Golf, perhaps more than any other sport, prides itself on its adherence to rules. Athletes in other sports have a bit of leeway within the rules of their respective sports (think soccer players diving or offensive linemen holding) because their movements are monitored by human referees, who cannot see all. These minor rules violations are sometimes ignored and often encouraged.
Minor rules violations in golf, however, could be the difference between tournaments won or lost. The sport is self-regulating in the sense that players and partners usually call their own infractions, but PGA and European Tour events do have officials who review borderline calls. Two weeks ago, Tiger Woods missed the cut at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after European Tour officials assessed a two-stroke penalty for an improper drop, even though both Tiger and his playing partner were under the impression the drop was proper at the time. Prior to the penalty, Tiger made the cut; after, he missed by 1 stroke.
Given golfers' historic adherence to the rules, Hall-of-Famer Vijay Singh's confession that he used deer antler spray is both surprising and not. It is surprising because golfers aren't known as "cheaters" in the court of public opinion; baseball players and football players occupy that niche. It is not surprising because Vijay called his own rule violation, as golfers are known to do. Surprising or not, Vijay could face potential penalties from his admission.
Singh claims he did not know the deer antler spray had a substance that is banned by the PGA Tour's Anti-Doping Policy; unfortunately for him , the Policy does not have an intent element. The banned substance is IGF-1, an "insulin-like growth factor" that is banned. In 2011, the Tour advised players to avoid using the spray. Singh never failed a drug test; IGF-1 can only be detected through blood tests, and the PGA Tour only samples urine.
It is unclear whether the PGA Tour will punish Vijay Singh for his confessed transgressions. In the meantime, he can celebrate the Ravens Super Bowl victory with his deer antler spray buddy Ray Lewis.
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