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SportsColumnistsJim Baumbach

Baumbach: Just how far can Tiger fall?

Seriously, can Tiger Woods simply toss up his hands and say, "uncle?"

The latest punch-in-the-gut came Monday night in the form of a report on the New York Times' Web site.

Dr. Anthony Galea, a Toronto-based sports medicine specialist who says he worked on Woods' surgically repaired knee, admits in the story to taking human growth hormone for the past 10 years. According to the report, the doctor is being investigated by the FBI for providing performance-enhancing drugs to several athletes.

But he insists he never has given it to any of the athletes he's worked with, which include ageless Olympic swimmer Dara Torres, sprinter Donovan Bailey and quarterback Chris Simms, among many others.

But, make no mistake, this story has legs only because of one name: Tiger Woods.

Tiger already has admitted to cheating on his wife. Now message boards are abuzz wondering whether he also cheated the game of golf. At this point can it get any worse for the guy who just weeks ago was the unflappable prince of the worldwide sports medium?

First, let's be completely clear: No one has accused Woods of using performance-enhancing drugs. But his month from hell continues to plummet downward, with no end in sight.

Sports fans have increasingly become desensitized to doping stories, which is a sad sign of the times. Chances were good, therefore, that this well-reported story would have made a one-day appearance on the ticker and then faded away . . . if not for the appearance of Woods' name on Galea's client list, of course.

To fully encapsulate just how low Woods' mighty star has fallen, check out the comment in the story from his IMG agent, Mark Steinberg. Keep in mind that Steinberg always has worked hard to stay behind-the-scenes, yet here Steinberg makes what appears to be a desperate plea to reporters to please-please-please-with-a-cherry-on-top leave Tiger alone.

"I would really ask that you guys don't write this? If Tiger is NOT implicated, and won't be, let's please give the kid a break."

Yes, you read that right.

Give the kid a break.

So this is where we are with Tiger Woods. His powerful agent is pleading for a timeout.

Right now, when it comes to Woods, I personally don't care about mistress number whatever we're up to now, because let's face it: the shock value is gone for good.

And while his association with this Canadian doctor under investigation is cause for a red flag and a raised eyebrow, we must remind ourselves that Woods is not accused of anything here.

If anything, this latest story should serve as a reminder that we're witnessing perhaps the nastiest fall from grace ever seen in the sporting world, mostly because no one had ever been as big as he was.

We live in a nation that loves to forgive fallen stars who express remorse, but first the story has to end for that process to begin. Where exactly is rock bottom for Woods? At this point no one knows, and that's the weirdest thing of all.

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