Storm clouds gathering

Link between Tiger Woods and PEDs is not proven but could be trouble, writes Steve Elling.
Tiger Woods. AP Photo
Tiger Woods. AP Photo

Feel free to complete the following cliche. Where there is smoke, there is ...

As it relates to the image of Tiger Woods, too many fire extinguishers are never enough and the alarms are clanging once again.

This week, published excerpts from a new book about baseball’s ugly steroids scandal entitled, Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis and the Quest to End Baseball’s Steroid Era, have again brought Woods’s relationship with a controversial Canadian doctor back to the fore, rekindling dark questions about Woods’s secretive treatment while recovering from surgery five years ago.

Citing official records from an investigation by the State of Florida, the book says Woods paid Dr Anthony Galea and his associate a combined US$195,000 (Dh716,000) for 63 visits in 2008/09, as Woods slowly recovered from major knee surgery.

Before the book’s revelations, it was believed that Galea, who was arrested for crossing the border with controlled substances and practising medicine in the US without a licence, had visited Woods only a handful of times. Galea, an advocate of human growth hormone, who worked with athletes in multiple sports, was arrested in 2009 and subjected to a federal investigation.

When the New York Times first wrote about Galea – who said he injected plasma into Woods’s knee, a procedure that has since gained widespread acceptance in the medical community – the newspaper reported that the Toronto resident had visited Woods “at least four times”.

Of his client’s relationship with Galea, Woods’s agent Mark Steinberg told the newspaper at the time – using words he will never live down, especially now: “I would really ask that you guys don’t write this. If Tiger is NOT implicated, and won’t be, let’s please give the kid a break.”

Though it took years for the once rail-thin Woods to pack much meat onto his upper body, unsubstantiated whispers about his muscle mass and performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) have circulated for years. Then again, it was Woods who spoke out forcefully about the PGA Tour’s need for drug testing, prompting an abrupt about-face by commissioner Tim Finchem, who quickly enacted a programme.

Woods’s former coach, Hank Haney, who has been critical of his former student in several regards, told Golf Digest this week that he was present several times when Galea treated Woods and never saw anything untoward.

None of this passes for proof of wrongdoing. But with Woods, his credibility long gone, the evidentiary threshold in the court of public opinion has been set low. Galea, who told US investigators that he never administered PEDs to Woods, eventually pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of bringing unapproved drugs across the border.

Whether the doctor’s platelet-injection treatment hastened recovery in Woods’s knee is unclear, but it certainly infused more uncomfortable questions into discussions about his character.

Published: July 9, 2014 04:00 AM


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