Finchem bristles at Tiger questions
KAPALUA, Hawaii – PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem sat down with the media Tuesday before the season-opening SBS Championship on Tuesday in Hawaii. The question-and-answer session went well until the subject of Tiger Woods, golfer in exile, was brought up. The tone of the news conference and the demeanor of the usually unflappable Finchem changed direction faster than a putt on the slick and tricky greens of the Plantation Course. Here is the exchange between Finchem and the media:
Question: Have you talked to Tiger or attempted to talk to him?
Tim Finchem: Have I talked to who?
Finchem: I answered this question before. The answer is, I have not.
Finchem: The day I did my press conference (Dec. 17).
Q: It’s a few weeks later.
Finchem: No, I have not talked to Tiger. No, I have not talked to him. I don’t know when I would talk to him.
Q: It’s been three weeks. I just thought I would ask.
Finchem: When I addressed that, I thought I addressed it in this context, that he asks for privacy. We pledged our commitment to give him privacy, so that would include me trying to talk to him.
Q: I understand that. I thought with a personal relationship, if you tried to reach him at all.
Woods is the PGA Tour’s poster child, the player whom Finchem and his lieutenants would highlight in negotiations with potential sponsors or the TV networks. He was the ultimate trump card. Now Finchem cringes when Woods’ name is brought up, in the context that it was Tuesday in Hawaii. But when the assembled media cited recent reports about Woods’ relationship with a Canadian doctor linked to performance-enhancing drugs, Finchem got absolutely apoplectic.
Q: You were asked about Tiger’s relationship with (inaudible). You said you had no concerns . . . .
Finchem: No, what I said was that I was not involved in evaluating it myself. That our anti-doping team, which includes internal people and external people, had reviewed the procedure that was given to Tiger in media reports, and they had no concerns that that procedure violated our anti-doping policies. That’s what I said.
Q: You also said, according to the transcript, ‘I have no reason to have any concern.’
Finchem: Because of that report, I had no reason.
Q: That comment was widely panned by a number of doping experts, including the head of WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency), who accused you of having your head in the sand.
Finchem: Was he talking about the procedure or the possibility of using HGH (human growth hormone)? I had no report that they said anything about me having my head in the sand.
Q: Well, he said, I quote, unquote, As a doping expert, when I hear in the same question, blood spinning, HGH and Actovegin, I tend to straighten up and have a better look. At least you look into it.
Finchem: I appreciate his advice. I will stand by the response I gave during the press conference. I had no reason to be concerned about the procedure that was reported. I’m not so sure that that’s inconsistent with what he said. I’m not suggesting it is, but I will stand by my response. Do you have another question?
Q: You don't think maybe you could have phrased it differently?
Finchem: I’m not going to play word games with you. I answered your question. If you have another question, I will try to answer that one.
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During this back and forth, Finchem became very frosty, which makes you wonder why.
First, Woods has been linked in media reports, which seems to be the only sources Finchem uses, to prescription drugs during the Nov. 27 car accident outside his home near Orlando, to a Canadian doctor known to use HGH in his treatments and trying to import it into the U.S. and in a cover story in Vanity Fair, which will hit newsstands Jan. 6, about whispers on Tour of drug use by Tiger.
It’s possible to dismiss some of these reports, but it is almost impossible to dismiss Dr. Anthony Galea, the physician who reportedly has provided multiple treatments of a legal procedure called blood spinning to Woods during the past 12 months.
Blood spinning was not on the Tour’s 2009 banned-substances list. The World Anti-Doping Agency, which sets the standard for testing in sports, has added the procedure to its 2010 list but only when “administered by intramuscular route,” which would not be the method used to help Woods’ recovery from off-season knee surgery in 2008, when he was reported to be injected in the left knee.
Ty Votaw, a Tour executive vice president, said the Tour will add blood spinning via an intramuscular route to its banned-substances list in 2010. However, Votaw said the Tour will not require players to submit a “declaration of use,” which will be mandatory under the WADA policy.
Blood spinning is not an issue, which Finchem underscored to the media. Yet, Finchem was playing word games by evading the question, “Are you concerned that Tiger Woods has been connected to a doctor that uses or used HGH, either for his own use or on patients?”
That’s a question that warrants a straight answer from the Tour’s leader.