Test Tiger Now!

By Chris Rodell
August 2007

Gary Player ignited a brush fire of speculation when he announced he knows of professional golfers using steroids. Ironically, this is the only world-wide conflagration that can ever be extinguished with just a few ounces of urine.

It’s time for Tiger Woods to step forward and takes an impartial drug test to determine if he has ever used anabolic steroids.

I came to this conclusion August 28 after watching Matt Lauer interview Tiger on NBC’s Today Show where Tiger was to promote his new video game. But Lauer, himself a golf fanatic, didn’t begin the interview asking about fatherhood, his recent PGA Championship victory or the game he was there to promote.

Instead, he began by disjointedly gushing, “Apropos of nothing, I saw you in the hallway and -- you were here a couple years ago on the show and I haven’t seen you in that time -- your whole body has changed. Are you working out that much harder now than you were a few years ago?”

The question was asked in an admiring tone with Lauer’s arms curled like a circus strongman’s.

Tiger’s response was a deadpan, “No, I’ve just gotten fat,” followed by that winning laugh and admission he was “7 to 10 pounds heavier.” The reasons he gave for the whole new body were as scattergun as Lauer’s opening. He said he was striving for consistency before allowing that, hey, I’m 31 now, metabolism’s slowing down and I’m just filling out.

No man on earth has filled out so sublimely. The showed pictures of Tiger in 2001 and the behemoth that’s stalking today’s fairways.

The whole exchange reminded me of an innocent time 20 years ago when announcers used to commend Jose Canseco for his healthy devotion to diet and exercise.

To the rest of the world and much of the sports world, there is no PGA Tour. There is only Tiger Woods. When people speculate about about the unlikelihood of steroids in golf, if they do at all, they aren’t wondering about Phil Mickelson or Chris DiMarco. They’re wondering about Tiger.

And now I am, too.

I overheard a father telling his son at a 2005 baseball game to look at the man that was amiably chatting with out-of-town fans along first base between innings. “See him, son? Now, there’s a ballplayer you can look up to. A good guy, that one is. And, man, can he hit. And, best of all, he looked us all in the eye and swore he’s not one of the cheaters. His name’s Rafael Palmeiro.”

The nation reacted with jaded indifference when Barry Bonds broke Henry Aaron’s record. We don’t like Bonds. He’s surly, tainted. But we love Tiger. We’ll cheer and admire him if he breaks Jack Nicklaus’s record in -- who knows? -- as few as three or four years.

The Tour’s announced it may have a drug-testing plan in place as early as next year, and Tiger’s been a vocal proponent for testing. But his startling new physique is already raising questions. Clearly, any drug test initiated by the PGA will give any user plenty of time to clean up or seek newer, better masking agents.

Tiger needs to back up his admirable advocacy by doing what he does best on the golf course. He needs to lead. He should immediately have himself quietly and thoroughly tested and have the results dispatched to a few paunchy sportswriters who themselves know a thing or two about declining metabolic rates.

That way the next time someone wants to talk about the whole new body he’s caring for, they can show a picture of a months-old baby.

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