Top 30 Athlete Scandals of All-Time
Top 30 Athlete Scandals of All-Time
Recently the sports world has seen two major scandals break. First it was the banning of seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong from cycling followed by his confession in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. Then, surprisingly overshadowing Armstrong, it was revealed that Notre Dame All-American linebacker and Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te’o was duped into a relationship with a fictitious woman. The story of Te’o’s online girlfriend included her dying of leukemia the same week as his grandmother’s death and was used widely by the national media as a triumph over tragedy story. These two major scandals have had the idea of the biggest all-time sports scandals on the minds of most American sports fans as these two are a couple of the most memorable in recent history.
Sports scandals can include coaches, fans, and government officials but this slideshow will just focus on scandals that affected results on the playing surface. So that will exclude big scandals that didn’t affect results on the field, ice, or court or change the legacy of an athlete such as most drug arrests, rape convictions, and sex scandals. However, if one of those scandals resulted in a change in the player’s success or legacy on the field, that was taken into consideration.
30) 2000 Spanish Paralympic Basketball Team
During the 2000 Summer Paralympic Games in Sydney, Australia, the most scandalous event in Paralympic history occurred. The Spanish intellectual disability basketball was stripped of their gold medals after it was revealed that most of the players on the team had not undergone the necessary tests to make sure they were eligible for the competition. This event was only for competitors who had an IQ no more than 70. It was later revealed that 10 of the 12 participants on the team were not disabled.
29) 1980 Boston Marathon
In the 1980 Boston Marathon, a 26 year-old Cuban-born administrative assistant form New York City named Rosie Ruiz won with a time of 2:31:56. Ruiz had qualified for the event through her performance in the 1979 New York City marathon. Eight days after the event, it was revealed that Ruiz had joined the race about a mile from the finish line jumping in front of 448 other female competitors. Suspicion of Ruiz began when the unknown runner cut her previous marathon time down by 25 minutes.
28) 1976 Summer Olympics Men’s Modern Pentathlon
During the 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada, the Soviets looked to be on their way to defending their title in the men’s modern pentathlon. Russian fencer Boris Onishchenko was leading British captain Jim Fox in the fencing portion of the event when a British teammate noticed that Onishchenko’s sword registered a point with landing a hit. After an investigation it was revealed that Onishchenko had rigged his sword to electronically score hit without landing them. The Russians were disqualified and the British were awarded the gold.
27) Minnesota Love Boat
In October of 2005, seventeen members of the Minnesota Vikings boarded two houseboats with prostitutes from Florida and Georgia and headed out on Lake Minnetonka. On the boat, sex acts were performed by some of the members of the team in front of the boat’s crew. The escapades were reported later that night when a woman called police about “seven black men” urinating in her yard. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf responded with a profanity-laced tirade about the incident and distributed a 77-pages code of conduct to Vikings players. Three players including star quarterback Daunte Culpepper were brought up on charges of indecent conduct, disorderly conduct, and lewd or lascivious conduct. Culpepper, who was his team’s first round draft pick in 1999, would be traded following the season to the Miami Dolphins.
26) Marion Jones Doping Scandal
During the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, American sprinter Marion Jones became the first female track and field athlete to win five medals at an Olympic games which included the prestigious 100 meter gold medal. In 2007 Jones was forced to surrender her medals after admitting that she gave false statements to federal investigators regarding her use of performance-enhancing drugs. At 24-years old Jones became an international star and a role model for young girls around the world. But seven years later she was a disgraced, broke, former athlete looking at prison time.
25) Michigan’s Fab Five
In 1991, freshman Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson enrolled at the University of Michigan. The five would come to be known as the “Fab Five” and midway through their freshman year would all be starting for the nationally ranked Michigan Wolverines men’s basketball team. The “Fab Five” would lead the Wolverines to two straight national championship games though they would lose both. In 1996 the relationship between booster Ed Martin and the Michigan basketball program came to light. Three years later Webber, the biggest star of the “Fab Five”, was called in front of a grand jury investigating Martin for money laundering and an illegal gambling operation. In 2002 Michigan announced that it would forfeit every game that four players, including Webber, played in at the school. That meant the removal of both NCAA Final Four banners won by the “Fab Five”.
24) Baylor Basketball Murder
In 2003 Patrick Dennehy, a transfer from the University of New Mexico, and Calton Dotson, a transfer from the University of Buffalo, began playing for the Baylor University men’s basketball team. Upon receiving threats by teammates, the two friends purchased firearms for protection. In June of that year, while reportedly practicing firing the guns at a farm in Waco, Texas, the two got in an argument. It resulted in Dotson shooting Dennehy. After days of not hearing from Dennehy, the 21-year old’s parents called authorities. They found Dennehy’s abandoned SUV with the license plates having been removed. After investigating the incident, Dotson was arrested for the murder at his home in Maryland and sentenced to 35 years in prison.
23) 2008 Summer Olympic Chinese Gymnastics Team
During the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China, the host country’s women’s gymnastics team came under scrutiny about the age of their team. In the event, participants must be at least 16-years old to compete. But the young looking Chinese team led many to believe that several of the team’s members were under the required age limit. Later in 2008 the last case was closed when Chinese officials provided original passports and IDs for the athletes.
22) Tiger Woods Cheating Scandal
With 74 PGA Tour wins and 14 major championships Tiger Woods is one of the greatest golfers in history. In addition to his golfing accomplishments, Woods was also one of the most marketable athletes in professional sports. He had a pristine, clean cut image which made him an international icon. But then in 2009, a story broke about Woods having an affair with nightclub promoter Rachel Uchitel. Two days later Woods crashed his SUV into a tree after his wife, Elin Nordegren, had attacked the car with a golf club following an argument about the affair. Over the following months it was revealed that Woods had committed adultery with multiple women. The scandal tarnished Woods’ image and lost him several endorsement deals. That year Woods was the PGA Player of the Year, an award he has won ten times, but he has yet to reach the heights on the course of before the scandal.
21) Michael Vick Dog Fighting Scandal
Michael Vick was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001. Over the next six seasons he would be selected to three Pro Bowls and become of the biggest stars in the NFL. But in April of 2007, investigators searched Vick’s property. Out of the search it was found that Vick had been operating a dog fighting ring called Bad Newz Kennels. Vick was sentenced to 23 months in a federal prison followed by three years of probation. Vick wouldn’t return to the NFL until 2009 when he joined the Philadelphia Eagles and would remain until the end of the 2012 season.
20) Danny Almonte Scandal
During the 2001 Little League World Series a 12-year old pitcher from the Bronx, New York named Danny Almonte captivated audiences nationwide with his 70 mph fastballs. Almonte reached his peak of stardom in the opening game of the Little League World Series when he pitched a perfect game against an opponent from Apopka, Florida striking out 15 batters. But weeks later it was revealed that the young star, who had come to America from the Dominican Republic a year earlier, presented fake birth certificates showing that he was 12-years old. It turned out that Almonte was actually 14-years old, two years older than the maximum age requirement. The findings nullified all victories by the Rolando Paulino Little League All-Stars which included Almonte’s perfect game and previous no-hitter.
Following the 2011 NFL season the commissioner’s office concluded an investigation into the New Orleans Saints. They found that the Saints defense had been using a bounty system for three years giving payments out for injuring certain opposing offensive players. Further, the system was known by head coach Sean Payton and approved by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Following the investigation, Roger Goodell suspended linebacker Scott Fujita for three games, defensive end Will Smith for four games, defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove for eight games, and linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the 2012 NFL season. In addition linebackers coach Joe Vitt was suspended for six games, general manager Mickey Loomis for eight games, head coach Sean Payton for the 2012 NFL season, and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely. Near the end of the 2012 season all of the players suspension were overturned.
18) Dora Ratjen
The 1936 Summer Olympic Games held in Berlin, Germany was the chance for Adolf Hitler to prove that the Aryan race was the supreme race in front of the whole world. A member of the German team was Dora Ratjen who competed in the women’s high jump. She came in fourth. Known by her competitors for her deep voice, it was later found out that Ratjen, a Hitler youth, was actually male. In 1938, Ratjen was banned from any further competition.
17) Tim Donaghy
Tim Donaghy refereed in the NBA for 13 years. In 2007 Donaghy told a U.S. District Court that between December of 2006 and April of 2007 he used “nonpublic information” to pick the winners of particular NBA games and to “cover point spreads set by professional bookmakers”. The admission shook the basketball world. Point shaving had been seen in basketball by players or coaches but not by officials at that level.
16) 1951 New York Giants
In 1951 Bobby Thompson of the New York Giants hit the “shot heard round the world” as the Giants defeated their inner-city rival Brooklyn Dodgers to win the National League pennant. To reach the three game tie breaking series, the Giants went 50-12 over their final 62 games to comeback against the Dodgers. Years later it would be revealed that the Giants had placed a telescope in the center field clubhouse to steal signs from opposing catchers. The moment of Thompson’s home run was immortalized by Russ Hodges’ call of “the Giants win the pennant, the Giants win the pennant”. But after the revelation, many now say “the Giants stole the pennant”.
15) SMU Death Penalty
In the early 1980s Southern Methodist University hired Ron Meyer as their head football coach. Meyer recruited Texas stars such as running backs Eric Dickerson and Craig James who would become known as the “pony express”. As the early 1980s turned into the late 1980s, recruiting in Texas had gotten ugly with recruits receiving money, cars, and houses for the families. In 1986 the NCAA held an emergency meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1986 looking for stiffer punishments for repeat violators of recruiting rules. The new rule that was passed said that a football program with a lack of institutional control would have to be shut down completely for the following year. The national press needed a name appropriate for the new rules and dubbed it the “death penalty”. The first and only school ever to receive that penalty was SMU later that year. SMU went from a powerhouse to a small football and has never recovered.
14) 1951 Point Shaving Scandal
In 1950 City College in New York City won the National Invitation and NCAA tournaments. One year later that school was involved in a point shaving scandal that involved seven other institutions. Overall 32 players from seven schools were arrested for fixing 86 games between 1947 and 1950. Other schools involved in the scandal were Manhattan College, Long Island University, and most notably the University of Kentucky. Other scandals have since come and gone but the point shaving scandal of 1951 nearly destroyed major college basketball.
13) 1993 FSU “Free Shoes” Scandal
In October of 1999, Florida State All-American wide receiver Peter Warrick and Laveranues Coles were arrested for felony grand theft. At a Tallahassee Dillards department store they were charged $21.40 for clothes and shoes worth $412.38. Following the arrest Warrick, who was a Heisman Trophy candidate, was only suspended by head coach Bobby Bowden for two games while Coles was kicked off the team despite equal involvement. The scandal led to Florida State University being nationally ridiculed as “free shoes university”.
12) 1972 Summer Olympics Basketball Scandal
The 1972 Summer Olympics basketball gold medal game was between the United State and the Soviet Union. The United States had not lost an Olympic basketball game since 1936. With three seconds left in the game and the Soviets up 49-48, Illinois State guard Doug Collins was fouled. After hitting both foul shots, the United States led 50-49 with three seconds remaining. After the Soviets inbounded the ball the referees blew the play dead with one second remaining as the Soviets claimed they had called a timeout in between Collins’ free throws. The second time the Soviets inbounded the ball they were stopped by the Americans ending the game. But then, to the dismay of the celebrating Americans, they were told to go back onto the court because of a clock malfunction. The third opportunity for the Soviets, Alexander Belov rose up, caught a full court pass between Jim Forbes and Kevin Joyce, and hit the game winning layup for the Soviets. The Americans filed a protest but later that day the five panel court (three of which were communists) ruled in favor of the Soviets. Feeling cheated the Americans refused to receive their silver medals and they sit in a vault in Lusanne, Switzerland unclaimed today.
11) Skategate II
In the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, one of the more unusual events occurred. During the figure skating competition, Russian pair Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze won the short program over Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. Later in the free skate, the Russian pair made a slight but obvious technical error. The Canadians responded with a flawless performance. The American and Canadian announcers were astonished when the Russians were awarded the gold medal. Later, French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne said she had been pressured by the head of the French skating organization, Didier Gailhaguet, to choose the Russians as the winners despite how the Canadian pair skated. After an investigation, the Canadian pair had their silver medals upgraded to gold. And as the Russians pair were not guilty of any wrongdoing, they were allowed to keep their gold medals as well.
10) Pete Rose
Cincinnati Reds legend Pete Rose had 4,256 hits in the Major League Baseball playing career. He holds the all-time record in that category. Despite this he is not in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The reason for this is because following his playing career, when he was managing the Reds, Rose committing the number one sin of a Major League Baseball employee, he bet on the game. Following the revelation of this baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti, in a decision that’s controversial to this day, banned Rose from baseball for life meaning along with not being involved with the game, the all-time hit leader would not be eligible to be inducted into the hall of fame.
9) Lance Armstrong Doping Scandal
Between 1999 and 2005 American cyclist Lance Armstrong won seven consecutive Tour de France titles. Armstrong, a testicular cancer survivor, was an American hero for his achievements after surviving a life threatening disease. Armstrong had been dealing with allegations by the French that he used performance-enhancing drugs since his first win in 1999. But he continued to pass tests proving otherwise. Then in 2006, fellow American Floyd Landis won the Tour de France but was stripped of his title when he was found guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs. After Landis was found to have cheated, he began naming the riders that he knew had cheated and Armstrong’s name came up. In June of 2012, the United States Anti-Doping Agency charged Armstrong with using performance-enhancing drugs. Despite evidence against him, Armstrong continued to declare his innocence. Finally in January of 2013, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during his cycling career.
8) Baseball Steroid Scandal
Following the 1994 Major League Baseball player’s strike, baseball fans decided to show how they felt about the players. They refused to go to games or show any support for what they saw as greedy players. The 1998 season saw an explosion of power as Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa broke Roger Maris’ single season home run record. The home run would become commonplace in baseball after that. In 2005, Jose Conseco released a book titled “Juiced” which talked about the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs. While people refused to believe it, eventually the truth came out. Later in 2005, many star players were called into congressional hearings to testify about the use of steroids in baseball. The players either denied the allegations or refused to talk about it. In 2006 two San Francisco Chronicle reporters released a book titled “Game of Shadows” which connected Barry Bonds, the biggest name in baseball, to the steroid scandal. Also in 2006, former senator George Mitchell was chosen to head an investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. On December 13, 2007, the Mitchell Report named more than 80 Major League Baseball players who used performance-enhancing drugs. Baseball’s drug testing policy, which was designed to fail, was strengthened and penalties were increased. Today the years following the 1994 strike to the Mitchell Report is known as the “Steroid Era” and there is a dark cloud above everyone who played under it.
On April 12, 2009 English rugby union side Harlequins took on Irish side Leinster in a Heineken Cup match. During the quarterfinal match, Harlequins wing Tom Williams came off the field due to blood being substituted by Nick Evans who had left the game earlier due to injury. An investigation into the matter revealed that Williams had used fake blood capsules so the team could make a tactical substitution. The scandal resulted in a twelve month ban for Williams (reduced to four on appeal), a three year ban for former director of rugby Dean Richards, and a two year ban for physiotherapist Steph Brennan in addition to a 260,000 pound fine for the club.
6) Hand of God
Four years after the end of Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom, Argentina and England faced each other in the 1986 FIFA World Cup quarterfinal. Six minutes into the second half, with a scoreless game, one of the most famous goals in the history of the sport took place. Maradona cut in from the left side toward the England goal and passed the ball to Jorge Valdano. But the pass came in behind him and went to England defender Steve Hodge. As Hodge attempted to clear the ball, he miss hit it and the ball flew back toward the England goal. As England goalkeeper Peter Shilton came out to punch the ball, Maradona went after it. As the two collided the ball went behind Shilton and into the England net. Immediately England players began complaining that the ball had gone off of Maradona’s hand but the referee was hearing none of it. Replays would show Maradona punching the ball past Shilton for the goal. Maradona would go on to score the “goal of the century” in which he would dribble through five England players to increase the Argentina lead. Gary Lineker would score later for England but Argentina would win 2-1. After the game Maradona said that the goal had been scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of god”.
5) Mike Tyson Bites Evander Holyfield
In 1996, WBA heavyweight champion Mike Tyson lost to Evander Holyfield. On June 28, 1997 they had a rematch which would be remembered for one of the ugliest incidents in boxing history. The first match saw a headbutt from Holyfield which was deemed unintentional by referee Mitch Halpern. Early in the rematch, there was another headbutt from Holyfield. With about 40 seconds remaining in the third round Tyson had decided he had enough. With Holyfield wrapped up Tyson spit out his mouthpiece, rolled toward the right side of Holyfield’s head, and took a bite out of his ear taking one inch of cartilage from the top of Holyfield’s ear. As Holyfield pointed to the missing piece of his ear, referee Mills Lane debated what to do. Originally Lane wanted to disqualify Tyson but the doctor claimed Holyfield could continue so Lane decided to deduct two points from Tyson. As the fight continued, Tyson twice more attempted to bite Holyfield’s left ear. Upon seeing the scar on Holyfield’s left ear, Lane called the fight disqualifying Tyson. Following the fight, Tyson blamed the action on the consistent headbutting from Holyfield. On October 16, 2009, the two appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show where Tyson apologized for the incident and Holyfield accepted.
4) Skategate I
Leading up to the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, American figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was one of the favorites to win gold. But on January 6 Kerrigan was attacked with a metal baton while training in Detroit. The assailants attacked her knee leaving her injured and unable to compete in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. With Kerrigan injured, her biggest rival Tonya Harding took over as the one to beat. As the Olympics drew closer, rumors began to spread that Harding was involved with the attack. In the days following the attack, Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly and three of his friends were arrested for the attack. At a press conference shortly after, Harding claimed she was not involved in the attack but knew about it. Kerrigan healed in time to compete in the Olympic Games and with a nation behind her won silver. Harding, meanwhile, finished a disappointing eighth. One month after the games, Harding was convicted of conspiracy to hinder prosecution. She was also fined heavily and was banned from U.S. figure skating for life.
3) Ben Johnson Doping Scandal
The 100-meter final of the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea was a battle between two rivals, American Carl Lewis and Canadian Ben Johnson. Johnson and Lewis had been sharing the spotlight in the 100-meter event leading into the Olympic Games and the world was eager to see who would be named the world’s fastest man. Johnson bested Lewis in the race running a 9.79 to win the gold medal leaving Lewis the silver. However, later it was revealed that Johnson had tested positive for steroids and was stripped of his gold medal.
Calciopoli is a match fixing scandal that occurred in 2006 which involved some of the most successful clubs in Italy Serie A. The scandal came to light when transcripts of recorded telephone conversations were published in Italian newspapers that suggested that Juventus general managers Luciano Moggi and Antonio Giraudo had conversations with several officials influencing referee appointments during the 2004-05 season. The scandal saw punishment handed out to some of Italy’s most successful clubs. AC Milan was deducted 30 points for the 2005-06 season, Fiorentina was taken out of the 2006-07 UEFA Champions League, and Lazio was taken out of the 2006-07 UEFA Champions League. Juventus, one of the most successful clubs in Europe and league champions, were stripped of their 2005 and 2006 Serie A titles and relegated to Serie B.
1) 1919 Black Sox Scandal
The 1919 World Series was played between the Cincinnati Reds and the heavily favored Chicago White Sox. Prior to the series, New York kingpin Arnold Rothstein supplied money to the White Sox to throw the series. The deal was intriguing to White Sox players whose owner, Charles Comiskey, was notoriously cheap. First baseman Arnold “Chick” Gandil rounded up seven other players to throw the series. In all money was given to Gandil, pitcher Eddie Cicotte, center fielder Oscar “Happy” Felsch, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Fred McMullin, Charles “Swede” Risberg, George “Buck” Weaver, and Claude “Lefty” Williams though many continue to claim Jackson’s innocence. Despite being acquitted of criminal charges, newly appointed commissioner Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis banned the eight players from baseball for life. The 1919 Chicago White Sox have since become known as the Black Sox.