PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem admits the status of deer antler spray is “kind of silly” after Vijay Singh was cleared of a doping offence despite admitting to using a substance that cannot be detected.
IGF-1 – the controversial hormone found in the spray – is listed on both the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and PGA Tour prohibited lists, although there is currently no test available for detecting it in routine blood testing.
The naturally occurring Insulin Growth Factor-1, also known as IGF-1, is a natural anabolic hormone that stimulates muscle growth.
No level has been set which would trigger a positive test, while Finchem said that WADA scientists had concluded that taking the spray under the tongue would result in minute amounts being ingested into the body.
Singh had been sanctioned by the PGA Tour on February 19, but after he appealed, the Tour contacted WADA and said in yesterday’s statement that: “At that time, WADA clarified that it no longer considers the use of deer antler spray to be prohibited unless a positive test results.
“Based on this new information, and given WADA’s lead role in interpreting the Prohibited List, the Tour deemed it only fair to no longer treat Mr Singh’s use of deer antler spray as a violation of the Tour’s anti-doping program.”
Speaking at a press conference ahead of this week’s Wells Fargo Championship, Finchem said: “With respect to IGF, there is no test currently available in a normal blood test, and the difficulty with IGF, in addition to doing a test, is identifying a reasonable level which if you exceed, you’re considered doping. We all have IGF in our systems all the time.
“We’re talking about a determination that was made by scientists at WADA that relates to the consumption through deer antler spray of a technically volatile substance, IGF-1, but in looking at it, the scientists concluded it resulted in infinitesimal amounts actually being taken into the recipient’s body.
“Amounts that couldn’t be distinguished, even if you had an accurate test, with the amounts that you might take into your body from milk etc; versus the question of what would happen in a case where, for whatever reason, you managed to take in enough IGF-1 so that it did trigger a positive reading.
“A positive reading means that you’re surpassing a certain level. There hasn’t been any level ever set. So I view it as kind of cross-checking the box language.
“We’re going to say that it’s not on the list for purposes of consumption. But just know that we’re not liable here if for some reason or another you managed to trigger a positive test, even though there is no test out there. So it is kind of silly, but it is what it is.”
Finchem added: “We follow WADA on this stuff. We follow, with a few exceptions, the entire list of substances that are banned. We refer to them and defer to them really on the science of these issues as to what’s on the list.
“The fact of the matter here is, as some people in the medical community pointed out when this matter came up and now WADA has looked into it and concluded on their own, it’s just not worth having it on the list in that context.
“I don’t know of a substance or a transfer mechanism out there that can load a person to IGF levels that would get the attention of the WADA science people.”
The PGA Tour warned professionals over the use of deer antler spray in August 2011 and reminded Singh and his fellow professionals that they are “responsible for use of a prohibited substance regardless of intent” in yesterday’s statement.