SBD/May 9, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Vijay Singh Sues PGA Tour Over Handling Of Doping Case, Citing Damaged Reputation

Singh claims the PGA Tour's research into his case wasn't thorough enough
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).
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