Most avid followers of the PGA Tour know that Vijay Singh, the “Big Fijian,” reported to tour officials that he had been using a product called deer antler spray.
Apparently, this stuff stimulates muscle growth because it contains a substance banned for use under the PGA Tour anti-doping rules called IGF -1. Vijay claims he used the spray, not knowing that it was in contravention of the rules.
It seems strange to me that he didn’t know of the ban because the PGA Tour sends what they call a green sheet to each of its members informing them of items requiring their attention.
The green sheet identified IGF-1 as being illegal and specifically identified deer antler spray as non-conforming. This action by Vijay directly opposed anti-doping rules.
The PGA Tour’s initial reaction was to suspend Mr. Singh and he appealed. The PGA Tour asked the World Anti Drug Administration (WADA) for a position.
They complied with the statement that says IGF-1 is not considered prohibited but the use of deer antler spray might cause an adverse analytical finding in a drug test.
It should be noted that currently the PGA Tour does not conduct a test that would reveal such results. In other words, it’s okay to use deer antler spray, but it could cause you to fail a drug test if we decided to administer such a test, but we don’t have a rule to do so at this time.
This is an obvious mess. How is a player to act? What is the public to believe? Is there an anti-doping policy on the PGA Tour or not?
Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem has tip-toed through a mine field with this one but there is a bigger problem brewing in the cauldron of public opinion.
The squeaky clean, apple-cheeked, mop-headed glamour boys are sliding down a slippery slope. First came the agreement to oppose the ban on the use of the anchored putter. This flies in the face of the rest of the world (except for the PGA of America and the PGA of Canada).
Then came the Tiger Woods debacle at Augusta which, more than anything, polarized the golf world into two distinct camps: Tiger lovers and Tiger dislikers.
Now a perceived drug problem is resolved by issuing a confusing, player-protecting position that does nothing to show leadership or interest in addressing a potential or possibly existing problem.
These situations could be a gigantic wake-up call to the PGA Tour.
Perhaps, the years of role models like Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller and Ernie Els are over. The goose that laid the golden egg may not be dead, but she has been hit hard by these events.
Could each of these subjects, in their own way, begin a drift in corporate sponsorship away from what was the perfect image of the PGA Tour?