Eight days after the PGA Tour cleared him of a violation for using deer antler spray, Vijay Singh sued the Tour on Wednesday for unspecified monetary damages, claiming the Tour subjected him to “public humiliation and ridicule for months” and unnecessarily impaired his reputation.
“Vijay is angry and hurt and totally dedicated to reclaiming his reputation, which was tarnished by the PGA (Tour)’s irresponsible accusations,” Peter R. Ginsberg, a New York lawyer specializing in sports law, said after the suit was filed in New York’s Supreme Court. “He wants to make sure the PGA (Tour) doesn’t treat players irresponsibly in the future. This is Vijay’s idea. He’s dedicated to it 100 percent. It’s very important to Vijay to have his name cleared.
In January Singh admitted to using deer antler spray, at the time on the Tour’s list of banned substances. On Feb. 19, the Tour issued a 90-day suspension (Feb. 4 to May 11) that Singh appealed while continuing to play. During the appeal process, the Tour cleared Singh after the World Anti-Doping Agency said the “spray (which is known to contain small amounts of IGF-1) is not considered prohibited.”
The suit claims the Tour relied on the prohibited substances list from WADA “without any independent review, analysis or assessment of the substances.” It claims had the Tour done “responsible testing” of the product in 2011 – when Mark Calcavecchia admitted using the spray and went undisciplined – “it would have known that its consumption was not prohibited and Singh would have been spared this injurious treatment.”
“They sanctioned Vijay without doing the basic analysis of whether the substance in the spray warranted a violation,” Ginsberg said Wednesday. “We performed the analysis over course over a few weeks. We wouldn’t be in this situation if they asked scientists important questions and did the analysis like we did before imposing discipline.”
The Tour declined comment on the suit, filed on the eve of its big event, The Players – played at the site of Tour headquarters and in Singh’s hometown.
Singh began using deer antler spray in late 2012 on the advice of his caddie, Tony Shepherd, to address knee and back troubles, the complaint said. Before using it, he “compared the ingredients listed on the Spray bottle to the Anti-Doping Program’s banned substance list to ensure that the Spray did not contain any banned substances,” the suit said. It further claims the Tour “did not do any analysis to determine whether the IGF-1 material was the same substance that WADA banned, whether it was active or inactive.”
On Wednesday, Ginsberg said, “In fact the IGF-1 on the banned list is not same substance that’s in the deer antler spray. The substance in the spray is an inactive ingredient that doesn’t fit in the category of substances the PGA (Tour) prohibits. Thus it could not possibly have any effect on players’ muscle development or recovery.
“If the PGA asked for more information from WADA or the UCLA lab (that did testing during the appeal process), it would not have done what it did.”
Singh, in The Players field, issued a statement that read: “I am proud of my achievements, my work ethic, and the way I live my life. The PGA Tour not only treated me unfairly, but displayed a lack of professionalism that should concern every professional golfer and fan of the game.”
Singh, 50, has won 34 Tour titles and was voted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2006.