Vijay Singh “shocked” to learn deer spray contains banned substance

Robert Laberge

Vijay Singh’s banned substance case is a cautionary tale for all PGA Tour members, says Joe Ogilvie.

Vijay Singh was "absolutely shocked" to learn that the deer antler spray he fully admitted using was a banned substance.

"While I have used deer antler spray, at no time was I aware that it may contain a substance that is banned under the PGA Tour Anti-Doping Policy," Singh said in a statement issued by the tour on Wednesday. "In fact, when I first received the product, I reviewed the list of ingredients and did not see any prohibited substances.

"I am absolutely shocked that deer antler spray may contain a banned substance and am angry that I have put myself in this position," Singh continued. "I have been in contact with the PGA Tour and am cooperating fully with their review of this matter. I will not be commenting further at this time."

Singh was responding to a Sports Illustrated expose in which the 49-year-old tour player acknowledged using the deer antler extract, the chief ingredient of which is IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor). SI described IGF-1, which professional sports organizations, including the PGA Tour, prohibit, as a "natural, anabolic hormone that stimulates muscle growth."

Tour VP Ty Votaw has said officials would look into Singh’s application of the spray, while earlier in the day, SI writer David Epstein told Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" that he would be skeptical if the 34-time tour winner denied knowing the substance was illegal.

"He probably didn’t know that [IGF-1, the deer extract’s chief ingredient] was a banned substance," Epstein said. "It would be a little strange because the guys in the company are usually very upfront that their products are banned by major sports organizations, but they can be a little equivocal about why it’s banned sometimes. But a quick Google [search] would tell anyone it’s banned."

Epstein, who said Singh had been "pretty open about everything" in an interview with him, added, "I’m guessing that Vijay Singh doesn’t know the product has been called out by the PGA Tour specifically."

Epstein, who broke the story that implicated Singh, Baltimore Ravens star Ray Lewis, and other sports stars in a brewing controversy over a performance-enhancing drug on every sports' no-no list, also said he had seen the $9,000 check Singh wrote out to SWATS (Sports With Alternatives to Steroids), the purveyor of the PED in question.

In the meantime, Joe Ogilvie, a member of the tour’s player advisory council, pointed to the Singh case as a cautionary tale and said he checked with tour officials before ingesting so much as a multivitamin supplement from Whole Foods.

"It’s impossible to know everything on the drug banned list," Ogilvie said on Golf Channel's morning show. "When you take something, you call the Tour and you say, 'Look, is this OK?’ They say yay or nay and then you’re good to go.

"It’s like calling a rules official," Ogilvie added. "I know most of the rules in golf, but not all of them. When the cameras are on me, I call for backup....If I take a multivitamin...I’m going to call for backup."

As for the specific substance Singh has admitted taking, Ogilvie was skeptical about the benefits it -- and many other so-called wonder drugs -- might offer.

"I’m shocked that deer-antler spray can help you," he said about the product from "two men and a dog outside of a garage," as he termed the company selling the extract. "Now, if I go out and win the Waste Management Phoenix Open and I go into the press room, and they say what turned around for you this week and I say, ‘Well, I’m kind of embarrassed, but I rubbed rat turds on my biceps before I teed off every morning,’ I guarantee you there will be a market for rat turds on Monday morning."

Observing that, "Everybody is going to do something," Ogilvie cautioned against golfers "turning to body-enhancing things or recovery things" that could lead to rules violations.

"As our prize money has gone up, it has...made the PGA Tour players wealthier. It’s also brought the ability to hang out with other athletes, because we couldn’t afford the neighborhoods before [of football and basketball players]," Ogilvie said. "You naturally, say, ‘What are you doing? What do your workouts look like?’

"Unfortunately, that brings a whole new conversation. That’s why you implement drug testing, and you do it to the best of the ability and the best that science has to offer at the time," he said. "We don’t have the ability to test for HGH, which if you’re an athlete, that’s what you’re going to take."

Epstein's interview is worth the listen.

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