Deer antler spray. When you hear those words in association with professional golf, you either think “Vijay Singh” or make you say “What?”
If your thought is the latter, then pull up a chair for one of the most ridiculous sagas from the world of professional golf.
Vijay Singh was in contention through two rounds at last week’s Players Championship. Had he won, we would have been treated to a scene more awkward than Roger Goodell handing the Lombardi trophy to the New England Patriots. Here’s why:
Back in 2013, Vijay Singh sat down for an interview with Sports Illustrated. The article was widely circulated on the web in late January of 2013, and it caught the PGA Tour’s attention.
Why? The piece concerned a two-man outfit called S.W.A.T.S. that sold a variety of performance-enhancing substances. Everything from “negatively charged” water to Ultimate Spray, which Singh was quoted in the article as saying he used “every day.”
The spray, which reportedly contained a substance derived from deer antlers, also contained IGF-1, which is an HGH-like substance banned by the PGA Tour. As a result of the article and Singh’s admission, the Tour banned him for 90 days. And unlike many suspensions, which the Tour doesn’t make public, they addressed the matter in the press (as the deer antler spray use was already public information).
Ultimately, however, the Tour rescinded Singh’s suspension after it found that World Anti-Doping Agency did not prohibit the drug and Singh never actually tested positive for it. Singh’s feeling (and later his lawsuit) was that the suspension not only shouldn’t have occurred, but the public reprimand damaged his reputation.
He filed suit against the Tour in New York on those grounds in May of 2013, which is still ongoing. Court documents have filtered into the hot hands of the press, so we know about about the case.
Singh was using the Ultimate Spray under his tongue, on his knees, and back. He only agreed to the S.I. interview in order to promote the product (a decision he surely regrets). The Tour considered Singh’s admission in the article as the equivalent of a positive test, at which point Singh responded by letter.
“I did not go to Mitch’s website and simply took him at his word which was, in retrospect, a big mistake. I believe in my innocence, I hope you, the commissioner and the Tour think likewise.”
They didn’t, and Singh was suspended for 90 days. However, on the technicality that IGF-1, not products potentially containing the substance, were on the Tour’s list of banned substances, the Tour redacted the suspension (the IGF-1 was technically inactive in the spray).
Singh’s suit also alleges the Tour has damaged his reputation to the tune of $5 million. Cleveland Golf, his sponsor for 16 years, ended its relationship with the golfer following the suspension. He also contends other players have publicly admitted to use of the Ultimate Spray without suffering the same consequences.
The case is presently in a period of non-binding dispute resolution with a mediator. If a decision can’t be reached, a jury trial could result. All indications are that Vijay has every intention of taking the Tour to court and won’t accept anything less than what he’s asking for.
In light of the recent Olympics and the lax behavior of the PGA Tour towards drug use, it’s interesting that they are involved in such a scandal.