all World Tour surfers is due to cost and the remote locations of some events.

“It’s really expensive to run those tests,” said the source. “I think it would cost nearly $30,000 to test every athlete at every event. The tests are done very discreetly. An event official will ask a surfer after his heat to step into a bathroom and provide a urine sample. We’ll send those tests out to a lab to be processed,” he added. “Some of the events we go to, like Fiji for example, we simply don’t have the labs there to test them, so we don’t.” The source went on to say that he believed the results of the tests—both for recreational and performance enhancers—should be made public.

  • David

    Pro surfers should be allowed to smoke weed. ASP needs to provide impartial judging not a nanny state.

  • Graham

    So Fiji is party-time.

  • bill

    This article was posted on TRANSWORLD but immediately taken down. Bigwigs companies don’t want this story getting out:
    An unnamed ASP insider has passed along information regarding a “top 5” ASP World Tour competitor refusing to submit to a randomly administered drug test during the day of round three of the Rip Curl Pro Bells. Officials pulled four or the twelve heat-winning surfers aside after the surfer’s respective third round heats and administered private urine testing in the confines of the Tour Director’s office. One surfer, who’s name has yet to be released refused the test, reportedly getting in to a verbal altercation with tour officials that eventually turned in to a shoving match with the surfer having to be restrained by event security.

    Tour officials and surfer reps have been in talks regarding the altercation and drug test refusal, and sources say the surfer will most likely be banned from competition until a drug test is administered. Complicating issues is the deadline set by the ASP for the actual test, which was set at 24 hours prior to the initial testing round. In an “off the record” statement from a top ASP official, it was stated that if the unnamed surfer does not submit to the test, he will be immediately expelled from the world tour. More to come on this developing story.

  • Center Line

    ASP… What a joke!

  • neeks

    What a joke the asp is! The CT isn’t mlb, nfl or any other organized sport. Recreational drug use has been a part of surfing since the beginning. You are telling me that these guys aren’t burning one down on occasion? Even if they are, so what! Quick way to turn the CT into the top 12

  • Butters

    So a bunch of anonymous people said a few things about drug testing… Sweet.

  • Murdyneal

    Super strict policy. Get caught twice with coke and get a “reprimand”. And write “I won’t snort coke.” 100 times after the contest ends for the day? Wish my job had that kind of drug policy. Where’s Wardo?

  • Mik

    I have a very low opinion of WADA. The whole Lance Armstrong thing was ugly. IE: why the fuck did it take all those years to expose it, and since it seems like everyone in cycling was doping too, why wasn’t everyone else exposed too,from top to bottom?

    Frankly, I dont want surfing to be like the MLB, or NFL. I dont take recreational drugs personally, and i dont take PEDs either…And I understand the need to discourage their use too…

    But keep WADA out. They are weird. Set up a surfer oriented process and keep it in-house. Keep the penalties sane.

    The very idea of Lance Armstrong being banned for life from a sport as chemically corrupt as cycling is tragic. He beat the cheaters at their own game by being a better athlete. The vendetta of WADA was as ugly as the crime. And yeah, I surf, but have a bike, and particpated in racing as a support team member, so I know a little of what im ranting about. The entire TDF was doping.

  • K Miller

    This is a trend that started in baseball and now is spreading like wildfire. I do not know what WADA has against athletes being awesome and pushing the limits. Maybe they are athletes that did not make it to their career goals and are bitter. Like the article states from surfers to ASP officials, we need to test everyone. Do not single out Steph or Kelly, just test people. However, if you are going to test them, there is NO reason why they need to be publicized.

    The biggest factor is if surfers are using non PEDs, Groms do not need to see this publicly displays of their favorite surfers. Whether we believe they do or not, it should not be made public simply because of the surfer’s image and the up and comers that look up to these riders.


  • Jimmy the Saint

    I am glad to see this topic being addressed, especially in light of the report about the refusal of a top surfer to be tested. Franky I an not convinced that it was an April fools joke, it wasn’t outlandish enough. The silence of the surf media in regard to it has been worrying, and its hard to believe that the asp would have the appetite to ban one of the biggest names in the sport. I hope the report is false, because if it is true serious question marks would be raised of other top competitors.

  • surfing & cycling fan

    If surfing isn’t an olympic sport then Wada doesn’t need to be involved. ASP is out to protect its reputation & image & likes the idea of having the Wada name to uphold its professionalism. It would be cool to see surfing in the olympics though & to have an olympic champ crowned every 4 years.

    In regard to the ASP protecting the top 5 surfer this is exactly how the UCI operated. The ASP is protecting choice surfers like the UCI protected choice riders to maintain an image.

    They will let the top 5 surfer go but then will bust a smaller name to give the perception that they are doing their job & drugs are not tolerated.

    It’s unfortunate that this article is the best that Surfer can do. We all have a man that we need to answer to & in the end one needs to realize that Surfer is run by the corporations that send their advertising checks in every month.

    Surfer isn’t in a position that can bite the hand that feeds & I know that. So thank you for the article.

  • Kamilia

    The ASP policy is a joke. Those running the tour should step up and test just like other sports instead of making excuses. Unfortunately they do’t test because they do not want to expose the truth.

  • Parreira

    Aahahahahaaha they r funny,they need a honest judges,impartial,everybody saw
    what happend in Portugal 2012 against Medina.

  • http://none Peter Easterling

    Professional surfing (why does that phrase seem like a stupid joke?) seems to be lumbering haltingly towards it’s goal of “taking surfing to the next level.” Of course what that means is MORE MONEY! 99.9% of us surf because we love surfing. A tiny minority wants to surf for a living. For those who put their love of money above all else, walk the walk. If you want to be a pro, act like a pro. BTW, would Andy Irons still be here if testing had been done?

  • hugh

    sounds like the asp is playing mommy on the surfers… substance education class? for a professional surfer? if they dont expect these guys to party then they need to get their heads out of their asses ASAP.

  • L

    Drug testing is a joke. I don’t care what anyone puts in their bodies or why, be it recreational, performance enhancing or anything else. If you are dumb enough to take performance enhancing dope, and it actually enhances your performance, I’ll enjoy the performance and you can watch your liver melt a few years down the line. I don’t believe all the steroids and other chems can help a surfer much, but if they did and he achieved heretofore unheard of performances, a thousand grems will soon pass his mark on nothing but breakfast and stoke. I’d like to see every surfer on the tour tell the ASP to shove their drug tests and somehow wrest control of their own destinies. You know, make the sponsors and organizations bend to your will instead of bending over for them.

  • wonderbra boy

    Free Neco

  • MIk


    Your comment: ” (why does that phrase seem like a stupid joke?)”

    what? R U Rip Van Wrinkle?

    are you unaware of the incredibly exciting international power of the WCT?

    professional surfing is rad, and enjoyed by millions of surfers. the pros of most sports equate to 1% or less too, the difference being most surf fans still surf, whereas other sports fans gave up after high school. which is why surf fans are so real, and passionate.

    also, Andy had a compromised heart condition which was a factor in his passing. It wasn’t purely drug experimentation. not defending drug use, but i dont see it being a major problem with todays pro tour either, which is why I think the ASP should avoid WADA. do their own testing.

    I dont care if surfing becomes an Olympic sport. I prefer it stay in its own world.

    the Olympics add an entirely new level of outside influence that pro surfing doesnt need. keep surfing for surfers.

  • Hoss

    Who cares what surfers do recreationally. Recreational drug laws are drastically different from country to country (i.e. several European nations and US states have basically legalized/reformed marijuana laws and jail or caning can result in countries in SE Asia), so who is to say what the ASP standard should be? They aren’t competing in the olympics and furthermore, who cares about global “legitimacy”. There is no decided competitive advantage in recreational drug use, so why test and make public the results?

    Regarding performance enhancing drugs- if the surfers, coaches, ASP, and sponsors think its important, then test everyone once or twice a year at a random location.

  • Larry Kelp

    Surfers should be known druggies, it would add to the allure of surfing. Surfing is done by dirty guys, by real people. Only drugs that should be banned are steroids if they are “performance enhancing”, or anything, but there is no drug that makes anyone surf better.

    In any case surfing shouldn’t be whitewashed like the rest of the sports, it would totally lose popularity with the mainstream. Keep surfing evil, or at least dirty. So now what, surfers are a bunch of choir boys? Are they testing for alcohol also? Forget the drug testing, and forget the bogus jerseys that look like bicyclist jerseys too while we’re at it.

  • Rick

    It would cost $30k per event to test every surfer; it’s just too expensive to thoroughly test everyone! There have already been events downgraded or dropped in the last few years, I’d rather the focus be on getting these guys competing as much possible in the best places possible than trying to drug test

  • Alohamailbox

    I wonder if Andy Irons would still be around if they had stricter testing.

  • PEDman

    What’s the big deal? Surfing was never meant to be a “Professional” Sport anyway, in my opinion! It’s about catching a wave and having some fun,for God’s sake.
    Let em do what they want, who gives a flying f**k anyways? Maybe they should have a Super Man heat, just for the guys doped up on PEDs.

  • Center Line

    WADA loves you!!!. People who do drugs will eventually have to deal with the consequences themselves and have to make the decision to continue or quit. Surfing is enjoyable and some see it as an escape from all the nonsense dog shit that we all have to deal with in everyday life.

  • Center Line

    I agree with Larry Kelp. Most of us don’t make money from surfing.The worse the image is, the better it is. Bad image =’s less people in the line-up.

  • Larry Kelp

    ASP should give the surfers weed or whatever they want. And hookers too. What the hell, this surfing, not some pansy ass jock sport.

  • Center Line

    Bring back the Matt Johnson- Big Wednesday and the Jeff Spiccoli- Fast Times image. Overcrowding in line-ups is a safety issue for surfers of all levels. Surfers have and always will buy your magazine. Don’t worry about worry about a Dark Age era in surfing history.

    Some professional surfers do drugs. Who really cares and who just wants to judge?

  • Jimmy the Saint

    I don’t have an issue with competitors taking recreational drugs, but with the PEDs this is serious. Nobody wants to watch a competition which isn’t fair, thats why so many get upset about bad judging calls. Giving a one year ban to a surfer for taking PEDs is a joke, give them a 5 year minimum. Considering the money the top guys make and the unlikihood of them getting caught the consequences must be draconian. And I don’t want to bleat on about it, but is there truth to the accusation that a top 5 surfer refused to take a drugs test in Bells? If it is the case this is the biggest ASP story in a long time. If its not true then an innocent surfers name – and the sport’s – is being tarnished. The silence is deafening…

  • http://facebook Brian

    total crap breaks down to a control thing by the money bags , for nothing more than public apperiance. let the sponcers and money backers pee in a cup with the contestants and see who is really dirty

  • Johnny F

    I think more important than drug testing is the issue of gambling in surfing. I was watching Raoni Monteiro’s heat against Mick at Bells and he was really doing some weird things on scoreable waves. This is after he beat Joel with a high 19 point heat. Now I’m not accusing Raoni of anything, he seems so likeable, but it almost seemed like he was throwing the heat. So it got me to thinking, hmmm…a surfer fighting for his career on tour, with a decent result(for him) already, no major sponsor, bad financial state of the industry. What if one in his situation had someone in cahoots with him to lay down a bunch of money on his competitor? The windfall for a sponsor-less surfer could be enough to continue to do the tour and would result in far more money than an extra heat in prize money. I know Occy and Jake make many comments on punting on these heats but I think this is more of a an elephant in the room than drugs. A betting scandal could ruin the competitive integrity of all of pro surfing. And it is not on firm ground as it is.

  • Jimmy the Saint

    Johnny F – I never considered gambling as posing a problem for surfing but you may be on to something, though not necessarily with the surfer you wrote about. I can’t imagine you would have got good odds on him losing that heat, but I’m sure the bookies and pokies would realise if there was any strange betting patterns. I never really have thought that Boxers taking a dive or Snooker players taking a bribe to throw a match was that much of an issue. Surely if you are gambling, then the idea that the person you are gambling on may be crooked must be taken into consideration. The only people who this affects are gamblers (who are all losers ultimately anyways) and the bookies/pokies ( who are scum that exist because of the addictions of others). In my opinion, participants taking PEDs is the second worst thing you can have in a sport. The worst – when the governing body and media look the other way when they know PEDs are being taken.

  • Bert Reynolds

    Hey! Test the dirty Brazzos. God knows they will pop for something, be it PED’s or STD’s. America!!!

  • jan key

    its always been there…. as reported in surfer mag back in the 60’s…. it was in an article about trestles and the marines…… the surfers were accused of living off dog food and cheap red wine…. or at least that was the majority of the liter found at that break….. dude you have to have the munchies for that

  • tyler

    FOLLOW THE MONEY!! Your kids piss is next…


    “The annual Drug & Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA) conference, held in 2012 in San Antonio, Texas, looks like any other industry gathering.”

    “Seventy-seven years old, DuPont adopts the air of a sprightly televangelist as he outlines what he calls “the new battle lines” in the war on drugs, one that “begins with kids.” At the climax of his speech, DuPont offers “the new paradigm” of drug treatment: a program that one controversial Hawaiian judge administers to all drug-addicted probationers he oversees. “If they test positive,” he says, his voice slowly rising into a high-pitched yell, “they go to jail that day! No discussion!… No discretion! To jail that day!”

  • steve

    i think this is just a way for the ASP to continue their business to grow at the expense now of surfers…..most people in these sports work their asses off getting to where they are and this “government with rules commitee” should go back and find i job that has some meaning. no testing should be allowed and these athletes should be able to live a meaningful and carefree life in surfing….after all…isn’t that what surfing is supposed to be? when i was young they used to say we were all a bunch of dope smoking boozing beach bums and would never get anywhere. just let something be for once……carefree and happy without someone sticking their nose into it for monetary and business gain.

  • joe surfer

    Look, there is a substance abuse problem on the ASP.

    The obvious tragedy is Andy Irons.

    The more telling situation is when Mick won his title at Pipe and threw his heat so he can go get drunk that night and “celebrate” his victory. Deciding to lose and not surf Pipeline with two people out, so you can go get drunk and celebrate and admit it and people think that is OK, is much more indicative of the substance abuse (including alcohol) on the tour.

    I do not think the PEDs would be much of a problem in pro surfing.

  • Chris







  • Woody

    Graham: “So Fiji is party-time.”

    My thoughts exactly.

  • Eli Gersten

    So if a Pro Surfer is taking a doctor prescribed fluoride-derived SSRI drug like Fluoxetine, the ASP gives the surfer a pass.

    Yet if a Pro Surfer consumes some Cannabis, they are red-flagged ?

    WOW. So the ASP is enforcing the 100% Neanderthal policy of the US government, which basically amounts to forcing US citizens to take drugs which are most profitable for Big Pharma.

    How did the US ever survive before the mid-1930’s ? During our great-grandparents time & before, the 3 most widely prescribed drugs (not including alcohol & tobacco) were preparations of Opium, Cocaine, and Cannabis.

    If those drugs are so terrible, how did the the US make it through the Roaring Twenties & the Industrial Revolution ? Were our ancesors that enfeebled by the drugs that were available in the early 1900’s ?

    I understand wanting to make sure that athletes don’t take performance enhancing drugs.

    But what business does the ASP have being involved in promoting Official US Government drug policy ?

    We have a pResident who spent many hours toking it up in his “Choom-Mobile”, yet continues to persecute legal marijuana growers.

    And the ASP is aligning themselves with THAT ?! Maybe the ASP does have its head officially up its ass.

  • Logan

    Surfing is free. Or was free. What’s the point. Might as well go corporate

  • benkei

    Go weed..Stop PED!

    Giving penalities for smoking marihuana is hypocritical. Wha’s the point?

  • jimmy

    Roids are the problem herbs are the solution

  • Palmsy

    The typical line that gets trotted out “There’s no drug that makes people surf better” is a load of nonsense.

    PEDs aren’t just about getting bigger, stronger and faster, although any drug that allows a competition surfer to be stronger,be more explosive or have extra endurance has some obvious benefits, but really, when you look at some of these guys that train full time, the real advantage is recovery time and recovering from injuries.

    Don’t be fooled into thinking that some of these guys are different from any other professional athlete. They get paid good money to compete in a sport, and most of them are extremely competitive – you have to be to be the best at anything.
    In many cases very competitive athletes will take PED’s to give themselves any advantage they can, which in surfing is most likely to be out of the water – in the training, recovery and injury side of things.

    Having said all that, I think that the drug testing process in sport is ludicrous. Its common knowlege that it happens at the top levels of almost every sport and the manufacturers are alwys going to be a step ahead of the testers.

    As for recreational drug use, they should mind their own business, pro-surfers are no different to any other person, as an adult they want to dabble socially thats their call, its not giving them any advantage in a rashy.

  • Alan

    Drug test? If ASP wants 70% of WT surfers out of the tour, is the best thing to do.