ANTALYA, Turkey – When Vijay Singh was playing in the recent Shriners Hospital for Children Open in Las Vegas, his lawyers were thousands of miles to the east, arguing in New York Supreme Court that his lawsuit against the PGA Tour should not be dismissed.
Singh sued the PGA Tour on May 8 in New York, claiming that the Tour exposed him to “public humiliation and ridicule” during a 12-week investigation into his use of deer-antler spray that ended April 30 when the Tour dropped its case against him.
The lawsuit was a surprise, and so was the timing – the day before The Players Championship, the flagship event of the Tour that is held on its home course where Singh, who has three major championships among his 34 PGA Tour victories, has honed his game for the past two decades.
On Oct. 24 in New York, Peter Ginsberg, Singh’s counsel, made some startling allegations regarding the Tour’s testing, which began on July 1, 2008. Ginsberg hopes to stave off a dismissal by Judge Eileen Bransten that effectively would kill Singh’s chances of prevailing in any case against the PGA Tour.
“All PGA (Tour) members have to agree to take the drug test, but one 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,” Ginsberg said in his oral argument in opposition to the dismissal. “And for some reason, for some reason, for 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.”
Ginsberg also argued that it was not until the eleventh hour, just before an arbitration hearing was to commence, that the Tour backed down from its claims that Singh used performance-enhancing drugs because it had no support in the anti-doping community.
“They apparently solicited some backing from WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) in support of their position, and WADA partly said, We can’t support what you are saying. It’s just not true,” Ginsberg said. He argued to the court about the timeline of the initial case against Singh by the PGA Tour.
Another revelation came from a meeting at the Frys.com Open when Singh was approached by PGA Tour representatives and asked to sign a new membership agreement that had vastly different wording than previous agreements.
“Vijay Singh last week was literally walking onto the golf course. Someone from the PGA (Tour) came to him and gave him yet another adhesion contract where, not only did the PGA (Tour) try to force Mr. Singh to waive the very rights that we are seeking redress in this court, but more,” Ginsberg said. “The PGA (Tour) now wants Mr. Singh to waive his right to any medical privacy that he might have.”
If the court decides in Singh’s favor and allows the case against the PGA Tour to continue, Singh and his lawyers will attack the anti-doping program and its administration.
It’s a program that has been cloaked in secrecy, with the PGA Tour in large part unwilling to even talk about how testing is administered, any penalties and fines and only willing to disclose those violators who are found to have violated the performance-enhancing provision of the policy and not the recreational-drug-use provision, which sources indicate has had many more positive tests.
Tiger Woods, who is in Turkey for this week’s Turkish Airlines Open, said he “never heard about” assertions by Ginsberg that the PGA Tour has not administered the anti-doping program uniformly. “I may have been tested, like, five times this year,” Woods said. “That’s usually about the number for most guys, but that’s all I’ve heard about it until you just mentioned it.”