Technicalities unlikely to get Singh off the hook

By Rex HoggardFebruary 13, 2013, 3:30 pm

A furious 15 minutes has given way to silent gridlock. The wheels of justice are moving in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., but there will be nothing swift when it comes to Vijay Singh and his anti-doping snafu.

That’s not how these things work, not on the PGA Tour – where slow play is a way of life – or in the anti-doping halls of justice. As absolute as the anti-doping bylaws are, the intricate dance that follows any violation makes grass growing seem like a contact sport.

The Sports Illustrated article that initially linked Singh to the Ultimate Spray, which reportedly contains an insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) that is banned by the Tour and every other major sports league, was quickly followed by a public mea culpa that, at least to the doping world, was akin to a plea of no contest.

“While I have used deer antler spray, at no time was I aware that it may contain a substance that is banned under the PGA Tour anti-doping policy,” Singh said in the statement. “In fact, when I first received the product, I reviewed the list of ingredients and did not see any prohibited substances. . . . I have been in contact with the PGA Tour and am cooperating fully with their review of this matter.”

Last week at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Singh tied for 50th place and he is in the field again this week at the Northern Trust Open at Riviera.

Singh met with Tour commissioner Tim Finchem last Wednesday at Pebble Beach and while what follows will be a closely-guarded secret, the process, at least according to the circuit’s policy, is as straightforward as it is structured.

According to the policy, Singh’s statement is tantamount to a positive test, or, according to Matt Lane, a Maine-based lawyer with the firm of Preti Flaherty who represents track and field athletes and has argued on behalf of athletes who have run afoul of various doping policies, it is considered a “non-analytical positive.”

Nor does it matter that the Tour, like most other major sporting leagues, doesn’t allow blood tests, which would be the only way to detect IGF-1.

“Now that you’ve admitted to taking a banned substance you have admitted to a doping violation,” Lane said.

In recent weeks it’s also been suggested that even if Singh used IGF-1 it would not have had any performance benefit.

Dr. Roberto Salvatori, an endocrinologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, told the Sun there is no medically valid way to deliver IGF-1 orally or in a spray. “If there were, a lot of people would be happy that they don't need to get shots anymore,” Salvatori said. “It’s just simply not possible for it to come from a spray.”

Many long-time Tour trainers echoed those comments last week, “You could get much more of a performance benefit from things you could buy legally, that aren’t on the banned list, from GNC,” one said.

That, however, would have no impact on Singh’s culpability, at least it would not under the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s policy, which the Tour used to model their program after back in 2008 when the circuit began testing.

By way of example Lane points out that Olympic athletes are regularly sanctioned for testing positive for marijuana.

“No one is going to argue that if you smoke pot you are going to run the 100 meter faster,” Lane said. “You can take a lot of things that don’t have any performance enhancing properties, for a long time Sudafed was on the banned list. It doesn’t really matter if it’s truly a performance enhancing.”

All of this could factor in as mitigating circumstances if sanctions are ever doled out, which according to the policy could be up to a one-year suspension and up to a $500,000 fine. But as a matter of determining guilt, intent has little influence in the anti-doping realm.

At this point it seems Singh’s primary defense would be to have the spray analyzed by the Tour. If it is found not to contain IGF-1, or any other banned substance, there would be no violation.

On the company’s website that sells the spray, however, IGF-1 is listed as an active ingredient in the spray twice and in an August 2011 advisory via the green sheet, which is circulated to players monthly, the Tour warned of a potential violation.

“The PGA Tour has learned that a supplement product marketed as ‘deer antler spray’ contains a prohibited substance under the PGA Tour anti-doping program,” the warning read.

“Deer antler contains IGF-1 which naturally occurs in the human body and is a growth factor, like human growth hormone. IGF-1 protects cartilage, promotes the growth of bone cells, and facilitates recovery. It is universally banned in all sports.”

Unless Singh can prove there was no banned substance in the spray he used, the question, at least to Lane, moves to the sentencing phase, where intent and other mitigating factors are a consideration.

“The question is what would (the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency) do?” Lane said. “If it’s USADA they will seek a ban. It’s Law & Order time, they will try to negotiate a plea bargain.”

Based on the Tour’s anti-doping policy following discovery of a violation, either by a positive test or non-analytical positive, the circuit is mandated to notify the player who has seven days to provide a written explanation. If a sanction is issued the player then has seven days to appeal the ruling and a hearing is held within 45 days.

If the process goes the distance according to policy, and Singh appeals, a hearing could occur in early April which could place a possible final ruling, which under the policy would be made public, sometime around The Masters, which Singh won in 2000.

For a circuit often criticized for slow play the wheels of anti-doping justice fittingly dovetail with the languid status quo. Considering what’s at stake that seems about right.  

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

Lexi Thompson:

Baking time!!

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

David Feherty:

Jack Nicklaus:

GC Tiger Tracker:

Steve Stricker:

Golf Channel:

Frank Nobilo:

Ian Poulter:

Tyrone Van Aswegen:

Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.