SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Amidst a maelstrom of controversy following his admission to using a substance banned by the PGA Tour's anti-doping policy, Vijay Singh has withdrawn from this week's Waste Management Phoenix Open.
A spokesperson for IMG, which represents Singh, said Singh withdrew due to 'back soreness,' which he had been experiencing throughout the week.
On Thursday's edition of Golf Channel's 'Morning Drive,' Tom Pernice, Jr., a longtime friend of Singh, maintained that he injured his back on the TPC Scottsdale practice range Tuesday and had been receiving treatment ever since.
Singh, who turns 50 in February, became the subject of controversy after a Sports Illustrated report quoted him saying he's used deer-antler spray, which contains IGF-1, an HGH that is prohibited by the PGA Tour, though not tested for.
Singh, a 34-time PGA Tour winner and member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, released a statement on Wednesday, saying: “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. In fact, when I first received the product, I reviewed the list of ingredients and did not see any prohibited substances. I am absolutely shocked that deer antler spray may contain a banned substance and am angry that I have put myself in this position.
“I have been in contact with the PGA Tour and am cooperating fully with their review of this matter. I will not be commenting further at this time.”
According to the Anti-Doping Policy, Singh's conduct is in violation of the program, which was implemented in 2008. It states: “Other conduct may lead to the finding of a violation and sanctions under the program, including the possession, use or attempted use of a prohibited substance or method; refusing or failing to be tested; tampering with a sample; trafficking in or administering any prohibited substance; or admitting to any conduct that violates the program.”
Clearly, Singh’s admission falls under the final part of that statement.
Moreover, the policy also states, “It is each player’s personal duty to ensure that no prohibited substance enters his body. … Accordingly, it is not necessary that intent, fault, negligence or knowing use on the player’s part be demonstrated in order to establish an anti-doping violation.”
PGA Tour officials have yet to formally comment on the matter.
It was first revealed that Singh has administered the banned substance in a Sports Illustrated report on a company called S.W.A.T.S. – Sports with Alternatives to Steroids. According to the report, Singh paid one of the company’s owners $9,000 last November for the spray, chips, beam ray and powder additive. He also reportedly uses the spray “every couple of hours … every day,” and “sleeps with the beam ray on and has put chips on his ankles, waist and shoulders.”
“I’m looking forward to some change in my body,” Singh said, according to the report. “It’s really hard to feel the difference if you’re only doing it for a couple of months.”
While IGF-1 is on the Tour’s banned-substances list, PGA Tour vice president of communication and international affairs Ty Votaw confirmed that, like many other professional sports leagues, the circuit does not test for either IGF-1 or HGH.
“We have not determined a reliable test for it,” Votaw said. Players are regularly tested under the circuit’s anti-doping program.
On Aug. 17, 2011, the Tour issued an “anti-doping warning” via the green sheet which is circulated to players monthly, when it was learned that Mark Calcavecchia and Ken Green were endorsing S.W.A.T.S.’ “Ultimate Spray.”
“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.”
Doug Barron is the only Tour player suspended (one year) under the circuit’s performance-enhancing drug policy when he tested positive for testosterone and beta blockers in 2009.
GolfChannel.com senior writer Rex Hoggard contributed to this report.