The imaginary doping scandal involving “deer antler” manufactured by Sports Illustrated has sent a wave of hysteria throughout the sport of professional golf. While most people familiar with anabolic steroids and performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) laughed at the notion that using deer antler supplements could even remotely be considered a form of doping, the PGA Tour and its golfers took the allegations seriously.
Sports Illustrated equated deer antler spray with doping simply because deer antler allegedly contains insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). The silliness of the non-doping doping scandal becomes apparent when one considers that several other natural animal products could also contain hormones and growth factors.
Should athletes who drink cow’s milk be accused of doping? After all, mammalian milk naturally contains IGF-1, too.
Should athletes who eat beef be accused of doping? Not only does beef naturally contain steroid hormones, the FDA permits certain levels of synthetic steroids such as trenbolone. These anabolic steroids are legally included as growth accelerators by livestock farmers.
The ingestion of these substances have negligible physiological impact because they are not effectively absorbed via the digestive system.
If Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and PGA golfer Vijay Singh are doping because they consumed deer antler velvet, athletes who consume milk and eat beef must also be guilty of using IGF-1, trenbolone acetate and testosterone. Thus, it is with a certain amount of hypocrisy that sports writers, athletes and fans are condemning Lewis and Singh for doping.
The Sports Illustrated story made poor Vijay Singh feel so guilty about his non-doping doping that he felt compelled to confess to (unknowingly) violating the PGA Tour Anti-Doping Policy. Singh was not only duped into buying deer antler spray, he has since been tricked into believing he actually used a legitimate performance-enhancing drug:
“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.
“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.
“I have been in contact with the PGA Tour and am co-operating fully with their review of this matter. I will not be commenting further at this time.”
Even the PGA Tour was hoodwinked by the Sports Illustrated article. Ty Votaw, the PGA Tour senior vice president of communications, acknowledged that they were reviewing Singh’s alleged doping.
But even more disturbing is the willingness of reporters, colleagues and friends to jump on the self-righteous anti-steroid bandwagon and condemn Singh’s “doping”. Some even called for Singh to be banned from the sport.
“I was obviously a little bit surprised with what I heard, but I don’t think Vijay is a guy that would ever take advantage of anything. I know Vijay,” O’Meara said after finishing his first round at the Dubai Desert Classic. “I guess they could probably suspend him for a couple of months. I would think so,” the two-time major winner said. “Listen, people have had to pay the price before and he should be no different. If that is the case and the commissioner and tour feels he should be suspended for X amount of time, I think Vijay is man enough that he’ll do that.”
Golfer Bubba Watson thinks it was a sad situation that would lead someone like Singh to “cheat” with deer antler spray:
“I know that it’s obviously illegal, whatever it is. It sounds like something I would never want near me,” he said. “I don’t even know how you take deer antler spray. And why would anybody want to take something that sounds like that.
” … It’s sad that people do stuff like that. It’s sad that people would put some weird thing like that in their body not knowing what it’s going to do to their body. But I love a sport, I happen to play golf. I love this sport. I would never do that. First of all, I would never put something named that in my body. If I lose my Tour card, I’m never going to go to deer antler spray to try to help me. It would just be I’d have to find a new job.
” … I think we should check people for mental problems if they’re taking deer antler spray. That’s kind of weird.”
San Francisco Chronicle golf reporter Ron Kroichick thinks Singh “clearly” and “unequivocally” doped:
“Either way, the PGA Tour – if it wants its anti-doping policy to carry any credibility – needs to discipline Singh swiftly and publicly. He didn’t test positive, but that’s because IGF-1 is only detectable through blood tests and the tour’s drug-testing program uses urine tests.
“Still, the policy specifically includes a reference to “admitting to any conduct that violates the program.” And that’s exactly what Singh did in his statement, clearly and unequivocally.”
Perhaps the sport of golf feels left out of the national discussion involving steroids in sport. Most major sports have had their own share of steroid scandal. At least they’ve had more than a few steroid violations.
But golf only has one suspension in the history of the PGA Tour anti-doping policy. Doug Barron was suspended for one year in 2010 after he used testosterone for androgen replacement therapy without obtaining a therapeutic use exemption.
So if the PGA Tour can’t have a real doping scandal, it seems eager to embrace the imaginary one created by Sports Illustrated. Unfortunately, it comes at Singh’s expense. Poor Vijay Singh has been hoodwinked twice – first by S.W.A.T.S. and then by Sports Illustrated.