Vijay Singh was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2005. He will turn 50 years old on February 22nd. He has 34 PGA Tour wins, including the Masters and two PGA Championships.
In 2012, he had five top-10 finishes and earned over $1.5 million. Even at 50, he is still a factor on the regular tour and has said that he plans to play on the PGA Tour for as long as he is competitive.
This week, Singh admitted in a Sports Illustrated article that he was using a spray that, unbeknownst to him, contained an illegal steroid.
The PGA Tour drug policy emphatically states that each player is responsible for whatever drugs or medications he uses. It gives the players a list of banned substances and conducts random drug testing to assure compliance throughout the membership.
Doug Barron is a journeyman professional golfer who was the first to be suspended under the PGA Tour’s drug policy that went into effect in July 2008. Barron received a one-year suspension for testing positive to testosterone and a beta blocker, which his doctors had prescribed for lower-than-normal testosterone levels and a rapid heartbeat.
If the PGA Tour leveled a one-year suspension on Barron for using a prescribed drug while under doctors' care, does it follow that they will be forced to suspend Singh, who has admitted to using a banned substance?
If the PGA Tour wants to be taken seriously with its drug policy, a measure of consistency must be maintained.
In 2011, Champions Tour member Mark Calcavecchia had appeared in a video endorsing the Ultimate Spray, which contained the deer antler banned steroid for Sports with Alternatives to Steroids (S.W.A.T.S.). He was informed by the PGA Tour that this product contained banned substances, and he immediately informed the S.W.A.T.S. people to take his video off their promotion website.
No further action was initiated against Calcavecchia for his involvement with S.W.A.T.S. and the deer antler spray.
It is apparent that Singh was not deliberately trying to circumvent the PGA Tour’s drug policy. He did not realize the product he was ingesting contained banned substances.
Should he have asked for a ruling on the deer antler spray before he used it? Yes, of course, but that is now hindsight.
Will the PGA Tour be forced to suspend the highly respected Singh?
It appears that a suspension will be forthcoming. With all of the publicity the Sports Illustrated article has generated, the PGA Tour is backed into a corner.
The lesson for professional athletes is to be very careful about which supplements and additional medications that they use, even prescribed or recommended products.
The PGA Tour will certainly step up their random testing activity, and it behooves players to learn what is in the products that they use.