Friday, May 21, 2010

PED’s back in the forefront -- Tiger, Armstrong, Moss –- and no one can be certain of the truth

During my weekly appearance on Tony Kornheiser’s radio show yesterday, Tony asked me if I thought Tiger Woods had used performance enhancing drugs. My answer was direct: “I don’t know.”

I’m well aware of the circumstantial evidence, or as some people call it, the “PED checklist,” that seems to fit Woods in many ways. I’m also aware of his categorical denials and the fact that he was one of the more outspoken golfers in favor of drug-testing when the subject first became an issue on The PGA Tour. Since neither Woods nor anyone in his inner circle confides in me very often the only honest answer was that I simply don’t know.

After I’d finished my segment, Tony, as he was going to break, said dismissively: “’I don’t know,’ that’s a really good radio answer.”

That, to be honest, annoyed me. Tony and I make fun of one another all the time and it is almost always good-spirited. I called him during the break and asked him if he would have preferred I pretend to have inside information or that I just rip Tiger and declare him guilty of all sins—something I’ve been accused of doing (incorrectly in my humble opinion) by Tony and others in the past. Tony conceded the point and that was that.

Maybe I was sensitive to the situation because the night before, while watching TV, I heard a golf writer say this: “I know Tiger pretty good and I’m sure he never took PED’s.”

Really? If there’s one thing we know for sure about Tiger since November 27th it is that those who thought they, ‘knew him pretty good,’ were fooling themselves. I used to joke about it when Tiger would call guys by nicknames during press conferences—Tiger’s like a hockey player, he loves adding Y’s to people’s names or shortening them—and you could almost see the guys blow up with pride at the recognition.

No one—let me repeat this NO ONE—in the media knows Tiger, ‘pretty good,’ and none of us have a clue as to whether he has used PED’s or not.

All of which brings me in a long-winded way to today’s drug-accusations: Floyd Landis, four years after being stripped of his Tour de France title and vehemently denying he did any blood-doping, now says he systematically doped his blood for at least four years. He also says that Lance Armstrong and just about every American who ever rode a bike—and I think Paul Revere in prepping for his midnight ride on a horse—was involved in blood doping.

There’s also the story about Santana Moss of The Washington Redskins receiving HGH from Dr. HGH himself, Anthony Galea—who also treated Woods in this six degrees of Everyone’s on Drugs World—and everyone here in Washington being in a tizzy over that.

You know what: Santana Moss doesn’t matter. Oh he matters to the Redskins and their fans who want him on the field September 13th against the Cowboys but there’s no moral issue here for most people. The only real question on Moss isn’t so much did he do it but if he did it how big a penalty will Commissioner Roger Goodell slap on him for the transgression. Moss issued a non-denial, denial a couple days ago—a weak one at that—and Coach Mike Shanahan reverted to the, “just because he saw a doctor (who hands out HGH like jelly beans) doesn’t mean he’s guilty.”

Fine. As with all athletes in team sports, Moss may be an HGH user but he’s WASHINGTON’s HGH user and people will stand behind him—as long as they believe he can get deep on the Cowboys secondary.

Lance Armstrong is an entirely different story. Armstrong is a genuine American hero: a guy who not only recovered from cancer to win The Tour de France seven times, but has used his fame to raise millions and millions of dollars for cancer research. You can call him cocky and arrogant and a lousy husband/boyfriend or any other name you want but there’s no getting away from what the guy has done and from the people he has inspired.

On Thursday, the fifth graders at my daughter’s school put on a ‘wax museum,’ exhibition in which each kid picked an American hero and dressed up like them as if they were part of a wax museum. You pressed a button on the kid and they read you that person’s biography. My daughter was Lance Armstrong.

Which is yet another reason on a long list why I don’t want to believe Armstrong was a cheater. Landis has now become another voice claiming he was, giving details about—among other things—storing blood for Armstrong in an apartment in 2002. Armstrong has already pointed out that the race Landis claims he was in while this was going on took place in 2001, that Landis doesn’t even have his dates correct and has denied Landis’s charges. So have the other American riders accused by Landis. We’re still waiting for comment from Paul Revere.

I am skeptical of just about every person accused of using PED’s who denies using them because history shows that in almost all cases, the denier becomes the confessor at some point in time. How much would you like to bet that some time in the future Barry Bonds will write a book copping to everything, saying the pressure got to him after Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa broke all the home run records in 1998.

Of course there’s a big difference between being skeptical and KNOWING. I can’t have it both ways can I? I can’t say, yeah, Moss is probably guilty because I don’t have any feelings for him at all and he plays for a team owned by a bad guy and then turn around and say that Armstrong is innocent because he’s a truly heroic figure and my daughter chose him as her subject for the wax museum exhibition.

If only life were that easy. If only I could sit on a TV set somewhere and say, ‘I know (fill-in-the-blank) pretty good and he would never use PED’s.’ I knew Mark McGwire, if not pretty good at least a little bit and I didn’t know he was using steroids. I wondered, but I didn’t know. I DO know a lot of college basketball coaches pretty good and I can’t swear to you that any of them cheat or any of them don’t cheat. I have my suspicions but, as with Armstrong and Moss and Paul Revere, I certainly don’t know one way or the other.

What’s saddest about this is that, know-it-alls aside, none of us DOES know and therefore we end up having to wonder about just about everyone. That’s really a terrible way to have to approach sports isn’t it?

Here’s the one and only thing I THINK I know for sure about sports right now: When they run The Presidents Race tonight at Nationals Park after the top of the fourth inning, Teddy Roosevelt will lose. Then again, someone said to me last night that word is Teddy’s going to break his five year losing streak the night Stephen Strasburg makes his debut.

If that happens then there is NOTHING I know for certain about sports.


John's new book: "Moment of Glory--The Year Underdogs Ruled The Majors,"--is now available online and in bookstores nationwide. Visit your favorite retailer, or click here for online purchases

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beaky said...

when tiger came out he weighed 165 pounds and swung like a 165 pounder, I know exactly what it feels like to weigh 165. now look at him, he looks like a pro linebacker. no way he got that from just hitting the gym. the giveaway is that even though he's so bulked up, he still swings like a 165 pound dude. and all that sex? take enough PED's and you'll be screwing the sofa.

Anonymous said...

I know this is a cop out, but of all the people who are implicated in PED's, the one guy I hope they stop going after is Armstrong. He raises way too much money for cancer research than should be possible. Too much bad comes from him going down in a heap. Yes, I put the cause above the man.

I assume the audits of his foundation have to be correct, and therefore too much good is done through his name. He can be a cheat on the course, in my opinion, as the good definitely outweighs the bad in his case.

lawrence said...

No wonder Teddy Roosevelt keeps losing. He gets DQed for being a Roughrider.

Magic gets back in the game this weekend.

Have a good one.

John Graves said...

As unfortunate as it seems, I have to believe Lance Armstrong used PEDs. Not only is it rampant in his sport, but he dominated like no other human in the history in cycling...AFTER having cancer. Tales in sports that seem to defy history, even when inspiring, typically turn out to be tainted. His story is wonderful, but simply defies logic and has nothing even remotely comparable in history. I wish it weren't true, but unfortunately, I believe that it is.

Paul said...

Dude.. cmon all you do is rip Tiger Woods.. and invoke his deceased Father every chance you get. I'd worry more about the size of your Belly and that double chin versus Tiger Woods and PED's.

At the end of the day.. who cares. All professional sports are not playing with a full deck. I wish the media would stop with the Hollier than Now posturing and the Witch Hunts.. it's boring

Mr. X said...

Just waiting for the shoe to finally drop on Ripken.

Anonymous said...

I agree with John Graves...Lance Amstrong is the one guy who judging from what he overcame (cancer) and how long he dominated his sport, probably used some sort of PEDs. No way you come back from cancer and dominate without some type of PED. However, he's such a feel-good story that people are quick to look the other way whenever his name is brought up. You may not believe Landis now but the same was said about Canseco...we'll have to wait and see.

Tim said...

Hustle....I mostly agree with you, but I can't even fathom that Tiger being considered a 'bad guy' at this point is wrong. He cheated on his wife with what is reported as being 121 women....while some buddies may have given him a high-five saying he was just sowing his wild oats, he's certainly not a good guy. And in retrospect he hasn't been for a while, it appears.

Hustle said...

???? Can someone please tell me why my comments were removed from this board? What did I say that was considered derogatory?

FOTB Staff_ said...

Hustle - there was no way to email you and let you know, but there are reasons that after thought, it was decided to take them down. While there is no problem in putting down John, right or wrong, and feel free to do so. But we do have a problem with you implying Phil Mickelson has cheated on his wife with ZERO evidence and saying anyone has the right to cheat on his wife hundreds of times because he's rich and famous...they are just not roads we want to go down on here.

bevo said...

"Just waiting for the shoe to finally drop on Ripken."

And Nolan Ryan. And Jamie Moyer.

Anonymous said...


I am supposed to believe a guy who is in a sport where the vast majority of people cheat(they drug test everyday,that should tell you something),won it 7 times in a row against the cheaters,and he doesn't cheat? Really? Does that make sense to anyone? I don't blame the atheletes. The money and fame are too much for some to turn down. If they get caught, they still have the cash and most still have the fame. I'd do it in a heartbeat if it meant being an average pro athlete vs a great one. Texan fans can't wait for game 5 to cheer for Cushing. Yankee Stadium was pandamonia the other night when Arod went deep to tie the game. Nobody really cares. Some just act like they do to write a story-not referring to JF,writers in general.

Hustle said...

FOTB Staff - I NEVER implied Phil Mickelson cheated on his wife and NEVER said anyone has the RIGHT to cheat on his wife hundreds of times because he's rich and famous. What I said was that we don't know if he has cheated on his wife or not...irrespective of how many autographs John tries to tell us he signs..and that it really shouldn't be any of our business. I brought that up because John was beginning to make the point "Phil = Good, Tiger = Bad" on every radio show he appeared on. No one knows what these guys do in their personal lives...period. Simply enjoy what they do on the field of play. My other point was that if you are rich and famous, you are probably cheating...NEVER said you HAVE the RIGHT to, just that most likely you are. That's the world we live it or not.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to explain the reason.

Anonymous said...

I gotta agree...Feinstein pushes Tiger= Bad, Phil = Good...all the time. He also wet kisses Paul Gyodos and Ernie Els.. all the time... I see a pattern.. it's CALLED MEDIA BIAS.

Shame it's all over the Golf Channel at the moment. Is it me or is that a Halo superimposed over Phil M. Great player great guy.. these 'man crushes' gotta stop!

Anonymous said...

Anon has it right. Sure, someone could be great enough to win seven Tours in a row. But, no one can cleanly win seven Tours in a row when all the other great riders are cheating. Not possible. No one is THAT much better than everyone else for that long. It defies logic.

Paul said...

No sport has been damaged by PEDs more than cycling, so it's good to see cycling teams like HTC-Columbia and Garmin-Transitions adopting the biological passport program and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to go beyond the drug testing program of the UCI. Can you imagine for a second an NFL or MLB team trying to institute its own, tougher program on PEDs beyond what is bargained for by the unions?

Lance Armstrong can never prove that he did not take PEDs, and the mountain of circumstantial evidence around him is confounded by hundreds of negative tests, and no credible first-hand evidence that he did.

He is either the most unfairly maligned victim of a sporting witch-hunt in history, or sport's greatest fraud ever. There can be no in-between at this point. My guess is that we will never really know.