Singh hopes to blow lid off PGA Tour's drug policy
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
In something of a bombshell at a recent court hearing, Vijay Singh’s lawyer accused the PGA Tour of repeatedly exempting players from testing and punishment under its anti-doping program. But no proof has yet to be made public.
Since Tour drug testing began in 2008, two players have been identified as using performance-enhancing substances. Doug Barron settled out of court in 2010 following a suspension. Vijay Singh, citing reputation damage, sued the Tour for multimillions in May after being cleared following his appeal of an unannounced suspension.
Now Singh’s lawyer makes the serious accusation that other players have tested positive for PEDs but haven’t been penalized.
“That’s what we intend to prove,” the lawyer, Peter Ginsberg of New York, said Wednesday in a telephone interview.
Asked whether Ginsberg’s accusation is true, Tour executive vice president Ty Votaw said, “We don’t comment on ongoing litigation.”
Ginsberg would not identify the number of drug-test exceptions alleged or his information sources. “Those are fair questions, and by the end of the litigation you’ll have all the answers,” he said.
Unless the two sides settle out of court, as many seem to expect, or the case is dismissed. It’s already surprising to some insiders that the Tour hasn’t settled by now because of the potential interesting information that could come out.
At the moment, the case is in the hands of a New York Supreme Court judge. Ginsberg made his allegations there Oct. 24 in objecting to the Tour’s motion to dismiss the case. He also asked for the Tour to produce drug-testing documents.
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In part, a Tour lawyer countered by telling the judge that Singh’s side provided no examples of other drug cases and that Singh wasn’t subjected to “humiliation” because “no one knew” about his suspension.
On Wednesday, Ginsberg said the Tour program doesn’t deal with all players “evenly and fairly. It is not administered with transparency. One point of the lawsuit is to force the PGA (Tour) to be more responsive and open for the interests of all players.”
Unlike other sports, the Tour has had a longstanding policy not to publicize penalties such as fines and suspensions. In a departure from that mindset, the Tour decided to made PED violations public.
Yet, there is an element of secrecy around the program. That, former Tour policy board member Joe Ogilvie said, is “in keeping with the Tour culture of being a black box” with regard to disciplinary actions.
The Duke-educated Ogilvie was a player director on the board when the drug policy was approved. Yet he was unclear that, interestingly, only commissioner Tim Finchem and the drug administrator are to know of positive results, based on the Tour guide.
Ogilvie also raises an eyebrow because players are unable to compare their cases.
“If a player is suspended or subject to disciplinary action, he should know what the punishment was for others,” Ogilvie said. “That’s only fair. I would want to know, because how can I mount a defense if I don’t?
“It’s as if Tour communication is a state secret and if they allowed us to know their secrets, national security somehow would be undermined. If that’s the culture in this day and age, it’s going to bite you. We’re not in the 1970s and ’80s anymore. You just have to be more forthcoming.”
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• While at the cash-grab Turkish Airlines Open, Tiger Woods hit a ball across the Bosphorus River, from Europe to Asia. That’s nothing. I remember when he could hit a ball from Georgia to South Carolina, overpower a course such as Augusta National and win a major by a dozen.
• Woods not only has had four different swings during his PGA Tour career, he has had two different styles. He won most of his 14 major championships with a power game. Now, on the cusp of 38, he’s trying to pass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 as a chess player.
• Woods led the 2013 Tour in victories (five) and all-around ranking. Hitting more fairway metals off the tee, he improved his driving accuracy but slipped to 49th in distance.
He ranked 129th on Tour in average distance to the hole (180 yards) after a tee shot. Interestingly, he was third in that category at 158 yards as recently as 2005. Woods won six times that year and was spectacular in the majors, winning the Masters and British Open, finishing second at the U.S. Open and tying for fourth at the PGA.
In other words, it will be interesting to see how his current approach suits him in majors as he tries to end a victory drought that remarkably extends to June 2008.