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The Vijay Singh Story: Sad bookends for a HOF golfer

January 30th, 2013 · 4 Comments

Vijay Singh was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006, a selection that seemed warranted based on his three major titles and his 34 PGA Tour victories (30 when inducted).

With today’s breaking news from SI in a story by David Epstein, which said the Singh has been using an illegal growth substance (deer spray), it appears that Singh has once again crossed the line into territory that makes him nothing less than a cheater.

In May of 2000, SI’s John Garrity retold the story of another of Singh’s indiscretions which happened in 1985 in a pro event in Indonesia:

I interviewed the Indonesian Golf Association official who ruled that Singh had improved his score in Jakarta by a stroke—just enough to make the cut—before signing his card. I reviewed the incident with Asian tour players of the time, including the Canadian pro who played with Singh that day. “It was not a misunderstanding,” said an American player who was there. “All of us who were around are very upset that Vijay denies this.”

In recent years, Singh has done everything he can to remain competitive by working out religiously, and by hitting more balls than any other player. He also has become an outspoken advocate for anchoring, threatening legal action if it is banned – which in my opinion makes him golf’s public enemy #1 (in a tie with Keegan Bradley and Tim Clark). And, it is not bad enough that he anchors, but he does it crosshanded, while using a monstrosity of a putter. In short, it appears that he will do anything to solve his putting problem, and to keep playing – which makes me wonder what other rules he might have violated between 1985 and now.

For a long time, I was a fan of Singh’s BA (before anchoring) because I liked his laugh, his family values, his smooth swing, and his work ethic, and because I was willing to put his youthful mistake behind him. Now, however, when I think of Singh, I see a player who goes too far, who takes this game far too seriously, and as one who will be remembered for starting and effectively ending his career on the lowest of low notes.

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4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 BD // Jan 30, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    Evidently he admits to using the stuff, but says he wasn’t aware it contained a banned substance. I’m prepared to accept that he was unaware; for one thing, if he knew it, I doubt he would freely admit to a reporter he was using the stuff. However, there’s no safe harbor in the anti-doping policy for “Gee, I didn’t know it was illegal,” so a suspension would appear to be mandatory.

    Does this change how I feel about Vijay? Not really. To begin with, I’m sort of a libertarian when it comes to PEDs. I think sane adults really ought to be allowed to use them if they want. I really don’t see why PEDs are bad but other non-natural enhancements (Lasik procedures, Tommy John surgery, etc.) are OK. Of course, if he knowingly broke the rules, that’s bad; but I’ve already said I tend to believe him if it was an honest mistake. I certainly don’t think it negates his whole, deservedly HoF career.

    I also don’t see what the LP has to do with this. That’s not cheating, it’s just a bad innovation that the governing authorities did nothing about for a long time until it got out of hand. It was all out in the open, obviously.

    I’m also not sure the cheating back in 1985 has anything to do with this. Perhaps it warrants additional skepticism as to whether this was an honest mistake but, again, I’m having trouble understanding why Veej would simply admit to a reporter to using deer antler spray if he thought or seriously suspected it was illegal.

  • 2 Phil // Jan 31, 2013 at 6:56 am

    I don’t see the comparison between a surgery that can restore a player’s physical health and taking substances that alter a person’s body chemistry, or that could have an impact on their state of mind. The LP is not cheating, just an objectionable practice that I, and so many others, wish was absent from the game and, as such, is something that causes me, and I suspect other fans, to stop rooting for players who adopt one. I was willing to look past 1985, but now it could be part of a career long obsession that has, at times, clouded Singh’s judgment, and that makes some want to take a closer look at his entire career.

  • 3 BD // Feb 1, 2013 at 7:21 am

    I think we agree more than disagree over the 1985 incident. I strongly suspect the worst in that case. But it was so long ago that I have trouble combining it with the deer antler spray in order to construct a “pattern.” The deer antler spray seems to fall under the general heading of “Vijay Singh is a maniac” rather than “. . . is a cheater,” if you get what I’m saying.

    My point about Lasik and Tommy John is that they both actually involve (or at least CAN involve) enhancements of one’s body, not merely restoring it to usual health.

    This all gets to the philosophical question, however, of why we object to athletes’ improving their bodies to make themselves more competititve? Or, why do think some kinds of enhancements are OK (e.g., lifting weights to develop more muscle mass), but others aren’t (e.g., using HGH to come back from an injury quicker)? I’m not convinced that society’s answers to these questions are entirely coherent.

  • 4 Phil // Feb 1, 2013 at 7:37 am

    The question of what an athlete can and should be allowed to do is, as you suggest, a huge gray area in which there may never be a definitive answer. Like your point on Lasik and the Tommy John surgery. Are the players that do this just being brought to equality with others who are more blessed, or should they work within their limitations? I would like to know a lot more about Woods’ latest knee surgery. Could a reconstructed knee enable him to swing better, or with more force, than he could with a knee that was not enhanced? Should players with hip transplants even be allowed to play? The questions are endless, and the answers so unclear.

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