Singh's battle against the Tour comes into focus

By Rex HoggardNovember 10, 2015, 7:16 pm

It was a random Tuesday when the media storm struck Vijay Singh.

“Ross, my phone’s blown up,” Singh told Ross Berlin, the PGA Tour’s director of player relations, on Jan. 29, 2013, as the Fijian prepared to play that week’s Waste Management Open.

“Vijay, its because an article that came out in Sports Illustrated, and you were interviewed and you admitted using deer antler spray,” Berlin explained.

The article, which was posted on SI.com just hours earlier, told the tale of S.W.A.T.S., a two-man company that billed itself as an alternative to steroids and sold an assortment of products from “negatively charged” water to something called Ultimate Spray, the substance Singh admitted to using “every day.”

According to the SI.com story and the S.W.A.T.S. website, the spray contained IGF-1, a growth hormone like HGH, which is banned by the Tour.

The ensuing media maelstrom and investigation has led to 2 1/2 years of contentious and often confidential litigation between the Tour and Singh, who filed a lawsuit against the Tour in New York County Supreme Court in May 2013.

That lawsuit reached a milestone last week with a flurry of filings, including a request from both Singh and the Tour to the court for summary judgment. Last week also marked the end of an intense discovery process, with over 130 filings posted to the public record last Thursday (Nov. 5) that at least partially pull back the veil on this bizarre episode.


For the Record: Kizzire's fast start; Singh's lawsuit against Tour


In his deposition last December in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Singh – who has not publicly discussed either the Tour’s investigation into his use of the Ultimate Spray or his lawsuit – said it was his caddie, Tony Shepherd, who suggested he use the spray to help with knee and back injuries.

He also said that the Tour crafted his statement to the media following the release of the SI.com article, and that he was never comfortable with it.

“They made a statement and I didn’t like what was said,” Singh said in his deposition.

Jeff Rosenblum, a member of Singh’s legal team, declined to discuss the specifics of the case, and a Tour spokesman did not respond to an email requesting comment. It’s the circuit’s policy to not comment on ongoing litigation.

Some of the discovery offers a glimpse into the nuanced world of anti-doping, like an email exchange between Ty Votaw, the Tour’s executive vice president of communications, and a golf writer from the Associated Press who asked, among other things, if deer antler spray was on the Tour’s list of banned substances.

Votaw responded that, yes, deer antler spray is on the Tour’s banned substances list, when in fact it is not. The substance IGF-1, an ingredient found in the spray, is on the banned list, but not the product itself. It’s a nuanced distinction but central to Singh’s claim that the Tour was negligent in its handling of his case.

Singh applied the Ultimate Spray to his knee and back, “which was very weird,” he said, as well as in his mouth (as instructed by S.W.A.T.S. owner Mitch Ross) for about a month and a half. He also said he agreed to the SI.com interview to help promote the product.

According to court documents, Singh was notified within two weeks after the publication of the SI.com article that he had violated the Tour’s anti-doping program, which is modeled after the code used by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and considers an admission of use tantamount to a positive test.

In a letter sent the next day (Feb. 15, 2013), Singh responded to the Tour’s ruling, writing, “I did not go to Mitch's website and simply took him at his word which was, in retrospect, a big mistake. I believe in my innocence, I hope you, the commissioner and the Tour think likewise.”

Four days later, Singh met with Tour commissioner Tim Finchem in his office at TPC Sawgrass and was informed he would be suspended for 90 days, a sanction that would be retroactive to Feb. 4.

“I asked them (Finchem and Ed Moorhouse, the Tour’s co-chief operating officer) what would have happened if I hadn’t given them the bottle [of Ultimate Spray]? They said I would have been suspended for longer.” Singh said in his deposition.

Singh turned over a bottle of the spray to Berlin the day the SI.com story was published and two separate tests found IGF-1 in the sample.

Whether the amount and the biological makeup of the IGF-1 found in the Ultimate Spray warranted a violation or provided any doping benefit has turned into a point of contention in the lawsuit, with both sides providing expert testimony.

“Any IGF-1 in the S.W.A.T.S. deer antler spray is inactive, and thus unable to have any biological effect,” wrote Dr. Michele Hutchison, a pediatric endocrinologist and scientist, in a letter dated May 8, 2015.

Hutchison added, “The PGA [Tour] could have requested Mr. Singh to provide a sample of blood to test for elevated IGF-1 levels in order to determine if he had used a banned substance. However, based on all the evidence identified above, I strongly doubt that such a test would have yielded an IGF-1 level above the normal range.”

The Tour responded with testimony from Larry Bowers, the chief science officer with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

“The amount of IGF-1 in the product or biological activity of IGF-1 are wholly irrelevant to determining whether Mr. Singh’s admitted use of the S.W.A.T.S. Ultimate Spray constituted an anti-doping violation,” Bowers said.


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PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem at a news conference in 2013, announcing that the Tour was dropping its case against Singh. (Getty Images)


The lawsuit and discovery, much of which is redacted, has also focused on the timing of the Tour’s investigation.

Finchem announced at an April 30, 2013 news conference that, “WADA clarified that it no longer considers the use of deer antler spray to be prohibited unless a positive test results,” and the Tour was dropping its anti-doping case against Singh.

In that news conference, Finchem said the Tour received WADA’s notice on deer antler spray four days earlier on April 26, 2013.

But on Feb. 1, 2013, Dr. Olivier Rabin, WADA’s science director, responded to a request for clarification on deer antler spray from the chief executive of Drug Free Sport New Zealand, writing in an email, “WADA takes a very similar approach for deer antler as we do for colostrum or some other dietary supplements ... Deer Antler Spray is not prohibited per se, but WADA recommends athletes be extremely vigilant with this supplement because it may contain IGF-1.”

Four days later, less than a week after the SI.com article was posted, WADA published a “clarification” regarding IGF-1 on its website. It also on its website in 2013 explained that colostrum, which like the Ultimate Spray contains trace amounts of IGF-1, “is not prohibited per se.”

It wasn’t until late April, however, that the Tour contacted WADA for clarification, some three months into the investigation into Singh’s use of the spray and ensuing appeals process.

In fact, according to testimony from Rabin, as far back as 2008 WADA ruled that colostrum contained “minute amounts of IGF-1” but was not considered a prohibited product. In February 2013, it announced a similar view of deer antler spray.

“The PGA Tour is not an experienced [anti-doping organization],” wrote Richard Ings, one of Singh’s scientific experts who was former chief executive of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA). “Seeking clarification from WADA was a necessary step before determining that a [anti-doping rule violation] had occurred, especially when the PGA Tour has indicated that it defers and refers to WADA on anti-doping matters.”

Singh also conceded that he did not see the Tour’s warning regarding deer antler spray and IGF-1 in a memo sent to players in April 2011, adding that it wasn’t until after the investigation began that he learned of the notification from Jason Dufner.

“[Dufner] said it was accidental how he read it,” Singh said in the deposition. “He was sitting in a can having a you-know-what and it was laying on the floor so he picked it up, and he was surprised that it was on it.

“He said if he hadn’t been in the can at that moment in time, he’d have never known that it was [on the banned list].”

Singh also claims the Tour breached its fiduciary duty to him and that he “has been damaged in [an] amount to be proven at trial,” although a recent filing in the case for a dispute resolution hearing sets that sum at $5 million.

In his deposition, Singh suggests the Tour’s investigation and initial ruling over his use of the Ultimate Spray tarnished his reputation and suggests it prompted Cleveland Golf, who had endorsed the 34-time Tour winner for 16 years, to end its relationship with him.

“There was rumors on Tour, with the manufacturers, that ... because of my suspension, my credibility with the golfing world, Cleveland Golf may not extend the contract [beyond 2013],” Singh said.

Singh’s lawsuit also points to other players – most notably Mark Calcavecchia (who admitted to using the Ultimate Spray) – who were not subjected to the same investigation and initial sanctions as Singh.

“Tom Pernice was on, he was a good person to talk to because he was on the Player Advisory Board forever,” Singh said. “He mentioned a few golfers that were disciplined and was disciplined and for what reason.”

That portion of Singh’s testimony is followed by a redacted paragraph.

The next step in the case is for the court to rule on motions for summary judgment filed by both parties. The court’s determinations on those motions are  not expected for several months. Meanwhile, the parties will participate in a voluntary, non-binding dispute resolution hearing with a mediator.

The next step in the lawsuit is a voluntary, non-binding dispute resolution hearing with a mediator. Both sides have filed motions for summary judgment that will be ruled on in the next few months.

If the two sides fail to reach an agreement in dispute resolution the next stop would be a jury and, according to Rosenblum, that likely wouldn’t occur until late 2016 or early 2017.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."