In The Spotlight: PGA Tour Drops Deer Antler Spray Case Against Vijay Singh
The PGA Tour yesterday "dropped its doping case against Vijay Singh ... based on new information from the World Anti-Doping Agency, which said using deer-antler spray no longer is prohibited because it contains such small amounts of a growth hormone factor," according to Doug Ferguson of the AP. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said that Singh’s "appeal of the sanctions was almost over when WADA, which had warned about the spray in February, told the tour Friday it no longer considers the use of deer-antler spray to be prohibited except for a positive test result." WADA yesterday "sent the tour a written statement." The decision ends a "three-month saga that had players wondering what would happen to Singh." Singh in an interview with SI said that he "paid $9,000 last November for deer-antler spray, hologram chips and other products from Sports With Alternatives To Steroids." Even though Singh "never tested positive for the banned substance, the tour’s policy said that admitting to use of such a substance is a violation, positive test or not." The Tour "penalized Singh on Feb. 19," and he "appealed a week later" (AP, 4/30). GOLFWEEK's Alex Miceli noted Doug Barron is the "only tour player known to have been suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs since drug testing started in 2008" (GOLFWEEK.com, 4/30).
WAITING FOR WADA TO MAKE THE CALL? Golf Channel's Matt Ginella said it appears Finchem “waited for WADA to make the decision for him" regarding whether Singh violated the policy. Ginella: "It looked like they were waiting for WADA to rule. WADA came in, and the Tour not wanting to play the role of bad cop decided, ‘We’ll pass this off to WADA. WADA will make the decision and that gets us free and clear.’” Ginella added, "At the time that Vijay admitted to taking deer antler spray, there was a rule against taking deer antler spray. He admitted to breaking a rule. Why, in May, are we finding out that he suffers no consequences?" (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 5/1). Author John Feinstein said, “Where I got confused sitting and listening to Tim Finchem is that the PGA Tour drug testing policy says admission of using a banned substance is considered a positive test. So I do not understand to this minute ... how the Tour can now say Vijay Singh’s admission was not a positive test because the rules say that it is.” Feinstein said the Tour's drug-testing policy “needs to be changed” to include blood testing. Feinstein: "Blood testing is not perfect, it’s not a cure all. But it is certainly more effective and can detect drugs that urinalysis can’t detect.” Golf Channel's Tripp Isenhour said the move "does leave some questions with the drug-testing policy going forward." Isenhour: "Are there going to be changes like this with different substances?” But he added, “The PGA Tour is talking about the livelihood of their members and they want to protect their members, and the PGA Tour did a very good job of that" (“Golf Central,” Golf Channel, 4/30).
LOSING FAITH: GOLFCHANNEL.com's Randall Mell wrote, "I have less faith today in the PGA Tour and golf’s other governing bodies being able to protect the game’s honorable traditions than I did yesterday." That is because "I have less faith in the PGA Tour’s drug-testing program, in any sport’s testing procedures. I have less faith golf is going to be ready when the greatest threat to its most cherished asset arrives." Singh gets a "reprieve, basically, because deer-antler spray isn’t as effective as he thought it was." His "ignorance and carelessness saved him, but those are qualities ripe for exploitation." Golf seems "more vulnerable today to the plague that has infected so many sports" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 4/30). GOLFCHANNEL.com's Jason Sobel cited an anonymous PGA Tour veteran who said, "If there’s no suspension for deer antler spray, if they won’t pop you for anything even if you admit to it, if there’s absolutely no penalty that comes with taking it, I’m going on it as soon as I get home." The player added, "My trainer said it makes you feel better, work out harder, feel stronger and recover faster. Why wouldn’t I take it? It’s a competitive advantage, as far as I’m concerned" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 4/30).