Desmond Kane

Vijay Singh a true dope in Lance Armstrong-bashing times

Long before he rose to eminence as the world's leading golfer, Vijay Singh - wearer of a US Masters green jacket and winner of two US PGA Championships - spent time working as a bouncer on the door of a nightclub on Edinburgh's Lothian Road. For anyone who has lived in the Scottish capital, having one's wits about you is certainly a prerequisite to a palatable evening.

Back in the 1980s when Maggie Thatcher's Conservative Government was wreaking havoc in various outposts of Scotland, one imagines this would be especially so. Lothian Road on a weekend night is certainly an alternative view of Scotland than the mollycoddled Fife town of St Andrews, a spot where the home of golf dwells.

"The women were the hardest ones to handle," Singh is quoted as saying. "When they fight, goodness gracious me! I knew how to deal with the men, but the women.. you never knew what they were going to do. They were pretty rough, especially with a few drinks inside them. Only occasionally did I get involved in scraps, but never alone."

Emanating from a figure who obviously had to use his gumption to scrape a living in his formative years as a jobbing professional, it is astonishing to learn that Singh is facing a potential career-ending ban for doping. Being slapped by a rough bird from Trainspotting territory is the least of his problems this week.

Singh has been weirdly dabbling with an item dubbed deer antler spray that contains a hormone stimulating muscle growth. Banned by the US PGA Tour, it is hardly cheap with Singh apparently fronting up $9,000 for a batch of the substance and other assorted goodies in November.

Singh withdrew from this week's Phoenix Open citing a bad back. Embarrassment over his own stupidity may be a truer reason for his decision to recoil.

Singh has strode to a whopping $71,763,696 in his career, but does not hail from the traditionally pampered environs of having a wealthy parent send you off to college in the US. There was no degree to fall back on if his putts failed to drop.

Singh has had to be intelligent in one sense while revelling in an unquenchable work ethic in another.

A former colleague of mine told me how he once watched Singh pick up a left-handed driver on the practice range and boom the ball as far as he could hit it right-handed.

This is a figure of supreme talent, a true golfing giant from Fiji, who once jousted with Tiger Woods for the moniker of world number one, but like some figures living in the obviously sycophantic surroundings of professional golf tournaments, common sense seems to be in short supply.

If he was unaware of what he was spraying, maybe we should wonder what he has been sniffing.

Singh has landed himself in some tall grass before - he was murkily ejected from the Asian Tour three decades ago for apparently doctoring scorecards - but this appears altogether more serious in such Lance Armstrong-bashing times.

Singh has a reputation for being tetchy, a figure who does not care for doing interviews. But he has been forced to engage with the outside world to mount his defence on being unaware of the banned properties within a substance that is claimed to be an alternative to banned steroids. What do you know, the spray contains the real thing.

Singh’s counter claims do not add up to much. It is simply not acceptable for a sportsman to mount a defence based on ignorance. A zero tolerance policy has to be implemented in across all sports.

The malady circling cycling due to Armstrong's shenanigans has provided the onlooker with every right to be cynical right down to the deepest nooks and crannies of what sportsmen and women get up to in their spare time.

Cynicism is a sad indictment on professional sport as much as life these days, but it must exist to prevent figures from constructing a charade similar to the one in which Armstrong thrived.

Without suggesting there is anything wonky about Novak Djokovic's preparation and ability to turn a hard court into a clay court almost like water into wine, with his powers of retrieval in collecting another Australian Open last weekend, it was alarming to read in the aftermath about a lack of funding in tennis for random drug testing.

Djokovic spoke about the paucity of checks on players after snaring his third successive Aussie title. Before being blood tested after last Sunday's final, he had not been tested for at least six months. Djokovic's $2.5 million cheque for winning in Melbourne was more than the entire annual budget for anti-doping in tennis. This is a hugely concerning statistic for a sport measured by such fine margins.

Whatever else is said about golf, there is no discernible reason to cheat. It is a game to be enjoyed by all shapes and sizes.

Singh's US Tour cohort, the ongoing Mark Calcavecchia, apparently shied away from his link to deer antler spray after being warned off it by the US Tour two years ago.

It is difficult to determine what advantage Singh, now 49 and ripe to revel in the lucrative Seniors tour, would hope to gain by illegally doping. Was he hoping to grow antlers?

It is also right to wonder whether or not Singh would have been using such supplements when he was throwing drunks out of a nightclub in Edinburgh around 1987.

Singh could be banished from golf if the sport's US authorities come down hard on him. It could signal the end of his time at the elite level. What a dismal finish that would be, akin to coming home in an ambulance on his career's back nine.

Sometimes wallowing in life as a sporting millionaire can present its own pitfalls. Brimming with high levels of stupidity amid his reserves of deer antler spray, Singh, like so many surrounding him, appears to have more money than sense. The spray provides little comfort.