Vijay Singh and the magical deer antler spray

Vijay Singh admits to using a banned substance for muscle growth, which wouldn’t be working anyway.


I’ve resisted commenting on this but nearly all of the reports concerning Vijay Singh’s admission to using a banned substance requires some further comments and information that few of the pieces have included.

By now you may have read that Vijay Singh has admitted to using deer-antler spray in order to stimulate muscle growth. It’s a strangely named product that contains IGF-1 (insulin growth factor) which is on the list of PGA Tour banned substances. He expressed surprise that the spray is deemed to be an illegal and released this statement today;

“While I have used deer-antler spray, at no time was I aware that it may contain a substance that is banned under the PGA Tour Anti-Doping Policy,” Singh said.

“In fact, when I first received the product, I reviewed the list of ingredients and did not see any prohibited substances. I am absolutely shocked that deer-antler spray may contain a banned substance and am angry that I have put myself in this position. I have been in contact with the PGA Tour and am cooperating fully with their review of this matter. I will not be commenting further at this time.”

The story emerged after this Sports Illustrated article noted several well-known athletes had been using the product, a concoction of two self-ordained sports ‘science’ entrepreneurs.

What is this stuff anyway?

The deer antler spray is made and manufactured by a company known as SWATS (Sports With Alternatives To Steroids) and the thinking behind it goes something like this.

When a deer loses its antlers, they regrow very fast thanks largely to a large amount of growth hormones in the blood of the deer, one of which includes IGF-1. A small amount of these hormones are also found on the surface of the antlers and SWATS has chosen to gather this stuff (known as antler velvet) from the antlers of New Zealand deer and put it into a spray.

Hey, if it can cause deer antlers to regrow at such a rapid pace surely it can do the same for human muscle as well, right?

Well, not unless you have a large amount of the stuff in the blood stream to make any difference, which is the reason for its inclusion on the banned substance list. Spraying it on to the skin without some sort of mechanism (a delivery molecule) to deliver it into the bloodstream just won’t work.So is it any wonder that Singh hasn’t tested positive for the banned substance given that the PGA Tour only uses urine samples? Even if the tour were to test blood samples, the results would still come back negative if using this spray method.

Singh has also admitted to using hologram chips, a beam ray and a power additive also supplied by SWATS but the focus is on the antler spray which contains IGF which is the only product on the banned substance list.

“I’m looking forward to some change in my body,” Singh says. “It’s really hard to feel the difference if you’re only doing it for a couple of months.”

Make that, years.

Interesting also that Bubba Watson felt he needed to comment on the matter. While Singh is not necessarily the most liked player on tour, Watson’s comments come across a little like kicking a dog while he’s down.

“I know that it’s obviously illegal, whatever it is,” Masters champion Bubba Watson said. “It sounds like something I would never want near me. … I don’t even know how you take deer-antler spray.

“It’s sad that people live and die by their sport and they have to, I guess, cheat and go around it and try to better themselves with deer-antler spray. I’m not just going to take something and ask questions later. I’m not going to take deer antler-spray and find out what it is later. … I think we should check them for mental problems if they’re taking deer-antler spray. That’s kind of weird.”

I’m not so sure Singh was trying to cheat in this case but I have to agree that anyone willing to use something so strangely named as deer antler spray without finding out exactly what is in it, is a little weird. Especially a professional athlete.

Singh is obviously was obviously ignorant of the illegal substance contained in the spray but can a player be banned for unwittingly using a banned substance that was never going to work in the first place?

I’m guessing he’ll be fined, disqualified or banned by the PGA Tour so that a precedent is as least put in place. If you want to dabble in magic potions with no credible scientific evidence they work, you’d better at least check what’s in them first.

Less science tomorrow and more golf!

3 thoughts on “Vijay Singh and the magical deer antler spray

  • Vijay …. From magic pencil … To magic deer spray …

  • Let’s face it: Vijay Singh is hated/resented by US players & US golf media (and by PGA Tour brass as well, I suspect) and that’s a huge part of how this story is unfolding. Singh has often treated the press with dismissiveness bordering on disdain, preferring to let his game and his work ethic do the talking. I don’t imagine he’s ever had much time for the tour’s “Bubba Watson types” either. (if you know what I mean, and I think you do)


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