Category: Drugs in golf

December 05, 2013

DJ dismisses Vijay: 'He's in trouble, not me'

Posted at 1:14 PM by Pete Madden
Dustin Johnson
Credit: Getty Images


In an interview with the Golf Channel's Jason Sobel, Dustin Johnson distanced himself from fellow Tour pro Vijay Singh, who recently requested documents related to the "actual or possible violation" of the PGA Tour's Anti-Doping Program of five current professional golfers, including DJ, during the discovery period of his suit against the PGA Tour.

"I don’t know why he would call me out," Johnson told Sobel. "Obviously, he’s in a situation where he’s looking to better himself somehow, but there’s nothing there."

Johnson, an eight-time PGA Tour winner, most recently at the HSBC Champions in November, went on to say that he's never run afoul of the Tour's drug policy.

Q: Have you ever been punished or reprimanded for any kind of violation?

A: No.

Q: Does it anger you to see your name in connection with that story?

A: Not really. I don’t care. He’s in trouble, not me.

Q: Would you consider any type of legal action for your name being used?

A: No. I’m out of it. Don’t want anything to do with it. I don’t care.

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December 04, 2013

PGA Tour won't reveal drug violators to Vijay Singh

Posted at 5:03 PM by Pete Madden
Vijay Singh
Credit: Getty Images


In the latest twist in Vijay Singh's case against the PGA Tour, the Tour rebuffed Singh's sweeping discovery requests, including demands for documents and communications related to the "possible or acutal violation of the [Tour's Anti-Doping] Program" of five current professional golfers: Doug Barron, Matt Every, Mark Calcavecchia, Scott Verplank and Dustin Johnson.

In a letter to Justice Eileen Bransten of the New York State Supreme Court, the Tour's attorney, Jeffrey Mishkin of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, called Singh's discovery requests "overreaching" and "irrelevant," arguing that "these individuals have nothing to do with this litigation. Mr. Singh cannot and should not be permitted, in the guise of discovery, to engage in a fishing expedition that risks further harm to the interests of these and any other third-party golfers."

Singh's lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, contends that information about the way the PGA Tour treated other golfers suspected or accused of violating the Tour's anti-doping program "will evidence the full extent of the PGA Tour's disparate treatment of Singh."

Three of the five golfers named in discovery have had previously reported run-ins with the Tour's drug policy.

Ginsberg declined to explain why the other two golfers -- five-time PGA Tour winner Verplank and eight-time winner Johnson -- were included in Singh's discovery request or whether he will be seeking information about other PGA Tour players in the future.

Documents concerning other golfers are just one of four categories of information sought by Singh and his legal team. In addition to "all documents and communications related to any positive tests by any golfer for any substance listed as a banned substance under the Program," Ginsberg also requested information concerning the structure of the Tour's anti-doping program, membership renewal forms and stance on colostrum, a substance that contains IGF-1 (the same hormone in deer antler spray) but is not banned, an all-out offensive designed to force the Tour to bring the details of its anti-doping program out of the shadows.

"Vijay alleges -- and it is historically obvious -- that the PGA Tour has administered many facets of the business in an inconsistent manner," said Ginsberg. "The PGA Tour presently is attempting to keep from disclosure evidence of the manner in which it has engaged in that type of disparate treatment of players. One goal of the discovery is to force the PGA Tour to come clean with regard to how it administers the golf business."

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November 06, 2013

Vijay's lawyer says PGA Tour selectively enforces drug policy

Posted at 12:11 PM by Pete Madden
Vijay Singh
Credit: Getty Images


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."

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October 03, 2013

Snedeker says PGA Tour should eliminate drug testing

Posted at 2:12 PM by

If Brandt Snedeker were running the PGA Tour, he says he'd put a fork in the Tour's anti-doping program.

"I would do away with drug testing in a heartbeat," the six-time PGA Tour winner said in the November issue of Golf Magazine. "It's a complete waste of time and money. I don't know if steroids are really going to help you hit a golf ball."

The Tour's drug policy came under scrutiny earlier this year after Vijay Singh admitted to using deer-antler spray, which contains IGF-1, an insulin-like growth factor that, at the time, was on the Tour's list of banned substances. The Tour investigated Singh then dropped the case when the World Anti-Doping Agency said that deer-antler spray was no longer prohibited because it contains only miniscule amounts of IGF-1. Singh consequently sued the Tour, alleging it relied on WADA's list of banned substances and methods without conducting its own research.

The Singh episode has led critics, including Greg Norman, to call for more stringent anti-doping measures in golf, specifically blood testing. IGF-1 (and other substances such as human growth hormone) cannot be detected in urine samples.

"You only have to look at what happened to Vijay Singh to know the drugs issue is there," Norman said.

Snedeker doesn't buy in to that thinking.

"We've had drug testing for almost six years on the PGA Tour and we've had two cases of people getting caught doing it," Snedeker said in the interview. "One of them was Doug Barron, who had low testosterone, who didn't go through the proper channels and ended up testing positive [for anabolic steroid testosterone and propranolol, a beta-blocker that calms nerves]. The other was Vijay Singh, who took deer-antler spray, which may or may not be a performance-enhancing drug."

Snedeker said he also finds little merit in the argument that Tour pros might be tempted to take substances to help settle their nerves or accelerate recovery time between injuries.

"I don't think it's ever been a problem in golf," he said of PED use. "I don't think it ever will be a problem in golf. The PGA Tour is different from football and every other sport in that we call penalties on ourselves. The worst thing you can be called in golf is a cheater. Trust me, if there's a guy that gets caught doing anything a couple of times, whether it be bending a rule, we know about it, and we let him know about it. You don't want to be labeled 'that guy.' "

Players have had mixed feelings about the Tour's drug program since its inception in 2008.

Rocco Mediate called drug testing in golf "the biggest joke in the history of the world."

"If you drink a protein shake, and it metabolizes wrong, you're done," he said.

Earlier this year, Chris DiMarco said drug testing is "the dumbest thing we do on Tour."

Among the pros who have voiced support of the program are Padraig Harrington, Jerry Kelly, and Joe Ogilvie.

"I'd like to say we're a little different in golf, but testing is something that's a necessary evil," Ogilvie told the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch earlier this season. "If everybody was Jack Nicklaus, we wouldn't have to drug test everyone, but everyone isn't."

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(Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

July 08, 2010

PGA Tour pro plays event after pot bust at Iowa hotel

Posted at 3:08 PM by Mike Walker

PGA Tour golfer Matthew Every, 26, teed off in his first round at the John Deere Classic in Sivlis, Ill., on Thursday, two days after he was charged with possession of a controlled substance at the Island Casino Hotel Bettendorf in nearby Bettendorf, Iowa, according to The Quad-City TimesEvery

Police were called to a hotel room at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday due to a strong marijuana smell, The Quad-City Times said. According to police, three of the four occupants of the room admitted to smoking marijuana. In addition to Every, Derek Mason, 28, and William Hicks, 49, were charged with drug possession. 

Every was arrested and booked at the Scott County Jail in Iowa and released that evening after posting bond, The Quad-City Times said. Every has made 13 starts on the PGA Tour this year. His best finish was T8 at the Waste Management Open in Phoenix in February. Before he joined the Tour, Every appeared on The Golf Channel reality show "The Big Break." While at the University of Florida, he won the 2006 Ben Hogan Award for the nation's top collegiate golfer.

The PGA Tour does test players for marijuana use as part of its mandatory drug testing, but the Tour does not publicly name players who test positive for recreational drugs.

(Photo: Scott County Jail)

November 04, 2009

Alan Shipnuck's Mailbag: Drugs in golf, Tiger, Phil, Stricker and more

Posted at 9:21 AM by Alan Shipnuck

"Drug Barron, sorry, Doug Barron hasn't made a cut all year on the Nationwide Tour. What the heck was he taking? Mogadon?" -- Paul Mahoney

Duog-barron-shirtless That's a funny line, but I know Tim Finchem isn't laughing. I, for one, am glad someone finally got caught, which is proof that the Tour's drug-testing program works. Of course there are pro golfers taking performance-enhancing drugs. They cheat on their wives and their taxes, but they're not going to indulge in a little chemistry that could significantly boost their careers, just because it's a game of honor, etc.? I never bought that argument.

The most interesting aspect of the Barron suspension has been the reaction of other players and various Tour apologists. They have offered Barron's pudgy physique as proof that he couldn't possibly have been using PEDs. This is so silly. A lot of baseball players who were juicing were pitchers. They didn't want to get yoked; they wanted to help their bodies recover. Might a golfer who hits 500 balls a day be looking for the same help? PEDs don't necessarily make you bigger and more muscular, they just provide extra endurance.

If that means more 400-pound bench presses, then yes, you're gonna wind up looking like Barry Bonds. But if all that athlete is doing is hitting a bunch of golf balls, then he can still look like Doug Barron, even while breaking the rules.

"Does Tiger have a set tradition after winning a tourney? Is there champagne on the plane...does he give his wife $100k? What goes on after a win?" — Mitchell Page

Yes, there is a tradition. He goes to sleep, wakes up the next morning at 5 a.m. and begins practicing for the next tournament. The 2007 PGA Championship is instructive. The week before, Tiger won at Firestone, in Akron, Ohio. By the time he finished all the interviews and ceremonies it was after 7 p.m. The next morning at dawn he was on the first tee at Southern Hills in Tulsa, about a thousand miles away. That's the kind of dedication that makes him Tiger Woods.

"I live near Madison and want to know if Steve Stricker is that nice all the time or does he have a side of him that is a jokester or less serious than we see him on TV? I mean, come on, is he that humble all the time?" -- Stuart

Unfortunately, yes, which means there's nothing salacious or controversial to write about the guy. Stricker might be the nicest human being on the planet. The only group of people who are gossipier and cattier than Tour wives are Tour caddies, and I've never heard anyone from either of these tribes say a single bad thing about the guy. I think we're all gonna have to just accept that Stricker is the Mother Theresa of golf.

Woods-mickelson-china "Tiger and Lefty seem to be getting along better lately. Is this just my imagination or are they starting to respect each other more?"  -- Roy

You know what Tiger respects? Achievement. When Phil blew him away on Sunday at the Tour Championship, that definitely got Tiger's attention. But no question their bond has been strengthened this year. It began with Amy Mickelson. Don't forget that Woods lost his dad to cancer. After Amy's diagnosis, Tiger sent Phil a number of heartfelt text messages that touched the Mickelsons deeply. Throw in their co-starring roles at the Presidents Cup, and this year has definitely brought Tiger and Phil closer together.

"At one stage Stack and Tilt seemed to be all the rage on Tour. Lately it seems to be fading out, especially after they lost Aaron Baddeley (who happened to be on the cover of their expensive DVD). What's the verdict on Tour? Has it been exposed as just another silver-bullet gimmick or does it still have a devoted following?" -- Marc 

A little of both, actually. As noted by another reader, Mike Weir has also jumped off the bandwagon. He and Baddeley both struggled with the driver during their S 'n T days. It's a swing that promotes a pretty steep swing plane, which can lead to solid contact with irons but inconsistency with the big stick. Beyond that, you have to remember that Tour players are lemmings. As soon as something seems to work they'll all try it, whether it's the Claw or Twitter or saucy tennis players. Then something new comes along and many players move on. When Dean Wilson wins the Masters, S 'n T will surely enjoy a comeback.

"What are the chances that we can get a game together where we have all of these super young guns pitted against each other on live TV for some serious cash? I'm thinking 21 and under here so it would be Rory McIlroy, Ryo Ishikawa, Rickie Fowler, Danny Lee and Jamie Lovemark. It would be quite a show featuring the future of the sport. And just think of the potential ramifications—it could start a MUCH needed rivalry that golf needs to make itself more relevant." -- Michael

This is the best idea I've heard in a while. Maybe this batch of youngsters could bring the Skins Game back from the dead. The problem with golf is that the compelling head-to-head matchups we crave happen so rarely. With their varying home bases and exempt status, the above Fab Five will only be in the same field a handful of times next year. The chances of even a couple of them showing up on the same leaderboard is remote. The made-for-TV spectacles have always focused on the same tired big names, but someone—Golf Channel?—should organize a series of Wonderful World of Golf style matches with all these intriguing young talents. Will it happen? I doubt it, but we can dream.

"Same question I ask every week: Why does only Tiger and no other player wear bright red on Sunday? Happy for anyone to tell me. Must not be Alan." --  JC

JC, I was hoping you would take the hint, but apparently not. So once and for all: Tiger wears the red shirt because his mom, Tida, did some kind of Thai-style voodoo and discerned that red is Tiger's "power color" and therefore he should wear it on Sundays. Once he won a few times, a tradition was born. It is funny how he has taken ownership of the color. I remember when Luke Donald wore red on Sunday at the '06 PGA when he was paired with Tiger. Polo had scripted Donald's outfits weeks in advance and he chose not to deviate. A lot of folks took that as him being uppity, which is ridiculous—it's just a shirt! A funny post-script was the Monday playoff at Torrey, when Rocco busted out red, assuming that Tiger would wear his only on Sunday. Wrong. Woods wore red for a second day in a row, and when he saw Rocco at the range before the round he muttered, "Nice shirt." Only in Tiger's universe can you talk trash about a guy's sartorial selection.

Photo: (Barron); Getty Images (Woods, Mickelson)

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