Transcript: Finchem discusses Singh ruling

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 30, 2013, 9:18 pm

Vijay Singh will not be suspended by the PGA Tour for using deer antler spray, it was announced Tuesday.

After reading a prepared statement from the Tour, commissioner Tim Finchem answered questions from the assembled media at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte.

Here is the complete transcript: 

Q. Was Vijay actually suspended and then did he appeal, or did you just take a look at this process? 

FINCHEM: As I indicated in the statement, there was a sanction entered against Vijay Singh and it was under appeal at the time we learned of this information. 

Q. Just for my chronology, when was the sanction issued and when did Vijay appeal? Do you have those dates?

FINCHEM: The date that the sanction was entered do we have that date? February 19th.

Q. And he appealed?

FINCHEM: He appealed seven days later. He has seven days to appeal.

Q. Is there any move under foot to include blood testing in your Anti Doping tests?

FINCHEM: Well, there is and there has been. There has been a test out there for HGH, which was tossed out in an action with, I think, a Scandinavian swimmer or skier just about a month ago. So there currently is no recognized blood test. When I say recognized, I mean, a test that WADA says, okay, you can go and use this test, and if it's a positive test, that means there's doping involved. There is no such test. We know and we have invested at some point in efforts to bring such a test forward. The lack of such a test has been the, not the only difficulty, but certainly a major difficulty in the team sports in moving toward a way to measure for human growth hormone. With respect to IGF, under the current as I indicated, there is no test currently available in a normal blood test, and the difficulty with IGF is, in addition to doing a test, is identifying a reasonable level from which if you exceed, you're considered doping. We all have IGF in our systems all the time.

Q. Tennis, because of what you just said, they are going to be continuing a biological passport program so therefore they can monitor people's levels. Is that in the future a consideration?

FINCHEM: Well, it's my understanding of the science that that particular direction is particularly helpful in areas like EPO, not necessarily helpful in areas like IGF 1. The only thing that we don't test for, that we miss without a blood test in today's science we don't miss HGH because you really can't test for HGH today. The only thing that's out there that you could test for with blood testing that we do miss is blood transfusion related activity, which is primarily EPO. We have looked at that candidly. At this point in time we're not convinced that it matters in our sport. We're in conversations with WADA about it. And it's our understanding as the doping list evolves now in the next couple of years, it's going to become more sport specific as opposed to the broad list that applies to all sports. So we're watching that on the blood transfusion EPO area, and we're also watching the signs as it relates to testing for growth factors, growth hormones, and IGF.

Q. It's a little confusing here. On the one hand WADA says you can't really test properly for IGF. Then, if I heard you correctly, they said you're not considered guilty even if you confess to something that has IGF in it unless there is a positive test.

FINCHEM: I don't want to put words I'm reading you the exact language on those points that WADA has given.

Q. Do you understand it?

FINCHEM: I do, I think. I think what's really let me see how I can say this. We're talking about a determination that was made by scientists at WADA that relate to the consumption through deer antler spray of a technically violative substance, IGF 1, but in looking at it, the scientists concluded it resulted in infinitesimal amounts actually being taken into the recipient's body. Amounts that couldn't be distinguished even if you had an accurate test with the amounts that you might take into your body from milk, et cetera. Versus the question of what would happen in a case where, for whatever reason, you managed to take in enough IGF 1 so that it did trigger a positive reading, it's not possible today.

Because a positive reading means that you're surpassing a certain level. There hasn't been any level ever set. So it's kind of like I view it as kind of cross checking the box language. We're going to say that it's not on the list for purposes of consumption. But just know that we're not liable here if for some reason or another you managed to trigger a positive test even though there is no test out there. So it is kind of silly, but it is what it is. 

Q. Can I follow up one second? Because I want to understand the chronology here. In 2011 (Indiscernible) you warned the players in 2011?

FINCHEM: We warned our players that it had come to our attention that that particular product, deer antler spray, contained a banned substance.

Q. Vijay was using deer antler spray, said he used deer antler spray, you found him guilty of using something he was warned not to use, and then WADA changed the rule?

FINCHEM: Let me clarify. It's not that we found him that's one choice of words. Under our Doping Code, if you admit which is what he did. He admitted in an article that he had used this substance, it is tantamount to a positive test under our rules. We felt obligated to bring the action because it is technically a violation or was at that point in time, number one. Number two: Even though we actually had heard anecdotally from the medical community musing that these are small amounts, the fact of the matter is we want players to check before they put a substance in their body. So this is one of the reasons you follow the book when it comes to doping. You don't go around the edges.

Q. Can you tell us what the sanction was?

FINCHEM: No, I won't. If we had entered into if we had completed the process and entered into a suspension, we would have done what the code says, which is to announce the details of the suspension. Since we are looking at this retroactively and saying there was no violation, we're not going to speak to the details of the sanction. 

Q. Your Anti Doping in the policy it says that players are subject to out of competition testing. I talked to 54 players, 10 of the top 15, they've never been tested outside the tournament.

FINCHEM: You've never talked to a player. 

Q. I would think ten of the top 15 in the world would be the ones most subject. 

FINCHEM: No, that's not true. We treat everybody the same when it comes to testing.

Q. Well, can you give us a general sense of how often players are tested outside of the tournament? 

FINCHEM: We do not test players often outside of competition. We do look for situations that we think it prudent for players to recognize that we will and have and do test out of competition, and we might look for particular circumstances I'm not going to go into the details of what those are that are worthy of a random test in an out of competition situation. The vast majority of our testing is on site. 

Q. Do you have any idea why WADA independently was looking at deer antler spray?

FINCHEM: No. At this particular point in time, no.

Q. Secondly, if I remember correctly though your guidelines are long

FINCHEM: By the way, I received the information about WADA's position on Friday.

Q. If I remember correctly that once you decided to appeal, there was a 45-day process generally? 

FINCHEM: It's more convoluted than that. The way the process works is that once you file an appeal the TOUR and you as the appellant each select an arbiter from the National Association of Arbiters. Then your arbiter and our arbiter meet and decide on a third arbiter, so you have a three man panel. After that, there are briefs submitted to the panel and then a hearing is scheduled, which is mutually accepted by all the arbiters and the TOUR and the appellant. So I think the max timeframe, Andy, would be what? It could be up to 45 days, and we were well into that in this particular situation. 

Q. Had you gotten to the hearing stage yet?

FINCHEM: No, we had not gotten to the hearing stage.

Q. Commissioner, when the question about possible drug use or doping among golfers was first raised, I believe your reaction was similar to a lot of the players in that you didn't feel that this was an issue on the Tour and there weren't players that were using substances. What is your feeling about it now after going through a process like this?

FINCHEM: Well, it hasn't changed. The real reason that we went to I would say the possibility that we had some players was third in line. I think the first and foremost reason was that there was growing speculation about all sports, and if you didn't test, you ran the risk of that speculation painting a public portrait of a sport that wasn't taking care of its business and that was deteriorating.

I think since the time we made the decision, it's gotten worse with the revelations in the team sports, with the revelations in cycling, with more revelations in track and field. So that was certainly a defensive measure given the image of the sport. The second reason is we had Olympics on the horizon, and we were looking hard at the Olympics back we did this prior to knowing whether we were going to be in the Olympics. But we certainly knew there was a chance there, and if you're going to be an Olympic sport, you have to go down that road anyway. Then the third reason was maybe there is a chance that somebody is using and if we don't get out ahead of it, it could be an embarrassment to the image of the sport. 

We felt strongly that A: We did not have a problem; and B: If we had a problem you see in those days, we didn't have a rule about drugs. It wasn't just about testing. We didn't have banned substances. We felt that if we went to the banned substance list, players would pay attention and take care of their business, which, by everything we see, they have done. We've had widespread use of our 24/7 communication system to check substances that are about to go into a body. We've had careful usage of therapeutic use exemptions around hospitalization, procedures, things like that, players double checking. We've had fairly robust efforts by players to learn about the dos and don'ts. So there isn't much that's happened that I wouldn't have anticipated. However, when you get into the doping world, things happen. As I look back on the last five years, I was concerned with what I saw in tennis when we got into this. All kinds of lawsuits. We seem to have avoided a lot of those pitfalls. The problem is that it doesn't take much in this area to change the image of the sport, so you can't let up on it. I think when you get into one of these actual factual situations you learn lessons and you have to react and take steps to help you avoid in the future. 

Q. Given the 2011 warning about deer antler spray, will he be subject to any disciplinary action just based on that warning?

FINCHEM: We follow WADA on this stuff. We follow, with a few exceptions, the entire list of substances that are banned. We refer to them and defer to them really on the science of these issues as to what's on the list. The fact of the matter here is as some people in the medical community pointed out when this matter came up, and now science at WADA has looked into it and concluded on their own, it's just not worth having it on the list in that context. That is not to say that IGF, per se, but I don't know of a substance or a transfer mechanism out there that can load a person to IGF levels that would get the attention of the WADA science people. Clearly, this isn't one. They've made that clear to us. There is another case recently about cow colostrum, but they concluded that you had to drink 4,000 gallons of the stuff to get any kind of significant level. It just appears to be anomaly. I don't think you can move ahead with a prosecution on a player given this set of facts. That's our conclusion. Because, again, Vijay wasn't assessed this action because he was negligent. 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. 

Q. Just wondered if you had any comments or reaction to Norman's comments the other day. It seems coincidental this came up on Monday or Sunday, I guess with him golfing 

FINCHEM: I saw the article. I'm always hesitant to comment on a player's public comments in the paper. I think he was out of the country. I don't know who wrote the story. I don't know the facts behind it. I don't know. I'd rather not go there. I will say, however, that I do believe that with an awful lot of people there is a misunderstanding about the ease of access to a test for these particular small group of substances. Millions of dollars have been invested in recent years to try to get to a point in the team sports, for example, where there have been issues and a range of things, so that you can have a test that's meaningful. That is the problem with the test is you're going to give a test and then based on the results of that test you're going to take somebody out of the sport. So you've got to make sure of what you're doing, so it has to be reliable. That test is not available today. You can't go out next week and start doing something. The science isn't right yet. So to the extent that remarks are based on that, that would be inappropriate. But, again, I don't know exactly what he was talking about, and I haven't talked to him, so I don't want to respond to the words he used.

Q. With this Vijay incident now or issue, I should say, resolved, do you view this as perhaps a victory for the Tour doping policy? Is this a defeat for the Tour's doping policy? Where do you stand on your, I guess, opinion of the whole thing now that the WADA folks have come through with their findings? 

FINCHEM: Well, I don't know how to I think it's my nature to try to find a silver lining in just about anything that happens and usually there is one there. The only one I can find here is that there's been a lot of comment about this. There's been a lot of it's got a high profile. If anything comes out of it, it should help us remind players that the responsibility in the doping area is theirs. It's not ours. And they've been great about it. But I think they have to redouble their efforts. We have to make sure that we are absolutely convinced that we have explained every single player on an annual basis that in that Doping Code it says what goes in your body is your responsibility; however, here are five ways you can take steps to make sure you're not putting the wrong things in your body. Once they take that step, then it's back on us. If our certification list is wrong and we say, no, you're okay, then it's back on us. So it requires prudence and being careful. We've had five years of this. We haven't had much in the way of problems, so I think it's human nature. Some players are not paying as much attention as they were two or three years ago, but we can't let that happen. I'm not saying it is, but we will be redoubling our efforts based on this case. And I suppose, if there's a silver lining, that's it.

Q. On what grounds, given that you said you didn't get this WADA change, quote unquote until Friday, did Vijay appeal when he said he did it?

FINCHEM: On what grounds did they appeal?

Q. Did Vijay appeal given that he admitted that he used the substance, what were the grounds for his appeal?

FINCHEM: Well, they had a variety of arguments. Anytime you get a couple lawyers involved, they're going to come up with plenty of arguments.

Q. But, obviously, you didn't think they were much of an argument since you did initially sanction him? 

FINCHEM: Well, you know, if you back away from the merits here, we have to prosecute this and we were and all that. It's a difficult situation. Vijay was from the first moment first of all, he told the press what he was doing, so I think clearly on its face it was an honest mistake. But he was absolutely cooperative and very forthcoming, contrite, all of the things that you would want to see. So these are not easy situations, but it is what it is. 

 Q. Just lastly, you just said it doesn't take much in this area to change the image of your sport. Are you concerned that people are going to see this given that he admitted that he did it, it was a banned substance at the time that people are going to say you let him skate on a technicality? 

FINCHEM: I don't think so for two reasons. One: I think that people who pay attention to the facts here will conclude or come to the same conclusion that I found with a lot of people. You get into one of these things and everybody wants to talk to you about it. I thought that the fairly strong attitude among people that once you move away from the reality, if it's a violation, we don't have any choice here. It's not like we have discretion. We have to take action was that deer antler spray is a harmless situation, I think that is the general attitude. Apparently that's what WADA has concluded. I think the other thing is I just think people generally have a very strong view of the integrity of our players. I think it's going to take a lot to shake the foundation of what players have spent decades to build, and this, I don't think, fits the bill.

Q. When was Vijay told?

FINCHEM: A little while ago.

Q. Today?

FINCHEM: Uh huh.

Q. So can we assume that deer antler spray is not banned?

FINCHEM: It's not a violation of the Doping Code for you to use deer antler spray. Now, 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.

Q. But it's not detectible in urine?

FINCHEM: Well, there is a test that detects it. But normal I don't want to delve too much into the science here because I know not that person. However, a typical or what we call normal blood test does not work for IGF. There is a test that you can perform, but it's meaningless without a level. So you have to do a fair amount of statistical work based off of a range of testing with sample groups until you determine like has happened in testosterone and a lot of other areas okay. Here's a normal level for somebody of your height and weight. Here's the normal level. The doctor comes in and says your level is lower than normal. You need a TUE. Then our committee says, no, you're not that low. You're working off of levels. That's the way it is with hormones. That science has not been done yet.

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Expired visa, helicopter, odd clubs all part of Vegas' journey

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 3:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jhonattan Vegas thought someone was playing a practical joke on him.

Or maybe he was stuck in the middle of a horror movie.

Scheduled to leave for The Open a week ago, he didn’t arrive at Carnoustie until a little more than an hour before his first-round tee time Thursday.

“Even if somebody tried to do that on purpose,” he said, “you couldn’t really do it.”

The problem was an expired visa.

Vegas said that he must have gotten confused by the transposed date on the visa – “Guessing I’ve been living in America too long” – and assumed that he was cleared to travel.

No problem, he was told. He’d have a new visa in 24 hours.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Except the consulate in New York didn’t respond to his application the next day, keeping him in limbo through the weekend. Then, on Monday, he was told that he’d applied for the wrong visa. UPS got shut down in New York and his visa never left, so Vegas waited in vain for seven hours in front of the consulate in Houston. He finally secured his visa on Wednesday morning, boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto, and then flew to Glasgow, the final leg of a 14-hour journey.

His agent arranged a helicopter ride from Glasgow to Carnoustie to ensure that he could make his 10:31 a.m. (local) tee time.

One more issue? His clubs never made it. They were left back in Toronto.

His caddie, Ruben Yorio, scrambled to put together a new bag, with a mismatched set of woods, irons, wedges and putter.

“Luckily the (equipment) vans are still here,” Vegas said. “Otherwise I probably would have played with members’ clubs today.”

He hit about 20 balls on the range – “Luckily they were going forward” – but Carnoustie is one of the most challenging links in the world, and Vegas was working off of two hours’ sleep and without his own custom-built clubs. He shot 76 but, hey, at least he tried.

“It was fun,” he said, “even though the journey was frustrating.”

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'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.

Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.

“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.

The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.

“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”

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Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.

“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.

“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”