The Tiger Woods saga took a new turn today when The New York Times reported FBI and Canadian authorities were investigating Dr. Anthony Galea, a sports-medicine specialist who has treated hundreds of top pro athletes, including Woods, for possible trafficking in human growth hormone and other banned substances. Galea was arrested in Canada in October, and the Times says that he treated Tiger Woods in 2008, using platelet-rich plasma injections that some athletes claim substantially speeds healing.
The Times reported, “Dr. Galea said Mr. Woods was referred to him by the golfer’s agents at Cleveland-based International Management Group, who were alarmed at the slow pace of Mr. Woods’ rehabilitation after knee surgery in June 2008.”
But this afternoon, I had a surprisingly blunt conversation with Jim Gallagher, the normally diplomatic chief of IMG’s press relations, who told The Daily Beast: “Mark Steinberg has assured us that he has never met Dr. Galea or referred him to any of our clients, including Tiger Woods.”
The Times story evidently hit a raw nerve at IMG, raising eyebrows in the small and elite world of agencies that provide endorsements, sponsorships, and revenue-generating opportunities for their clients. Bringing in doctors, especially one that wasn’t mainstream, seemed beyond the limits by which most sports athletes’ agents would fulfill their duties.
Technically, according to executives familiar with the IMG’s rules, agents are allowed to recommend doctors and other professionals to their clients. But generally, those guidelines are there for strength coaches, PR firms, and the like. (Making a recommendation for any financial firm or services, however, is cause for immediate dismissal. They don’t want their agents having financial conflicts of interest.)
IMG has been widely criticized for failing to provide Woods with crisis-management or better press coverage, but agents bristle at the reports because it’s not what they are supposed to be doing. For an agency that likes to be in the background, the Tiger controversy leaves it in a spot in which it is both unaccustomed—and uncomfortable.
Gerald Posner is The Daily Beast's chief investigative reporter. He's the award-winning author of 10 investigative nonfiction bestsellers, on topics ranging from political assassinations, to Nazi war criminals, to 9/11, to terrorism. His latest book, Miami Babylon: Crime, Wealth and Power—A Dispatch from the Beach, was published in October. He lives in Miami Beach with his wife, the author Trisha Posner.