Verdict in Singh doping case just adds to confusion

By Rex HoggardMay 1, 2013, 5:10 pm

Where once there was black and white, gray now resides. In place of analytical fact, we now have ambiguity. With one curious ruling it seems as if science has been Shanghaied by subjective art.

We have studied the PGA Tour’s anti-doping manual and not once in its 38 pages did we find the phrase, “unless a sanction just doesn’t feel right” or “until science catches up with the sampling.”

There is no Rule 33-7, the addendum that kept Tiger Woods from being disqualified following a rules snafu at last month’s Masters, in the doping manual. At least there wasn’t until Tuesday.

Since 2008, when the Tour lurched into the anti-doping era, IGF-1 has been listed as a prohibited substance. That was until last Tuesday when the World Anti-Doping Agency waffled and deemed the growth factor, which is like human growth hormone, clean. Well, sort of.

What WADA said in correspondence with the Tour is that IGF-1, which Vijay Singh admitted to using in a January Sports Illustrated article, is “not considered prohibited.”

The WADA response continued with a crystal clear, “On the other hand it should be known deer-antler spray contains small amounts of IGF-1 that may affect anti-doping tests.

“Players should be warned that in the case of a positive test for IGF-1, or HGH, it would be considered an adverse analytical finding.”

Got that?

IGF-1 is not prohibited, but if you test positive for it, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. may come calling. But then there are no tests for IGF-1, or HGH, on the Tour or any way to quantify what an elevated level of IGF-1 would be for, say, a 6-foot-2, 208-pound surly Fijian.

Tour drops anti-doping case against Singh

PGA Tour's official statement on Singh decision

Q&A: Finchem's news conference

The fear since Day 1 of anti-doping is that players would find the methods and testing madness confusing and Tuesday’s news that Singh would not be sanctioned for his use of the deer-antler spray prompted a collective question mark from the rank and file.

“Well, it sounds like I can use deer-antler spray,” one Tour type joked. “The thing is anybody could be taking HGH. A blood test is the only way to test for HGH.”

Even during Tuesday’s 20-minute Q&A with commissioner Tim Finchem there were far too few answers.

When asked about the possibility that the Tour would begin blood testing, which Greg Norman called for earlier this week, the commish could offer only, “the science isn’t right yet.”

As for WADA’s ruling, Finchem seemed even less certain how players and officials would respond. “A positive reading means that you’re surpassing a certain level. There hasn’t been any level ever set ...,” he said. “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. It is kind of silly, but it is what it is.”

That the collective might of anti-doping was reduced to a sporting cliché is disturbing enough, but that no one with any authority could say with any amount of certainty that IGF-1 is clean as the driven snow is borderline criminal.

If players flocked to the S.W.A.T.S. (Sports with Alternatives to Steroids) website today and began buying the deer-antler spray in cases, it seems like the ultimate Pandora’s Box.

For Mitch Ross, the owner of S.W.A.T.S. who found himself in the middle of a media maelstrom when the Sports Illustrated article implicated Singh and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, Tuesday’s news was the only logical outcome and a measure of vindication.

“What they wanted to do is hang Ray and make me look like an idiot, but the tables have turned,” Ross said. “(IGF-1) is undetectable. What happened is with Ray Lewis and Vijay, WADA has realized they can’t test for it.”

According to Finchem’s prepared statement from WADA, the agency never said that IGF-1 was not performance enhancing, nor did they give Tour players and other athletes carte blanche to spray away.

In short, the Tour, via WADA, only added an unexpected level of uncertainty to testing with Tuesday’s announcement.

Whether Singh should have been issued a sanction will remain a matter of opinion; what is not up for debate is the need for absolute clarity when it comes to testing for performance-enhancing drugs. There can be no ambiguity when an athlete’s livelihood is a stake.

As Finchem explained, the Tour has always deferred to WADA when it comes to testing, which made sense. Players play, WADA wonks test. But that deference has now led to even more uncertainty and the perception, however unfair, that golf is not as clean as advertised and that in this case the circuit is playing favorites.

In a world where perception is reality, that is an unenviable position. The only way testing was ever going to work was through unwavering transparency, on the part of the players and the testers.

That clarity took a body blow on Tuesday.

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Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 10:25 pm

Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.

Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.

And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.

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Jutanugarn sisters: Different styles, similar results

By Associated PressMay 23, 2018, 10:20 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn play golf and live life differently.

The sisters from Thailand do have the same goal in the LPGA, hoping their shot-to-shot focus leads to titles.

The Jutanugarns are two of six women with a shot at the Volvik Championship to become the circuit's first two-time winner this year. The first round begins Thursday at Travis Pointe Country Club, a course six winners are skipping to prepare elsewhere for next week's U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama.

''Everybody has a chance to win every weekend,'' Moriya said. ''That's how hard it is on tour right now.''

Ariya competes with a grip-it-and-rip-it approach, usually hammering a 3-wood off the tee.

Moriya takes a more calculated approach, analyzing each shot patiently.

That's perhaps fitting because she's 16 months older than her sister.

''It's funny because when we think about something, it's always the different,'' she said. ''But we pretty much end up with the same idea.''

Off the course, they're also different.

The 22-year-old Ariya appears careful and guarded when having conversations with people she doesn't know well. The 23-year-old Moriya, meanwhile, enjoys engaging in interesting discussions with those who cross her path.

Their mother, Narumon, was with her daughters Wednesday and the three of them always stay together as a family. They don't cook during tournament weeks and opt to eat out, searching for good places like the sushi restaurant they've discovered near Travis Pointe.

Their father, Somboon, does not watch them play in person. They sisters say he has retired from owning a golf shop in Thailand.

''He doesn't travel anymore,'' Moriya Jutanugarn said.

Even if he is relegating to watching from the other side of the world, Somboon Jutanugarn must be proud of the way his daughters are playing.

Ariya became the first Thai winner in LPGA history in 2016, the same year she went on to win the inaugural Volvik Championship. She earned her eighth career victory last week in Virginia and is one of two players, along with Brooke Henderson, to have LPGA victories this year and the previous two years.

Moriya won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles, joining Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the two pairs of sisters to have LPGA victories.

On the money list, Ariya is No. 1 and her sister is third.

In terms of playing regularly, no one is ahead of them.

Ariya is the only LPGA player to start and make the cut in all 12 events this year. Moriya Jutanugarn has also appeared in each tournament this year and failed to make the cut only once.

Instead of working in breaks to practice without competing or simply relax, they have entered every tournament so far and shrug their shoulders at the feat.

''It's not that bad, like 10 week in a row,'' Moriya said.

The LPGA is hosting an event about five miles from Michigan Stadium for a third straight year and hopes to keep coming back even though it doesn't have a title sponsor secured for 2019. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan told reporters he's confident Ann Arbor will be a long-term home for the circuit.

''I can't tell you the specifics about how we're going to do that,'' Whan acknowledged.

LPGA and tournament officials are hosting some prospective sponsors this week, trying to persuade them to put their name on the tournament.

Volvik, which makes golf balls, is preparing to scale back its support of the tournament.

''We're coming back,'' said Don Shin, president of Volvik USA. ''We just don't know in what capacity.''

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Wise: 'No hard feelings' over Nelson missed kiss

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 10:18 pm

Aaron Wise left the AT&T Byron Nelson with his first PGA Tour trophy and a seven-figure paycheck. But lost in the shuffle of closing out his breakthrough victory in near-darkness was his failed attempt for a celebratory kiss with his girlfriend on the 18th green.

Wise appeared to go in for a peck after his family joined him on the putting surface, but instead he and his girlfriend simply laughed and hugged. After the moment gained a bit of online notoriety, Wise told reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the young couple simply laughed it off.

"Yeah, I have been giving her some s--- about that," Wise said. "A lot has been made about it. It's really nothing. Like I was saying, she was just so excited to surprise me. I was kind of ruining the surprise a little bit that she was shocked, and she didn't even see me going in for the kiss."

At age 21, Wise is now one of the youngest winners on Tour. He explained that while both his girlfriend and mother flew in to watch the final round at Trinity Forest Golf Club, where he shared the 54-hole lead and eventually won by three shots, he took some of the surprise out of their arrival in true millennial fashion - by looking up his girlfriend's location earlier in the day.

Still getting used to his newfound status on Tour, Wise downplayed any controversy surrounding the kiss that wasn't.

"No hard feelings at all," Wise said. "We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was."

Mmm Visuals / Lancaster Country Club

Giving back: Chun creates education fund at site of Open win

By Randall MellMay 23, 2018, 8:04 pm

South Korea’s In Gee Chun is investing in American youth.

Chun broke through on the largest stage in women’s golf, winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago, and she’s making sure Lancaster, Pa., continues to share in what that brought her.

Chun is preparing for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham, Ala., but she made a special stop this week. She returned to the site of her breakthrough in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday, launching the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Education Fund. She announced Tuesday that she’s donating $10,000 to seed the fund. She’s expected to raise more than $20,000 for the cause in a fundraising dinner at the club Wednesday evening. The fund will annually award scholarships to Lancaster youth applicants, including Lancaster Country Club caddies and children of club employees.

“I’m excited to be back here,” said Chun, who put on a junior clinic during her stay and also played an outing with club members. “Winning the U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster gave me the opportunity to play on the LPGA and make one of my dreams come true.”

Chun also supports a fund in her name at Korea University, where she graduated, a fund for various “social responsibility” projects and for the educational needs of the youth who create them.

“Education is very important to me,” Chun said. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”

Chun made donations to the Lancaster General Health Foundation in 2015 and ’16 and to Pennsylvania’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust last year. Lancaster Country Club officials estimate she has now made donations in excess of $40,000 to the community.

“We are grateful In Gee’s made such a wonderful connection to our community and club,” said Rory Connaughton, a member of Lancaster Country Club’s board of governors. “She’s a special person.”