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
To listen to 'The Bob and Tom Show' interview about 'Moment of Glory', please click the play button below: