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March 01, 2010

Daily Flogging: Technically, Tiger Woods broke the law--a very old law

Posted at 10:33 AM by Gary Van Sickle | Categories: Annika Sorenstam, PGA Championship, Tiger Woods

More than a week after Tiger Woods performed his scripted mea culpa, you probably figured, well, at least things can't get any worse for him.

You probably figured wrong. Gatorade dropped Tiger from its marketing campaigns, quietly announcing it Friday during the Winter Olympics so it would garner as few headlines as possible. That may have worked, actually.

Tiger also has two legal issues hanging over his head. One seems laughable, not that Camp Tiger is going to think it's funny; the other seems pretty serious.

On the laughable side, Diane Dimond cleverly reports for the Huffington Post that Tiger Woods has admitted his criminal activity.

So, did you notice what I noticed as Tiger Woods delivered his 14 minute nationally televised mea culpa?  What jumped out at me was... he confessed he'd broken the law. Adultery is a crime.

But the truth is that more than 20 states, including Florida where Wood's keeps his primary residence, still have laws on the books against cheating on your spouse. It's also illegal in North Carolina where disgraced Senator John Edwards recently admitted he'd fathered a child with a long time mistress. In most of the states with anti-adultery laws those found guilty can be imprisoned.

Usually both parties involved in the act are considered to have committed the crime. That means Tiger's fifteen (at last count) gal pals... could be punished if a third party wanted to press the point.

So, what's the prescribed punishment? It ranges from a mere $250 fine in Virginia to several years in state prison (as well as a fine) in states like Massachusetts, Michigan and Alabama.

Okay, I know what you're thinking. The laws may be on the books but they're hardly ever used anymore, right? That's right. But how long do you think it will take some sharp divorce attorney to get wise? Some lawyer with an extra vindictive spurned spouse will almost certainly land upon the strategy to force their state to adhere to its anti-adultery law.

Attention horndogs: You've been warned.

In a more serious matter, Tiger can probably expect a grand jury subpoena in the case against Canadian physician Anthony Galea, according to SI.com's David Epstein and Melissa Segura. So can a lot of other world-class athletes, and that can't be good news.

According to a December story in The New York Times, Galea's medical assistant told investigators that he had provided performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes... According to two sources familiar with the investigation, law enforcement officials have been in touch with NFL players who have used Galea's services.

Galea, who is based in Toronto, faces charges in his native Canada of conspiring to smuggle human growth hormone (HGH) and the drug Actovegin into the U.S., conspiracy to smuggle prohibited goods into Canada, unlawfully selling Actovegin, and smuggling goods into Canada in violation of the Customs Act. The doctor's client list is elite; it includes Tiger Woods, U.S. Olympic swimmer Dara Torres, Broncos quarterback Chris Simms, former Browns running back Jamal Lewis, Mets shortstop Jose Reyes and Donovan Bailey of Canada, who won the 100 meters at the 1996 Olympics. These athletes have acknowledged being treated by Galea but deny receiving any performance-enhancing drugs from him.

So you were wondering why Tiger threw that non-sequitur about never using performance-enhancing drugs into his mea culpa? Now you know.

The Florida Department of Health also launched its own investigation because Galea had flown to the state on four occasions last winter to treat Woods, who was recovering from knee surgery. At a news conference last week, Woods denied use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Galea is not licensed to practice medicine in the U.S. Jamal Lewis told SI.com that Galea has helped keep him healthy in recent years with PRP therapy, but said Galea told him he was aware that he was not supposed to treat patients in the U.S., so Lewis, like other athletes, flew to Canada for treatment.

The fact that Woods had any kind of relationship with a Canadian physician allegedly involved with PEDs will not go unnoticed. Gary Peterson raises the issue in the Contra Costa Times and makes this point about Tiger's public image rehab: No matter what Woods says from now on, can we ever believe him?

While Woods has been in double-secret therapy, a story has been percolating. The story actually began last September, before the walls came tumbling down, when the doctor who helped Woods recover from his 2008 knee surgery came under suspicion for possessing performance enhancing drugs.

In December, the New York Times reported that Catalano told investigators that Galea had administered PEDs to athletes. Even as secondhand news it was an attention-grabber.

Woods' stance on performance enhancing drug use is a matter of record. He has always emphatically denied it, most recently during his made-for-TV apology. "This is completely and utterly false," he read, er, said. Two problems with that. One, pretty much every high-profile athlete who has issued similar denials under similar circumstances over the past few years has been proven to be lying. Period.

Two, and this would be the game-changer, we now know that Woods has been lying for years about matters of tremendous import on a personal level. He told us himself: He has lied habitually, repeatedly, with a complete understanding of the nature of his actions and without regard to the consequences.

For years the best story in golf has been Woods' quest to equal the record 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus. That story loses air if Woods is dirty. Even if he surpasses Nicklaus' gold standard, he's left with a hollow achievement (see: Bonds, Barry, and baseball's career home run record).

You'd expect Woods to fight hardest in defense of his honor. His problem is that he would be asking us to take the word of someone who just 10 days ago told us this: "I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself the normal rules didn't apply."

So you can see our dilemma.

There's piling on, and then there's just plain malicious and irresponsible behavior. Apparently, the animal-rights activists at PETA believed their cause was so just that they could cut a few legal corners. From OpposingViews.com:

The animal rights group announced last week it would put up a billboard in Florida featuring Woods with the text: "Too much sex can be a bad thing." It was meant to encourage people to spay and neuter their pets. 

Tiger will not appear on the billboard after all, according to a report on Page Six of the New York Post:

Lawyers for the horndog golfer threatened to sue the activists if they used his once-valuable image in their campaign urging owners to neuter their pets. So now PETA says it will feature another famous philanderer, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford... 

Questions about Tiger often lead to lines of self-interest. Those who wonder how long Tiger will stay away from golf are really asking, is he going to skip my (local) tournament? Garry Howard of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel worries about the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits and Wisconsin missing the full economic impact of Tiger's presence:

Will the state's golf fanatics go out on a limb and purchase tickets as if the world's No. 1 golfer will actually participate? The answer here is a resounding, "Yes."

If he returns this year to competitive golf, you can pretty much bet that he will be playing in this year's PGA Championship. Why? It is the last major of the year, and if he misses the Masters and the U.S. Open, he will have only the British Open and PGA left... And with 14 (major titles) on his pristine record, just four behind the great Jack Nicklaus, he has incentive to keep pressing forward.

Do I forgive him for his transgressions? It's not up to me... If you are like me, however, you just want to see the man play golf. So what's next? Tiger has nowhere to go but back to the golf course.

It's time to forgive him for being sleazy. From here on, golf should be the topic of discussion. And his participation in this particular golf tournament should be a no-brainer. Heck, at least his wife will know where he is that week.

Actually, knowing where he was didn't work so well for that tournament Tiger played in Australia. And several other places.

Annika Sorenstam had some advice for Tiger, courtesy of her chat with Fanhouse.com:

Don't come back until your life is right. "He has some things to work on -- for sure," said Sorenstam. "I do know you have to take care of your personal life first. It has to be in order, to be able to compete on that level."

Sorenstam said Friday that she has not talked with Woods since his troubles began in late November after crashing his car at the end of his driveway. She has remained a close friend of his wife Elin, which was why she was reluctant to speak on the topic. Both Sorenstam and Elin Woods are from Sweden. And they knew each other before Elin and Woods were married.

"What we saw (from him) shocked everyone," Sorenstam said. "I don't think anyone can predict now what's going to happen next. I have no idea."

"Golf needs him. I hope he gets everything in order. And I hope he gets back to doing what he's good at – golf. I don't think it's my place to say too much more." 

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