Thursday, January 31, 2013

A New Kind of Deer on Tour

            You won’t find this Rules violation in the Rules of Golf or Decisions book, but this week is laced with controversy over Vijay Singh’s admitted use of Deer Antler Spray.  Let’s cover a few things: 1)What the heck is deer antler spray and why is it an issue; 2) What is the controversy surrounding Vijay;  and 3) general commentary on doping and the banned substance policy on Tour.

Deer Antler Spray: I don’t have antlers, I’m not a deer, what’s the big deal?
            Deer-antler spray, despite its title, is a health supplement spray originating from the company S.W.A.T.S, or Sports with Alternatives to Steroids.  It actually goes by the name “The Ultimate Spay.”  With a company name that dubious, I wonder why players were drawn to it in the first place.  The spray contains a chemical IGF-1 which is on the PGA Tour’s list of banned substances but is not tested for.  The chemical is a known growth factor that helps facilitate recovery and bone cell growth.  It is universally banned in all sports.

Why is Vijay a deer?
            In a Sports Illustrated article highlighting the S.W.A.T.S company and its products, Vijay admitted to using the spray multiple times a day and all over his body.  He was anticipating a body change as a result of using the spray and admits he’s been trying holograph chips and all kinds of methods to help his aging body.  He has come out saying that he used the spray but did not realize it was or contained a banned substance.  Ok.  Actually, he said he was “shocked” to learn the spray contained a banned substance.  Let me get this straight, he was “shocked” that a spray from a company called Sports with Alternatives to Steroids, contained a banned substance.  Ok.  This week he withdrew from the Waste Management Phoenix Open citing a “sore back.”  Presumably, he’s stopped using the spray.

PGA Tour and Anti-Doping
            The controversy surrounding doping in sports has been going on for a long, long time.  It was only in 2006 that it became a hot topic for the PGA Tour, and it wasn’t until 2008 that a set policy and actual testing began.  Steroid use was never considered much of a factor for golf professionals because sheer strength and body building alone really didn’t help the professional golfer.  Muscle mass or the lack of mental control that results from steroid use would actually be a detriment to a pro’s golf game.  With recent advances in this area, human growth hormones in particular, specific kinds of steroids and supplements that fall under the banned substance category really could be beneficial to golfers, especially for healing.  Golfers could overcome pulled muscles, surgeries, bad backs and other aches much more quickly with human growth hormones or similar type substances.  These could really fall under the category of PED (Performance Enhancing Drug).  But there is also no sure-fire test for those, just as these is no test for the IGF-1 chemical in the deer-antler spray.

            It was 2011 that the PGA Tour put players on notice that the deer-antler spray marketed by S.W.A.T.S known as “The Ultimate Spray” contained a banned substance and should be avoided.  The Tour realized the problem when Mark Calcavecchia and Ken Green were endorsing the product.  Yet, the SI article with Vijay’s admitted usage came out a couple days ago.  I’m sorry Vijay, but in this case, ignorance should not be bliss.  I don’t know what the Tour’s penalty for violation of the banned substance policy is, but you’re guilty.  Be angry with yourself all you want, the Tour put players on notice about this two years ago.  Good luck on the Champions Tour.

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