Antler spray may technically be banned, but Singh shouldn't be punished for using it
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Where I come from, deer antlers are huge. Not deer antler spray, deer antlers. Everybody in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota wants to hang a set of 10-point antlers on their game-room wall.
In fact, one of my relatives from Minnesota noted in the family Christmas card that a member of his family scored an eight-point buck during deer-hunting season. In the Great White North where I once hibernated, this is significantly good news.
Back to Vijay Singh. Sports Illustrated broke a story in which he admitted to using deer antler spray, which is some kind of banned substance. He also used hologram chips. I was not familiar with these items 24 hours ago, but like most of us, I've been given a quickie crash course by the media so pardon me for my obvious unsophistication.
They sound a lot like pain relievers. The deer antler spray apparently can help build muscle if used in enough quantity over time, but if that was really your goal, there are easier ways.
Compare the following two sentences to determine how you feel about what Vijay Singh has done.
One. Vijay Singh admitted using a performance-enhancing banned substance.
Two. Vijay Singh admitted using deer antler spray and hologram chips.
Sentence One sounds downright criminal. Sentence Two sounds laughable.
I don't know what Vijay Singh's punishment for breaking this rule should be. I'm not sure he needs to be punished at all. I mean, it's really got to hurt shoving that antler up your nose every day.
Seriously, though, golf has historically been relatively drug-free because there hasn't been a drug that you can tie directly to enhanced golf performance. If there was a drug that made you hole more putts, it would definitely be illegal. And it would be sold out. We'd all buy it.
Beta-blockers may have helped some putting nerves over the years, but there was a trade-off in energy levels with that, too. So I'm not sure the benefits outweighed the downside.
As a member of the over-50 set, I understand Vijay's aches and pains. Golf gets a lot tougher after 45 or 47 or 51 or whatever age your body stops freely cooperating with what you want to do during a golf swing. I believe that Vijay was using these products as pain relievers to keep his body better lubricated for those 2,000 balls he has to hit every day.
Does deer antler spray help him get the ball in the hole? Does it make him shoot a lower score? Does it make him hit the fairway off the tee?
No more than Advil or Ibuprofen or the pain pill of your choice. If there was a topical or spray-on Advil you could douse on your elbow to make it stop hurting long enough to cut a 3-iron shot into a back-right pin, would that be a performance-enhancing drug?
Apparently, deer antler spray has been around for a few years. Mark Calcavecchia was told to knock it off in 2011 when he endorsed a similar product.
Now, do I believe Vijay Singh's statement in which he claimed he didn't know this deer antler spray contained a banned substance? I'm skeptical. Vijay knows everybody on every tour. All that time he spends not talking to the media is time he spends talking with his fellow players, and often helping them. You'd think he would've picked up something on deer antler spray.
I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Also, I don't think deer antler spray or hologram chips have any performance-enhancing benefits for a golfer other than to make him feel better. It won't make you hit it longer or straighter or less often.
Now if he was taking something that he knew was on the banned list, that might be a different story. But it's deer antler spray. From deer in New Zealand. What, they're the best deer? Some antlered animals in Brainerd and Hibbing and Marinette and Waupaca and Stevens Point, among many others would no doubt be offended. The fact that Vijay made no secret that he was using the product when talking to a writer from SI would tend to indicate he didn't think he was doing anything wrong. And even if it's technically wrong, I don't think he derived any significant golf benefit from it.
A suspension? A fine? I just don't see it.
What would I do about Vijay's case if I was in charge of the PGA Tour?
That's easy. I'd pass the buck.