Earlier this week at Quail Hollow Golf Club, PGA Tour Commissioner, Tim Finchem took to the podium and finally ruled on the situation involving World Golf Hall of Fame member, Vijay Singh.
It’s been such a long drawn out process, let’s quickly review the timeline.
In a Sports Illustrated story on January 28th, Vijay Singh admitted he had taken a substance known as deer-antler spray, which contains a growth hormone, called IGF-1. Per the PGA Tour’s anti-doping program, IGF-1 is a banned substance. For that matter, the PGA Tour specifically defined deer-antler spray as being outlawed in an email sent directly to members of the PGA Tour.
On Tuesday, Finchem shared the Tour’s ruling on the Singh situation. Shortly after Singh admitted to using the substance, the PGA Tour made a statement regarding the apparent violation by Singh of the Tour’s anti-doping policy. Singh quickly appealed the decision which put us in this evaluation period. During this time, Finchem sought out the World Anti-Doping Agency, whose guidelines serve as the basis for the PGA Tour’s policy. It was determined Singh’s admission to using the deer-antler spray was not enough alone to sanction him.
WADA told the PGA Tour it does not consider deer-antler spray a banned substance and that only a positive (blood) test for IGF-1 should result in penalties. Ingesting any form of IGF-1 orally would not produce a positive test anyway; it needs to be injected.
Currently the PGA Tour doesn’t conduct blood tests on its players, rather relies on urine samples predominantly collected randomly at tournament sites. Had there been a blood test in the case involving Singh, there would have been a better chance he would have been caught, and possibly suspended.
During a time when Allied Associations such as the PGA Tour, PGA of America, United States Golf Association and R&A are bickering over a proposed ban of the anchored putting method, decisions made such as the one involving Singh are under increased scrutiny.
Throughout the 90 day comment period provided by the USGA, pertaining to the proposed rule change, several players on the PGA Tour and members of the PGA of America questioned the need for the United States Golf Association.
Robert Garrigus told ESPN’s Michael Collins in an interview, “They are amateurs who are making rules for a professional game.” Garrigus wasn’t the only professional golfer to speak out on the subject. Several players questioned why the PGA Tour just didn’t make it’s own set of rules and be done with the United States Golf Association and R&A.
The Vijay Singh debacle goes to prove the PGA Tour isn’t capable of governing the game. The Tour leadership structure doesn’t lend itself to good governorship. Commissioner Finchem is an employee of the PGA Tour which is comprised of members. These members are the same people who are competing in tournaments and will be subject to any rules decisions. Unfortunately, tough decisions are required to be made by golf’s governing bodies and it’s to be expected certain decisions won’t please the entire population. Nevertheless, the decisions must be made to protect the game and it’s clear the PGA Tour isn’t prepared to make these tough decisions.