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SBD/May 9, 2013/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
Golf HOFer Vijay Singh yesterday filed suit in N.Y. against the PGA Tour a week after his "doping case was dropped, claiming it damaged his reputation by not doing a thorough job of researching his use of deer antler spray," according to Doug Ferguson of the AP. The lawsuit said that the Tour "notified Singh on Feb. 19 that he was to be suspended for 90 days." Singh appealed a week later. The lawsuit also states that the Tour "relied on WADA's list of banned substances and methods without doing any of its own research, including whether such substances even provide any performance-enhancing benefits." The suit claims that the Tour "held Singh's earnings in escrow during his appeal." Singh "earned $99,980 from five tournaments" since that time. Singh is seeking unspecified damages. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem last week said that the Tour was "dropping its case based on new information" from WADA (AP, 5/8). In N.Y., Karen Crouse noted the suit "guarantees that the tour’s antidoping program, which was instituted in 2008, will remain under the magnifying glass" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/9).
RESPONSE METHODS: GOLF.com's Michael McCann noted the Tour will "likely answer Singh’s complaint within the next few weeks" and he expects the PGA Tour to "argue the complaint should be dismissed, and that its actions were reasonable under the circumstances." The Tour could "stress that Singh contractually assented to the Tour’s authority and discretion." It also can "argue that the uncertain performance benefits of deer antler spray on a golfer and the public outcry over the Sports Illustrated story warranted a more aggressive, risk-averse response in 2013 than in 2011," when golfer Mark Calcavecchia "admitted to using the product." Meanwhile, the Tour can "stress that while Calcavecchia was not punished for using deer antler spray, the Tour did tell him to stop and that this admonition was known to other golfers." Finally, the Tour can "declare that Singh was not harmed in a legal sense" (GOLF.com, 5/8). 3 Wire Sports' Alan Abrahamson said of Singh, “He’s got a big hurdle to get passed. Every pro golfer signs a contract that says I will not sue the PGA over anything related to a doping matter. That’s called a contract of adhesion” ("Live from The Players," Golf Channel, 5/8). Golf World's Geoff Shackelford doubted the lawsuit will "hurt the credibility of the Tour if the facts start to come out." Shackelford: "If you read the lawsuit ... you discover that it has a sense of having been thrown together quickly, that they hastily threw this out to stain The Players Championship this week" ("19th Hole," Golf Channel, 5/8).
TIMING ISSUE: In S.F., Ron Kroichick wrote Singh "suing the tour for 'public humiliation and ridicule'" takes some "serious gall and arrogance." The "timing is nice, too," with The Players, the Tour's "flagship event," beginning today (SFGATE.com, 5/8). ESPN.com's Bob Harig wrote it says "more than a little something about the man ... to stick it to the tour on the eve of its signature event" (ESPN.com, 5/8). In N.Y., Mark Cannizzaro writes under the header, "Vijay Lawsuit Way Out Of Bounds." The timing of his "napalming of the PGA Tour on the eve of its crown-jewel event ... is no coincidence" (N.Y. POST, 5/9). Golf Channel's Gary Williams said Singh's lawsuit has "soiled this event." It is "akin to somebody either having a hydraulic leak or spraying a pesticide on all the greens on the eve of that event" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 5/9). GLOBAL GOLF POST's Ron Green Jr. writes the timing of the suit "comes across as vengeful" (GLOBAL GOLF POST, 5/9 issue). GOLF DIGEST's Ron Sirak wrote suing the Tour on the "eve of its flagship event is not a way to win friends and influence people." Singh is "not only biting that hand that has fed him very well ... he is sort of suing the other players who benefit from the tour and its events." The timing of the suit is "sure to annoy many players almost as much as it irks officials in PGA Tour headquarters." That is about as "in-your-face as it gets and is somewhat reminiscent of when three LPGA executives quit on the eve of the 2006 LPGA Championship," saying they had lost confidence in then-Commissioner Carolyn Bivens (GOLFDIGEST.com, 5/8). Meanwhile, author John Feinstein said, "I don’t get what Vijay Singh is doing here on any level. ... If I’m Vijay Singh, I don’t know why I want to keep this issue going. I want it to end and I certainly don’t want it to be deposed at some point by a Tour lawyer whose first question is going to be, ‘Mr. Singh, have you ever been accused of cheating?’” ("19th Hole," Golf Channel, 5/8).
ON THE OTHER HAND...: USA TODAY's Christine Brennan writes Singh's lawsuit "might just be the rude awakening the pristine world of golf needs to the often dark and messy but vitally important world of international drug testing" (USA TODAY, 5/9). Finchem said it is "certainly possible" the Tour would add blood testing to its drug-testing policy on an annual basis. Finchem: "We’re watching the science very carefully ... and we’re waiting to see when the science is consistent with being able to generate a reliable test, the same issue baseball, basketball and football have with that particular testing. It’s very conceivable when that test is perfected we may very well go to it.” Meanwhile, with golf debuting in the Olympic program in '16, Finchem said, "Whatever the IOC uses for testing in the Olympic Games will apply to golf." But Abrahamson said golf is not prepared for the Olympics in terms of drug testing. He said, "This is golf’s first time down the chute and to read this lawsuit, to read the facts, you would understand that this was not handled smoothly. Golf has a long way to go in handling doping matters, just reading this lawsuit” ("Live from The Players," Golf Channel, 5/8).
MLB Senior VP & General Counsel/Labor Dan Halem yesterday indicated that nothing is "imminent as far as baseball giving its approval to protective headgear" for pitchers, but the league is "very active in seeking a product that it can approve," according to Willie Weinbaum of ESPN.com. MLB is "considering doing testing of different products to determine whether at high speeds such as 90 or 100 miles per hour, a product would protect a pitcher’s head." The league has "tested three such products so far," but none of these products "met the standard." Protective gear company EvoShield, which "provided those prototypes, is working on refining the product to perhaps pass the test," while Unequal Technologies has "provided its own test data to baseball but that data did not meet baseball’s approval." The issue was heightened after Blue Jays P J.A. Happ took a line drive to the head on Tuesday. Halem said that he does "not want to give pitchers or anybody a false sense of security ... if it’s not really providing protection." Weinbaum noted there also is a "hold up" in getting protective headgear approved "in terms of the practical" aspects. Pitchers "don’t want something that’s bulky or that has a lot of weight, or that looks bad." Halem said that to the "best of Major League Baseball’s knowledge," there are "no pitchers who are wearing specially padded caps; they’re just wearing the standard-issue cap." Weinbaum noted nobody has "taken it upon himself to wear it," including D'Backs P Brandon McCarthy, who "suffered life-threatening injuries and needed brain surgery after he was hit by a line drive in September." Yankees P CC Sabathia indicated that he had "never been hit in the head, but if he saw a product that he found to be satisfactory, he would wear it because it would be a measure that wouldn’t interfere with what he’s doing and might provide protection" ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN.com, 5/8).
COMFORT A KEY NECESSITY: MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner said of pitchers wearing protective headgear, "If someone could come up with a product that would work, guys would be in favor of it." Tigers P Darin Downs said, "Nobody's going to wear one unless it feels comfortable. I'd totally wear one if something felt comfortable and didn't hamper me from doing my job." USA TODAY's Paul White notes Downs "received two such hats from a company this offseason," but neither "sat right on his head." Meanwhile, protection beyond the current cap shape "surely would meet with more resistance." Giants P George Kontos: "If anything's over my head or face or anything like that, it would be a little bit too much of a distraction" (USA TODAY, 5/9). Mariners P Aaron Harang said, "I don't think it's a problem that's easily solved. I know a lot of people want pitchers to start wearing helmets. It's a good idea in theory, but I don't know how practical it is" (AP, 5/8). Mets P Shaun Marcum: "If it's going to add weight or possibly alter my mechanics, I don't want anything to do with it. I'll take my chances." Mets P LaTroy Hawkins: "It's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. ... Can you imagine going out there and trying to pitch with a football helmet on?" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/9). ESPN's Dan Le Batard said of pitchers wearing helmets, “I guess that would be the solution ... but man, that would look awkward. Everybody out there looks like John Olerud” (“Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable,” ESPN2, 5/8). ESPN.com's Buster Olney said, "There’s always that sort of old-school resistance that you see in situations like this." He noted in the aftermath of minor league coach Mike Coolbaugh dying in '07 after being hit with a line drive, MLB "mandated that base coaches wear those helmets." Some coaches initially thought it would "make them look silly," but fans now "don’t even notice, and no one talks about it." Olney: "You wonder if that’s the type of thing that could happen with padded caps once Major League Baseball gets a product it will approve" ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN.com, 5/8).
SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE: CBSSports.com's Scott Miller said there is "not a lot that can be done" outside of a possible protective lining inside caps to protect pitchers. He noted Happ was hit "just below where the protective lining would’ve been if it would even have been worn." It also is "too unwieldy to pitch" with a helmet on (“Lead Off,” CBS Sports Network, 5/8). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said, “You’ve got to do whatever you can to the cap, whether it’s a liner all the way around. I am not saying you can protect them 100% ... but you’ve got to do something to the pitcher's cap and put whatever you can in it to protect the pitcher as much as you can.” ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said, “This is a safety issue. You make sure that the pitchers -- even if you put them in kevlar, whatever you do -- all pitchers have to do it all the way up and then the pitchers will adapt to the circumstances" ("PTI," ESPN, 5/8). CBS' Jim Rome said, "MLB has been investigating alternatives like a padded hat lining, and they better pick up the pace because the next guy may not be leaving on a stretcher but in a pine box” (“Rome,” CBS Sports Network, 5/8).