The lawyer for Vijay Singh alleged in a court hearing last month that PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has repeatedly exempted players from testing and punishment under its Anti-Doping Program.
Peter Ginsberg, who represents Singh in a lawsuit filed in New York Supreme Court against the Tour, said he has evidence the Tour has not only exempting players from being tested under the program, but also not punished players for a positive drug test.
“[O]ne of the elements of bad faith that we are prepared to show in this case, is that the PGA (Tour) has made exception after exception after exception, both with regard to whom it was administering this drug policy, and against whom it was disciplining, violators of the drug policy,” Ginsberg said in an Oct. 24 hearing on the PGA Tour’s motion to dismiss Singh’s lawsuit.
Ginsberg continued, “[F]or some reason, for some reason, for some reason, the PGA (Tour) singled out Mr. Singh and treated him in a way that it has not historically or uniformly treated other PGA (Tour) members.”
Singh sued the PGA Tour back in May, filing the suit on the eve of the PGA Tour’s crown-jewel, The Players Championship, alleging he had been subjected to “public humiliation” in the fallout from an admission Singh made in a January 2013 Sports Illustrated piece that he had used deer-antler spray. That admission triggered an investigation under the PGA Tour Anti-Doping Program, leading the PGA Tour to hold approximately $100,000 in escrow — Singh says unfairly — while the entire process was adjudicated. Singh claims the PGA Tour was reckless in its administration of the process.
Deer-antler spray is believed to contain IGF-1, an insulin-like chemical, which appeared on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances.
Under the PGA Tour’s Anti-Doping Program, an admission of use of a banned substance or a concoction which contains banned substances is the same as a positive test and subject to the disciplinary processes outlined in the program. While Singh avoided media contact regarding his use of deer-antler spray, the PGA Tour planned to suspend Singh for 90 days. Singh exercised his right to appeal, during which time the PGA Tour obtained a sample of the deer-antler spray Singh used. The PGA Tour says it did indeed contain trace amounts of IGF-1, which further support but do not define its case in suspending Singh.
However, before the PGA Tour was set to hear Singh’s appeal, it consulted with the World Anti-Doping Agency, which told the PGA Tour that merely ingesting IGF-1 would no longer be considered a violation. WADA said IGF-1 must enter the blood stream by means of injection, akin to insulin, to have any impact on a user, meaning the use of deer-antler spray orally would not produce any tangible effect. Only a blood test that could confirm the presence of IGF-1 would constitute a violation.
At the Wells Fargo Championship, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said Singh would face no suspension for the admission given the consultation with WADA.
According to the PGA Tour Anti-Doping Program manual, commissioner Finchem has sole discretion whether or not to punish a player for a positive test for a banned substance.
In rendering his decision in a particular case, the Commissioner may depart from the sanction guidance in the International Anti-Doping Standards as he deems appropriate in a particular case. — PGA Tour Anti-Doping Program Manual, updated Jan. 2013
In addition to deciding sanctions for a positive drug test, Finchem can also decide if the test and resulting sanction should be made public in cases where “drugs of abuse” have been used.
In the nearly six-year history of the Anti-Doping Program, Doug Barron is the only player the PGA Tour has publicly announced tested positive for a banned substance and was suspended under the program. Barron was suspended for one year in 2009 for taking anabolic steroid testosterone injections and a Beta blocker.
The PGA Tour filed its motion to dismiss on June 13, but court documentation suggests a plan for discovery before a potential trial.