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The Singh affair

James Corrigan Of The Telegraph
Thursday, February 14, 2013

It seems that with drugs in sport we are heading towards the day when, to plagiarise Henry Root, we will think it "better for nine innocent men to go to the gallows than for one guilty man to walk free". Vijay Singh is the head case in point.

The problem with jumping on a bandwagon is that sometimes you discover it to be careering towards the point of no return. This has happened to this particular golf correspondent in the last fortnight with the big Fijian.

Initially, it appeared so straightforward, more cut and dried than Robbie Savage's barnet. Singh revealed in an American magazine that he had been using The Ultimate Spray, which was said to contain IGF-1, a prohibited substance. When the article was published, Singh released a statement through the US Tour, saying he was completely unaware of the supplement's supposed contents which he had been spraying under his tongue.

Yet ignorance was no defence, particularly as the Tour had sent out a newsletter warning the players to stay away from the said spray. Singh must be banned. Zero tolerance. Time for golf to get strict on drugs. But then, certain aspects come to light. For a start you make contact with the World Anti-Doping Agency, who inform you that the spray "may lead to a positive test". The "may" worries you, particularly when you hear whispers that the Tour jumped the gun in declaring, unequivocally, that the spray breaks their doping code. Incredibly, ridiculously, sources suggest that the Tour did not bother to test the spray before reaching its verdict and issuing its edict.

The Tour will also know by now that minute quantities of IGF-1 may be found in milk and beef and many other products it would not think to outlaw. It will have heard the generally held view of the experts that it is impossible to absorb IGF-1 in the body if it is not injected.

Indeed, it may well prove the case that Singh was actually less ignorant than the authorities.

The lynch mob are loudly baying for Singh's sporting life. They would presumably be satisfied with the potential scenario of a man being banished from his profession for unknowingly doing nothing wrong?

This absurdity is where hysteria has taken sport and the vigilantes' demand for action is set to become more shrill with the revelations of widespread doping in Australia. The temptation is to declare that here is a simple case of good against evil. But it is not necessarily black and white. The Singh affair shows it can be a mess of grey.

Already we are at the point when the wailing about drugs is so deafening that pertinent questions cannot be asked and intelligent debate will not even be considered. Suggesting that it might have been wiser to embark on a period of education in the wake of Ben Johnson rather than on a futile 27-year witch-hunt is regarded as sporting blasphemy.

Cheating is wrong, but what actually constitutes cheating and is Wada — a multi-million pound organisation with a future dependent on doping — always correct where it draws the lines?

The difference between using drugs and abusing drugs is huge. So huge that athletes have died because of not knowing the side-effects and in what quantities particular drugs are safe.

If the Australian explosion of the myth tells us anything, it is that the doping business is running very profitably underground. An entire black market has emerged because of hysteria and that is very dangerous.

So how far has sport come in eradicating the scourge of drugs in that quarter of a century since Seoul? While the cheats remain ahead of the testers, we are seriously contemplating victimising a veteran such as Singh, whose only crime is the wish to recover quicker from an injury.

He is no cheat. If he was, the chances are he would not have been caught. Certainly not with an antler up his nostril.





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