The whispers, like drops of water that turn into a flood, have become deafening. Tiger Woods, because he cheated in one area must be guilty of cheating in golf, or more specifically of taking performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). I’ve listened as countless arguments have been made that cast shadows on his incredible run in golf. I completely disagree.
Those who cheated in baseball, football, track and field and cycling – to name a few sports – did so because “cheating” was woven into the fabric of their respective sports. So pervasive was the trend in many sports that en masse, competitors crossed the line to remain relevant or to maintain whatever status they had achieved in their particular sport. Knowing that the window of opportunity was measured in years, not decades, athletes risked harming their bodies for immediate gain.
The physical requirements for most sports reward quickness, strength and stamina therefore training is the key element in those sports. This is not the case in golf. In fact, those who argue that golf is not a sport use this as the premise for their point.
In golf, one needs flexibility, balance, rhythm, special awareness and the ability to focus far more than strength and stamina. Furthermore, in golf one plays for decades and depends on the elasticity of their body for those decades, elasticity that would die quickly if one took PEDs.
Tiger has always made it his goal to win 19 majors and frequently says he knows it will take him a “career” to break Jack Nicklaus’ record. Why would he do something that would benefit him in the short term when he knows that it will take him years to achieve his dream? More importantly, he did not need to enhance his performance, he was dominant when he was sinewy. When Tiger looked down the range he did not see bulging muscles and athletes threatening to take away his crown, he saw slower, less gifted, softer athletes who were of little or no competition to him.
Critics, fans and jealous fellow competitors want him to be guilty of this era’s injected perfection, because it would explain what so many have failed to explain. Why was he so good? For all his faults, Tiger respects the records of this game and knows that his quest to break them is in need of only sweat, toil and time, not some magical cocktail injected in his veins. This is not to say that others in golf haven’t given into this temptation because I am certain they have. Unlike Tiger, others have wanted immediate gain, sought to close competitive gaps and harbored no desire to pursue records that required time.
If it comes to pass that I am wrong, then I will be guilty of being naïve, which I view as a lesser crime than being cynical.