As expected, TPC Sawgrass was buzzing with the news of Vijay Singh, who filed a lawsuit against the PGA Tour on Wednesday, the day before its flagship event, The Players Championship. It was a surprising turn of events since the Tour had cleared Singh of any wrongdoing last week, and the timing couldn’t have been any better — by better, I mean, worse.
Singh’s complaint purports the Tour’s action resulted in the Hall of Fame golfer to be “humiliated, ashamed, ridiculed, scorned and emotionally distraught.” (You can read the full complaint here.) He also claims the Tour acted unlawfully in the handling of the testing of the deer antler spray that Singh used.
Singh had the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory test the bottle and no anabolic steroids were found and the amount of IGF-1 was not beneficial to his performance. Because of this test, Singh claims the Tour had no right to suspend him, especially since Mark Calcavecchia admitted to using deer antler spray in 2011 and was not disciplined. However, after the incident with Calcavecchia, the Tour says it sent a notice out to the players warning them not to take the substance because it was banned.
The PGA Tour did not announce Singh’s suspension, and then last week in Charlotte, Commissioner Tim Finchem declared that he was innocent after the appeal process concluded. Both Singh and the Tour might have to release information that is sensitive in the discovery process, which both parties would probably prefer not to be made public.
Golf Channel spoke with Singh’s lawyers. You can find the transcript here.
Singh, who has won 34 times on the PGA Tour, including three major championships, admitted to Sports Illustrated in January that he took deer antler spray to make him feel better. Since then, Singh has refused comment to the media, and after he finished his practice round at TPC Sawgrass on Wednesday afternoon, there was a
getaway cart waiting for him by the 18th green.
Now what did Singh’s fellow Tour players make of the lawsuit?
Matt Every, who was suspended in 2010 for conduct unbecoming after he was arrested for possession of marijuana, would not comment on the record. Several of his peers echoed this sentiment, but those willing to speak about their reaction to the lawsuit didn’t exactly see the point.
“Vijay’s a good guy and he’s done a lot for the Tour, but he’s made $68 million out here and he took a performance-enhancing drug, so I think the lawsuit is kind of frivolous,” said Johnson Wagner, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour. “It’s kind of ridiculous. I’ll definitely side with the Tour on this one. They let him off the hook, so why are you going to sue? You don’t need the money, it makes no sense.”
Singh has $67,479,870 in winnings, ranking him third, only behind Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, on the all-time career earnings list.
Others, like Justin Rose and Jason Day echoed similar sentiments, saying it was Singh’s responsibility to know what he was taking and he did in fact take a banned substance.
“As far as I’m aware, the Tour was just in line with the (World Anti-Doping Agency),” said Rose. “They had to act upon the policy at the time and WADA changed their policy on that one substance. As far as when Vijay took that substance, it was on the banned substance list, so he’s made a mistake. I don’t think he has any grounds to sue.
“Unfortunately, his reputation has been tarnished through possibly an innocent mistake, but it was a banned substance. Obviously, in the interim period, it’s now been OK’d. So therefore, the case against him was dropped. That’s how I read it. For me, he’s in an unfortunate position, but I think it’ll go away now, but if you start to sue, it’s not going to go away for quite some time. I think in that respect it’s probably not a great move.”
Said Day: “I think Vijay should have checked whatever he was taking. I’m afraid if you take something and you get suspended, it’s your own fault. No one is forcing the pill or drug or whatever in you.”
Rose checks everything he’s taking and admits to even being “paranoid” because it’s easy to make an innocent mistake. He says that if he goes to Planet Smoothie and they ask if he wants protein with it, he’ll say, “No thank you, because I don’t know how clean that protein is.”
Day also said he always checks what he’s putting in his body to make sure it’s not a banned substance.
“You have to,” said Day. “That’s the only safe way because if you test positive, then it’s your own fault. It’s a tough one, but I think it’s a little silly. I can understand it from Vijay’s perspective that his reputation may have been tarnished a little with people saying he cheated. But first things first, he should have checked the drug policy.”
Robert Garrigus, who is paired with Singh in the first and second rounds, believes the Tour’s drug policy needs to be fixed because there are “obviously a lot of holes.”
“The drug testing policy needs to get better. They need to stop testing for recreational drugs and start testing for these performing enhancing drugs…(The Tour has) created a situation where one guy gets busted for recreational drugs and then one guy doesn’t get busted for performance-enhancing drugs, which is messed up. It needs to be changed.”
However, Garrigus, who has spoken about his use of marijuana in the past, doesn’t think golfers need to be tested outside of competition because it’d be too expensive and tedious to keep track of every player’s whereabouts when they leave the golf course. He’s fine with the Tour imposing blood-testing, though.
During his practice round on Wednesday, Garrigus said he received at least eight calls. “It’s drama and I don’t like drama,” he said as he walked off the 18th green at TPC Sawgrass. “Everybody wants to talk to me because they think I’m going to say something stupid, but I’m not going to.”
He’s focused on trying to win a golf tournament, but Garrigus, who is friendly and gregarious, said he’ll probably make a joke out of it with Singh on the first tee on Thursday to keep things light.
“I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot of security guards with our group (the next two days),” he said.
Just when you thought the curious case of Vijay and the deer antler spray had been closed, it got even more interesting.
“I don’t think there’s any need for it,” said David Lynn, who finished second last week at the Wells Fargo Championshp. “It’s going to turn messy now, isn’t it? I don’t think he’s got a bad name out of what’s happened. I don’t see how he feels his character has been defamed.
“He openly admitted it himself. He literally set his own character up by admitting it. He’s been proven innocent, so what’s he to worry about?”
Well, now, it depends what kind of skeletons he has in his PGA Tour file.
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)