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Vijay Singh sues PGA Tour over antler spray case

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Apparently not satisfied that he has recently been cleared by the PGA Tour after taking a substance that was banned at the time, Vijay Singh has filed a lawsuit against the tour, requesting unspecified damages for its handling of and reaction to the deer antler spray controversy.

The lawsuit alleges that the tour exposed Singh to “public humiliation and ridicule for months,” and breached its duty to Singh by utilizing a flawed investigation and imposing unfair discipline.

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A lawyer representing Singh, Peter Ginsberg, filed the lawsuit Wednesday morning in New York. The timing will be viewed by many as curious, or perhaps quite telling: It came on the eve of the PGA Tour’s flagship event, the $9.5 million Players Championship, a tournament held on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, where the tour is headquartered and also where Singh is based.

Singh, third all time in PGA career earnings with $67.4 million, and a 34-time winner on the PGA Tour who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2006, is in the field this week. He is scheduled to begin his first round at 2 p.m., paired with J.J. Henry and Robert Garrigus.

Singh hasn’t commented on the controversy since giving an interview to Sports Illustrated for a story on a company that distributed the deer antler spray. In the article, Singh admitted taking the spray, containing Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1, which had been on the tour’s list of banned performance-enhancing substances.

Based on Singh’s admission, the tour investigated and, according to the lawsuit, handed Singh a 90-day suspension, which he immediately appealed. The appeal process was ongoing when the World Anti-Doping Agency took IGF-1 off its banned list, concluding that it is not a performance-enhancing drug. That prompted Tim Finchem, the tour’s commissioner, to announce last week that Singh had been cleared.

In a statement issued by Ginsberg Wednesday, Singh expressed his disappointment toward the tour.

“I am proud of my achievements, my work ethic, and the way I live my life,” Singh said in the statement. “The PGA Tour not only treated me unfairly, but displayed a lack of professionalism that should concern every professional golfer and fan of the game.”

Appearing on the Golf Channel Wednesday, Finchem declined to comment on Singh’s lawsuit or any details surrounding the case, including the suspension (the tour’s disciplinary actions are never announced). But in an interview with media Tuesday, before the lawsuit was filed, Finchem was asked about Singh’s silence regarding the matter.

“What do you want him to say? If I was him, I’m not so sure I’d talk about it. I’d kind of like it to be gone,” Finchem said. “I don’t think he’s said anything on the subject since the decision, that I’ve seen. So if he wants to be quiet about it, I’m not going to argue with him about that.”

By taking the matter to court, it looks as though Singh is ready to argue, or at least have his attorneys argue for him. According to the lawsuit, once the tour issued its 90-day suspension, which began retroactively on Feb. 4, and Singh appealed, he played in five tournaments and won $99,980. The lawsuit contends that Singh’s earnings were held in escrow by the tour, unable to generate any interest.

The lawsuit alleges that the tour failed to properly analyze whether IGF-1 fell under the banned performance-enhancing list. It notes that Singh has never failed a tour-issued drug test, and that he complied with tour requests and obligations in dealing with all facets of the deer antler spray issue.

“As a result of the PGA Tour’s action, Singh has been labeled by the PGA Tour, media, some fellow golfers, and fans as someone who intentionally took a banned substance in an effort to gain a competitive advantage,” the lawsuit states. “As a result of the harassment — and the PGA Tour’s wrongdoing — Singh’s professional career has been compromised.

“As a direct and proximate result of the PGA Tour’s actions, Singh has been humiliated, ashamed, ridiculed, scorned, and emotionally distraught . . . As a result of Singh’s severe emotional distress, Singh has been damaged in an amount to be determined at trial.”

Michael Whitmer can be reached at mwhitmer@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.
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