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Lawyer says PGA Tour discriminated against Singh

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While the PGA Tour and lawyers for Vijay Singh await a ruling on whether the New York Supreme Court’s Commercial Division will grant the circuit’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Fijian, the recently-released transcript from initial arguments on Oct. 23 outlines the possibility of a contentious and potentially explosive trial.

During arguments before judge Eileen Bransten, Singh’s lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, claims that the Tour punished their client after he admitted to using the Ultimate Spray – which contains IGF-1, a growth hormone like HGH that is on the Tour’s banned list – in an article on SportsIllustrated.com in January, yet not other players for similar violations.

“The PGA (Tour) has made exception after exception after exception, both with regard to whom it was administering this drug policy and against whom it was disciplining,” Ginsberg said. “For some reason the (Tour) singled out Mr. Singh and treated him in a way that it has not historically or uniformly treated other (Tour) members.”

According to various reports, Mark Calcavecchia endorsed a similar product in 2011 but he was not sanctioned and advised by the Tour to stop. Although at the time Calcavecchia was playing primarily on the Champions Tour, which does not have a performance-enhancing drug policy, he did play six Tour events in 2011.

Ginsberg also claims that Singh took a drug test about the same time as the SI.com article was published and that he did not fail that test, suggesting that he was being unfairly singled out by the Tour.

“Whether it’s because Mr. Singh isn’t from the United States or Mr. Singh didn’t go to the right PGA (Tour) party or Mr. Singh did something that (Tour commissioner) Tim Finchem didn’t like,” Ginsberg said.

In his argument, Ginsberg claimed the Tour is a monopoly and that the circuit is “the one game in town” for professional golfers. In response, the Tour’s lawyers pointed out that Singh has 22 international victories as well as 34 Tour titles.

“Where did those come from? They didn’t fall out of heaven,” said Jeffrey Mishkin, the Tour’s attorney. “There are other professional tours.”

In May, Singh sued the Tour for, among other things, public humiliation, claiming “as a result of the Tour’s action, Singh has been labeled by the Tour, media, some fellow golfers and fans as someone who intentionally took a banned substance in an effort to gain a competitive advantage.”

In the Tour’s motion to dismiss, the circuit cited Singh’s membership agreement which stipulates his only avenue for relief resulting from a doping violation is via an arbitration hearing, which was cancelled following the WADA announcement, and the “well-established doctrine of judicial non-interference in the affairs of voluntary, private associations, such as the Tour.”

Judge Bransten has not yet ruled on the Tour’s motion to dismiss.