The Loop

Vijay's case against the PGA Tour isn't as ludicrous as you think

May 13, 2013

By now you know that Vijay Singh has filed suit against the PGA Tour. Yes, he's suing the organization that let him off the hook after admittedly using a banned substance, the organization that has made him rich and the same organization that named him Player of the Year in 2004. How could he do such a thing?


Singh greets fans during the practice round at The Players Championship. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Forget about Singh's past: the cheating allegations, the unfriendly manner with which he's been known to treat playing partners, the often rude avoidance of the media. Is it possible that the tour acted carelessly because Singh's reputation wasn't worth saving? Singh and his lawyers apparently think so, and the case they've leveled has some compelling elements. Despite the public ridicule the lawsuit has created, Singh's lawyers actually make a few strong points.

• Aside from his cantankerous reputation, Vijay is commonly recognized as the hardest working player on tour. As the lawsuit points out, Singh currently holds the record for most wins after the age of 40. Yes, his negative reputation has only been reinforced by the lawsuit, but his reputation as the hardest working range rat on tour has weakened.

• Paragraphs 12 and 13 of the lawsuit explain the tour's willingness to rely on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) for proper testing of banned substances, and to impose action based on the results of that testing, without the slightest effort to verify the accuracy of that information. The tour did not hesitate to suspend Singh and thus left him to deal with the wrath of what the lawyer's claim was baseless action by the tour.

• After the Sports Illustrated story (in which Singh admitted to using deer-antler spray) ran, Vijay provided the Tour with a urine sample (that tested negatively) and a supply of deer-antler spray that the Tour could test. After having the spray tested by UCLA, the tour found no evidence that the spray contained enough IGF-1 to warrant its banning. Furthermore, the tour withheld Singh's earnings during the proposed suspension and alerted Singh that the choice to appeal his suspension would require him to forfeit those earnings, even though he was allowed to continue competing during the appeal process.

• The tour received the results of UCLA's testing on February 14 and, on the same day, sent a letter to Singh notifying him of his violation. Five days later, the Tour notified Singh of his suspension. The timeline of the tour's decision-making process is unclear, but by either deciding on a suspension without proper information about the spray, or by leveling the suspension after finding out about the contents of the spray, the tour seems to have acted preemptively.

• The lawsuit includes a section titled "The Truth about IGF-1" which summarizes UCLA's findings and might be the most interesting aspect of the document. Singh's lawyers point out the biological inactivity of IGF-1 in deer-antler spray in an effort to downplay its effectiveness. They also compare the effect of IGF-1 in the spray to the effect of pouring a shot of bourbon into a pool, then taking a shot of the pool water.

The strengths of the lawsuit do not change the fact that, above all else, Singh admitted to taking a substance that was banned by the PGA Tour. The Tour's Anti-Doping program treats admission of use the same as a positive drug test, meaning Singh has a huge hurdle to clear before this case can gain traction. As in most lawsuits, there are significant barriers that the plaintiff must overcome (the tour's bylaws include language that protects against legal action from members on tour decisions), however, Singh and his lawyers have created a compelling case that's worthy of attention and could have a lasting impact on the Tour's drug-testing policy and procedures.