Tour's ruling on Singh case only adds to confusion

By Jason SobelApril 30, 2013, 10:47 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – There’s a scene in the film “A Few Good Men” in which Lieutenant Dave Spradling informs military lawyer Dan Kaffee that a young private named McDermott is going to be charged with possession of drugs and being under the influence on duty, drawing punishments resulting in loss of pay and rank, to which Kaffee defiantly objects on the grounds of a false positive.

Kaffee: “It was oregano, Dave. It was $10 worth of oregano.”

Spradling: “Yeah, but your client thought it was marijuana.”

Kaffee: “My client's a moron. That's not against the law.”

The exchange has for years elicited chuckles from moviegoers, but isn’t far from what we’ve recently witnessed on the PGA Tour. With commissioner Tim Finchem playing the role of Spradling, longtime member Vijay Singh sitting in as McDermott and oregano replaced with deer antler spray containing the previously banned IGF-1 chemical, this comedy of errors took a baffling twist on Tuesday.

Here’s the timeline that allowed Singh to sing: On Jan. 28, a Sports Illustrated article was released that quoted Singh as voluntarily having taken deer antler spray; one day later, he issued a statement saying he was unaware that it contained IGF-1; on Feb. 19, the PGA Tour handed Singh a sanction for his admission of guilt, despite not being able to properly test for the product; and on Feb. 26, Singh appealed the sanction.

All of which led to April 30, when WADA (the World Anti-Doping Agency) informed the PGA Tour that “the use of deer antler spray (which is known to contain small amounts of IGF-1) is not considered prohibited.” The result was that the Tour no longer deemed it fair to treat Singh’s use of deer antler spray as a violation, dropping its original sanction against the Hall of Fame member.

Tour drops anti-doping case against Singh

PGA Tour's official statement on Singh decision

Q&A: Finchem's news conference

So, let’s review that one more time: Singh took a substance, later found out it was banned, admitted his guilt, was sanctioned as a penalty, appealed the sanction and was acquitted on all charges when WADA claimed the substance isn’t prohibited – even though he was originally sanctioned because he admitted guilt, not because he used it.

If your brain is spinning, don’t worry. I’ve got some $10 oregano I can sell you.

Or hell, just take some deer antler spray.

Not long after the decision was announced, one PGA Tour veteran stood on the Quail Hollow practice green and announced his intention to do exactly that.

“If there’s no suspension for deer antler spray,” the player said, speaking on the condition of anonymity, “if they won’t pop you for anything even if you admit to it, if there’s absolutely no penalty that comes with taking it, I’m going on it as soon as I get home.

“My trainer said it makes you feel better, work out harder, feel stronger and recover faster. Why wouldn’t I take it? It’s a competitive advantage, as far as I’m concerned.”

Ask Finchem and he’ll maintain that the mystery medicine is legal, but can’t be used – or maybe it’s illegal and can be used. Even the commish sounded like he was struggling to grasp the situation during Tuesday’s announcement.

“It's not a violation of the Doping Code for you to use deer antler spray,” he said. “However, if you read the WADA language next Wednesday – if we get a test and there is a level set and we test for it – but we'll be very aggressive in letting people know when that test comes around.”

OK, so they can’t test for it, which makes it legal – unless they do test for it, which makes it illegal. But then again, they can’t test for it, because IGF-1 doesn’t show up in urine tests, which are the only ones conducted by the Tour.

Got all that?

Of course not. This is one of those rare scenarios in which even the loopholes have loopholes. Despite the fact that Singh was sanctioned not for his use of a substance containing IGF-1, but for his admission of unknowingly taking something illegal according to the Anti-Doping Policy, he was still issued a get-out-of-jail-free card thanks to the WADA ruling.

“Vijay wasn't assessed this action because he was negligent,” Finchem contested. “He wasn't assessed it because he made a mistake. He was assessed it because he violated the Doping Code, and the Doping Code is predicated on a list of substances. And we're now finding from WADA that that substance doesn't trigger a positive test to admission, so we have to respect that.”

Essentially, Finchem went from playing the part of Lieutenant Spradling – offering a punishment based on admitted guilt rather than actual malfeasance – to taking on the role of the military lawyer. If there are two sides to every story, he eventually found the one that ruled in favor of the defendant.

As for the rest of us, it’s like Kaffee, ably played by Tom Cruise, memorably shouted later in the movie: “I want the truth”

And by citing technicalities and loopholes, the PGA Tour is offering the same response Kaffee received: “You can’t handle the truth.”

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm