Vijay Singh avoids suspension
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Vijay Singh, who earlier this year admitted to taking a banned substance, will not face any sanctions after the World Anti-Doping Agency determined that the use of deer-antler spray is no long considered prohibitive.
Singh, 50, who has three major championships among his 34 PGA Tour victories and is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, was told by commissioner Tim Finchem on Tuesday before a practice round at the Wells Fargo Championship that he had been cleared of any doping violations.
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Vijay Singh admitted he took deer antler spray and that he was hoping it would change his body. Sounds like a performance enhancer. Because of a technicality, the Tour didn't punish him, writes Bob Harig. Story
On Wednesday, Singh withdrew from this weekend's Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, N.C., citing a back injury, PGA Tour officials said. He was replaced in the field by Andrew Svoboda.
Finchem said during a news conference on Tuesday at Quail Hollow Golf Club that Singh had been sanctioned in February, with his case under appeal. The case was dropped, Finchem said, due to WADA's findings.
After conducting tests on the product Singh admitted to taking, WADA determined that it no longer considers the use of deer-antler spray to be prohibited unless there is a positive test result.
Singh did not test positive for IGF-1 -- the Tour has no test for it -- a banned substance found in deer-antler spray. He admitted taking it, which by the Tour's rules is treated the same as a positive test.
"Based on this new information, and given WADA's lead role in interpreting the prohibited list, the Tour deemed it only fair to no longer treat Mr. Singh's use of deer-antler spray as a violation of the Tour's anti-doping program,'' Finchem said.
Singh first admitted to taking the supplement in a Jan. 28 story that appeared on SI.com. He said at the time he was not aware it might contain IGF-1, a growth factor that is listed on both the WADA and PGA Tour prohibited lists.
The Tour had warned its players about deer-antler spray in August 2011, but there is no test available in routine blood testing. At this time, the Tour only conducts random urine tests. But an admission is still a violation of the policy, and Finchem said a sanction was issued to Singh on Feb. 19.
According to the Tour's doping policy, that could have meant a suspension of up to one year, although Finchem would not disclose what penalty was initially imposed. Within a week, Singh appealed the sanction and continued to play on the PGA Tour, but has not granted any interviews since releasing a statement in January.
Singh is entered in the Wells Fargo Championship but declined comment to a PGA Tour media official Tuesday afternoon. Finchem said he received word from WADA on Friday.
"We're talking about a determination that was made by scientists at WADA that relate to the consumption through deer-antler spray of a technically violative substance, IGF-1, but in looking at it, the scientists concluded it resulted in infinitesimal amounts actually being taken into the recipient's body,'' Finchem said. "Amounts that couldn't be distinguished even if you had an accurate test with the amounts that you might take into your body from milk, et cetera.
"In a case where, for whatever reason, you managed to take in enough IGF 1 so that it did trigger a positive reading ... it's not possible today. Because a positive reading means that you're surpassing a certain level. There hasn't been any level ever set.''
Finchem said that if a suitable test comes along, players would be responsible if they were deemed to have too much IGF-1 in their system, based on WADA guidelines.
Earlier this week, Hall of Famer Greg Norman described golf's drug testing program as a "disgrace'' and called for blood testing, which is the only way to test for HGH.
Finchem would not comment on Norman's remarks directly, but said at this time, the Tour does not feel there is a reliable blood test it can use.
"I do believe that with an awful lot of people there is a misunderstanding about the ease of access to a test for these particular small group of substances,'' he said. "Millions of dollars have been invested in recent years to try to get to a point in the team sports, for example, where there have been issues and a range of things, so that you can have a test that's meaningful.
"That is the problem with the test is you're going to give a test and then based on the results of that test you're going to take somebody out of the sport. So you've got to make sure of what you're doing, so it has to be reliable. That test is not available today. You can't go out next week and start doing something. The science isn't right yet.''
Per the Tour's anti-doping guidelines, a suspension or penalty is only announced if one is levied. Also per policy, Finchem would not say if Singh faces any disciplinary measures, such as a fine, because of the Tour's warning against taking deer-antler spray.