www.baltimoresun.com/sports/ravens/os-bianchi-tiger-woods-1216-20091215,0,205743.column

baltimoresun.com

The PGA Tour should take seriously Woods' link to a doctor suspected of providing performance-enhancing drugs to athletes

Mike Bianchi

Open Mike

December 15, 2009

Advertisement

Now we should care.

More than ever before

Forget about the immorality of Tiger Woods' multiple mistresses.

What's much more damaging is the potential illegality of his multiple majors.

Tiger Woods cheating on his wife is ultimately between him and her.

But Tiger Woods potentially cheating on the game of golf is definitively between him and all of us sports fans who have cheered him, revered him and marveled at how he is so much better than everybody else on the PGA Tour.

Maybe now we know the reason why.

Maybe Tiger Woods is simply the Barry Bonds of golf – and Jack Nicklaus is Hank Aaron.

The latest saga in Tiger's meteoric fall from grace came Tuesday when the story broke about one of Tiger's doctors being arrested and suspected of providing performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) to elite athletes. According to the New York Times, the FBI is investigating Canadian physician Dr. Anthony Galea, who was found with human growth hormone in his bag at the U.S.-Canada border in late October.

I know, I know, nothing has been proven and we're supposed to give Tiger the benefit of the doubt. We're supposed to assume the best in our professional athletes, right?

Sorry, but that philosophy went out the window six mistresses and seven steroids scandals ago.

The PGA Tour, for once in its life, should be proactive on an issue involving performance-enhancing drugs. Commissioner Tim Finchem should immediately announce a full-scale investigation into Tiger's relationship with this controversial doctor. And if it's found that Tiger has been using illegal PEDs, all of golf's governing bodies should strip him of his major titles. Nicklaus, like Aaron, should not have his monumental milestone (18 major victories) surpassed by a cheater.

Remember the before-and-after pictures of lanky Bonds as a young baseball player and then the bulked-up, hulked-up Bonds after he began using that BALCO-manufactured "flaxseed oil"? Well, look at pictures of Tiger as the skinny young golfer and compare them to the thicker, bigger, sculpted, chiseled Tiger of today.

Doesn't it make you wonder?

Why should we blindly assume the world's top golfer is immune to cheating when top athletes in nearly every other sport (baseball, football, track, swimming, cycling, etc., etc.) have been accused of using performance-enhancers. And, yes, some of these athletes (see Lance Armstrong, Alex Rodriguez, Marion Jones, etc.) were beloved role models just like Tiger.

And, please, you Pollyanna PGA purists, spare us the rhetoric about how your sport is so honorable that competitors would never, ever cheat the game. I've heard such nonsense for years from golfers, golf fans and Finchem, who last year had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the drug-testing era.

Seven years ago, when the U.S. Open was at Bethpage Black in New York, I wrote a column on the likelihood of golfers using steroids and nearly got laughed out of the media room.

"I don't think there's any way any golfer out here has taken steroids," Phil Mickelson said then.

"Steroids wouldn't really help a golfer," Chris DiMarco said.

"Golf is not like other sports," Davis Love III said.

Obviously, golf has had its head buried in a sand trap for far too long. If you can gain a competitive edge by taking a drug, you better believe somebody is taking that drug.

I've written it once and I'll write it again and again: The similarities between golf and baseball are frightening. Like baseball, golf has become a game predicated on power. Bat speed and club-head speed drive the ball farther and make your game better.

And like baseball during the steroid-era, golf -- for the longest time -- had no drug-testing policy. And fans and media members happily and obliviously followed along, buying the story that balls were traveling greater distances because of technological advancements, not pharmaceutical ones.

In baseball, it was juiced balls.

In golf, it's juiced clubs.

In reality, couldn't it be juiced bodies?

Once upon time, it was commonly believed in golf that the old-time anabolic steroids would make you muscle-bound, rob you of your flexibility and ruin your swing. Now in the new age of human growth hormone and designer PEDs, it's very easy for athletes to maintain a conventional body type and still gain strength and stamina.

And like baseball pitchers, golfers would receive another monumental benefit from HGH and designer 'roids: They help the body quickly recover from the stress placed upon it by the repetitive nature of their massive, torque-producing athletic motion. Golf swings and baseball windups, when done over and over again, place an enormous amount of strain on all of those moving body parts.

As sports fans, we can only hope Tiger Woods is not implicated in a BALCO-like drug investigation, but I have my doubts.

What about you?

Read Mike Bianchi's blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/openmike and listen to his radio show every weekday from 9-11 a.m. at 1080 AM. You can e-mail him at mbianchi@orlandosentinel.com.