Vijay's lawyer says PGA Tour selectively enforces drug policy
In the undercard of the A-Rod vs. Major League Baseball fight, Vijay Singh is waging his own legal battle against the PGA Tour, and the lawyer in his corner just threw a haymaker.
According to a transcript of recent court proceedings released by the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Singh's lawyer Peter Ginsberg alleged that he has evidence that PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem has not only repeatedly exempted Tour players from drug testing but also failed to punish players for positive tests.
"[O]ne of the elements of bad faith that we are prepared to show in this case, is that the PGA (Tour) has made exception after exception after exception, both with regard to whom it was administering this drug policy, and against whom it was disciplining, violators of the drug policy,” said Ginsberg in a hearing on Oct. 24.
"[F]or some reason, the PGA (Tour) singled out Mr. Singh and treated him in a way that it has not historically or uniformly treated other PGA (Tour) members."
In a January 2013 issue of Sports Illustrated, Singh admitted that he used deer-antler spray, a substance that contains the growth factor IGF-1, which appears on the PGA Tour's Prohibited Substances List.
PGA Tour officials notified Singh of their plans to suspend him for 90 days. Singh appealed, and after the PGA Tour consulted with The World Anti-Doping Agency -- which subsequently revised its policy on deer antler spray, removing it from its list of banned substances -- Tim Finchem announced that the PGA Tour would not punish Singh.
"Vijay wasn't assessed this action because he was negligent. He wasn't assessed it because he made a mistake. He was assessed it because he violated the doping code, and the doping code is predicated on a list of substances," Finchem told the Associated Press. "And we're now finding from WADA that that substance doesn't trigger a positive test to admission, so we have to respect that."
Nevertheless, Singh filed suit against the PGA Tour in May, alleging that the Tour's "reckless administration and implementation" of its Anti-Doping Program had caused him "public humiliation."
The PGA Tour countered with a motion to dismiss the suit in June, referring to Singh's release of claims when he signed his membership renewal form to remain eligible to play on the PGA Tour in 2013.
"Because Mr. Singh has provided the Tour with an express written release of any claims arising under the Anti-Doping Program, this complaint should be dismissed," argued Jeffrey Mishkin of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom on behalf of the PGA Tour.
The dispute cuts to the heart of the question of where power lies on the PGA Tour. While the PGA Tour contends that "the players themselves govern, control the Tour," Singh's lawyer Ginsberg argues that "the PGA (Tour) is a monopoly ... It's an association made up of members who have no choice as to where they exercise his or her professional undertaking."
Singh, according to Ginsberg, had to sign on the dotted line or lose his livelihood, a so-called "adhesion contract" in which one side has all the bargaining power and uses it to his or her advantage.
"Now, [the PGA Tour is] taking the position, it doesn't matter why, doesn't matter what we did, doesn't matter what we didn't do ... We are untouchable. We are immunized," said Ginsberg.
"You can't ask what our bad faith motive was ... whether it's because Mr. Singh isn't from the United States or Mr. Singh didn't go to the right PGA party or Mr. Singh did something that Tim Finchem didn't like.
"[W]e have the right to discover, A, why the PGA (Tour) did not responsibly turn to the scientific evidence before it disciplined Mr. Singh, and we have the right to determine why Mr. Singh was treated so differently than so many other golfers ... That's what this case is about."
Said Mishkin: "[N]o one pressured Mr. Singh to play on the PGA Tour. He wanted to play on the PGA Tour, and like every other player, he agreed to the eligibility conditions."