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Brent Kelley

Singh Admits Use of Banned Substance, Says Use Was Unknowing

By January 30, 2013

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Vijay Singh told Sports Illustrated recently that he regularly uses a "deer antler spray" made by a company called SWATS. The problem: That spray contains a substance that is banned by the PGA Tour and other sports leagues that follow World Anti-Doping Association guidelines.

On Wednesday, in Phoenix for the 2013 Waste Management Phoenix Open, Singh issued the following statement:

"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."

The PGA Tour says it is investigating.

"Deer antler spray," which is made from, you guessed it, deer antlers, contains IGF-1 (which stands for "insulin-like growth factor"). The IGF-1 chemical acts similar to human growth hormone (HGH), promoting the growing of bone cells to speed recovery from injury, and is believed to be protective of cartilage.

Sports Illustrated's article is mostly about football players and their relationship to SWATS, a company that makes numerous products that are of dubious scientific validity. Or that are, like its "chips" - little stickers that supposedly contain magical powers within holograms - obvious quackery.

But the article pointed out that SWATS has a relationship with professional golf, too. And this is the part of the story that has Vijay Singh in hot water:

The chips and spray also had recently begun to spread through golf after a friend with whom Ross sold Christmas trees introduced him to a PGA caddie. In short order, Ross says, the caddie "was passing me around the golf world like a prostitute." ...

Vijay Singh ... remains a vocal supporter. In November, Singh paid Ross $9,000 for the spray, chips, beam ray and powder additive -- making him one of the few athletes who is compensating S.W.A.T.S. He says he uses the spray banned by the PGA "every couple of hours ... every day," sleeps with the beam ray on and has put chips on his ankles, waist and shoulders.

Not only did Singh admit to Sports Illustrated that he uses the spray, he practically bragged about it. This lends credence to Singh's contention in his statement that "at no time was I aware that it may contain a substance that is banned under the PGA Tour Anti-Doping Policy."

But Singh should have been aware, because in 2011 - after Mark Calcavecchia and Ken Green had provided endorsements to SWATS' website of the deer-antler spray - the PGA Tour issued a warning to golfers to stay away from the product. That warning told golfers that "deer antler contains IGF-1" and that IGF-1 "is universally banned in all sports."

Something else to keep in mind is the PGA Tour's anti-doping policy specifically says that ignorance is not an excuse. Golf Channel's Jason Sobel and Rox Hoggard reported:

According to the Anti-Doping Policy, Singh 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."

It will be interesting to see the conclusion that the PGA Tour reaches on whether to punish Singh, and if so, what that might entail. It seems clear that if the tour follows its own policy, Singh is looking at some kind of suspension.

If you're interested in reading the full Sports Illustrated article that includes Singh's comments, click here.

You can also watch a video on GolfChannel.com in which the author of the SI article discusses Singh and SWATS.

Update: Several months later, the PGA Tour dropped its doping case against Singh folling a ruling by the World Anti-Doping Agency.


February 2, 2013 at 11:46 am
(1) dnaps says:

And yet the PGA Tour allows its members to smoke cigarettes WHILE PLAYING in its tournaments in full view of the live crowds and a worldwide T.V. audience. What you ask is the relevance to Vijay”s situation? If there is a more addicting, dangerous, and costly drug than nicotine, I am not aware of it. And if you don’t think that it has a performance enhancing effect on the players who smoke, just try telling them to quit and see what happens to their ability to play at Tour level. Major professional sports have been in bed with the tobacco and alcohol industries from their beginnings; it’s always been O.K. to smoke, chew, and drink. In fact, professional teams provide all the chew and beer their players can consume in post-game locker rooms. Apparently, it’s fine to ingest performance ROBBING substances, but heaven forbid an athlete should consider using a performance ENHANCING substance. And lest you think I am a bluenose, anti-smoking, anti-drinking zealot, far from it. I just hate the hipocracy.

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