Singh-ing the Blues

February 13, 2013 -

Performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) have been at the forefront of most all major sports for the past few years. The use of PEDs has been epidemic in Major League Baseball, the NFL and Cycling and is certainly a hot topic in several other sports.

Golf has stayed largely out of the discussion. Until now.

Hall of Fame member and 36-time PGA Tour winner, Vijay Singh was recently quoted in Sports Illustrated magazine (February 4th edition) that he was indeed using “Deer Antler spray”. He followed up the article with the following admission on January 30thWhile I have used deer antler spray, at no time was I aware that it may contain a substance that is banned under the PGA TOUR Anti-Doping Policy.  In fact, when I first received the product, I reviewed the list of ingredients and did not see any prohibited substances.  I am absolutely shocked that deer antler spray may contain a banned substance and am angry that I have put myself in this position.  I have been in contact with the PGA TOUR and am cooperating fully with their review of this matter.  I will not be commenting further at this time.” 

The only player until now that has been punished for violating the PGA Tour’s anti-doping policy has been Doug Barron. He was suspended from the Tour for 1 year in 2009-2010 when he tested positive for anabolic steroid testosterone and propranolol, a beta-blocker that calms nerves.

That same SI article created an even bigger stir because now retired Baltimore Raven linebacker, Ray Lewis was accused of using the same Deer Antler product while rehabbing his right arm. Lewis has vehemently denied using the product (which is also banned in the NFL), although there is some very persuasive evidence which would suggest the contrary.

Golf is a game that is governed by Rules more than any other Sport in the world. This now presents a massive dilemma for the Tour’s Commissioner, Tim Finchen.

Should Singh be sanctioned or suspended and if so, for how long?

Does the Commissioner give Singh a pass on this one and do nothing?

There will be arguments for both options but we believe that there must be a suspension of some kind. Singh has clearly violated the Tour’s Anti-Doping policy. His defense of being ignorant of the rule and ban of Deer Antler spray holds very little water because the Tour’s policy (which is made readily available to all players) is definitively outlined. There is no grey area.

The excuse of “I didn’t know that grounding my club in a bunker was in violation of one of the Rules of Golf” will still result in a two shot penalty.  The Tour must react in a way that eradicates the temptation for a player to use any kind of PED now or in the future.

Imagine if the International Cycling Federation could have a “do-over” now after basically turning a blind eye to the endemic behaviors of most professional cyclists over the last 25 years? Do you think that they wouldn’t want to impose martial rule and never allow what has now basically ruined their sport? Of course they would.

That a player of Singh’s magnitude should become an example is a sad thing for him but in the long- term it will be good for the sport because it basically sends the message to others that no-one is exempt. Infractions of this kind have absolutely no place in this sport and should not be tolerated in any shape or form.

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