Good sportsmanship is not always a given in the world of athletics. Though an overwhelming majority of people who pursue athletic endeavours want to play fair, there are always a few who would rather cheat. TMZ Hollywood Sports is now airing weeknights on REELZChannel, and in honor of the new show we’re going to take a minute to rundown the biggest sports cheating scandals of the past hundred or so years.Where sports and pop culture collide
Lance Armstrong took first in the Tour de France seven times and angrily denied doping accusations throughout much of his career. He could deny it all he wanted, but it turns out he was using performance-enhancing drugs all along, and he eventually admitted the fact on camera. As a result, he was banned from cycling competitions for life, he was asked to step aside from the cancer charity Livestrong, and he was stripped of all of his Tour de France titles.
In 1994, figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was at the top of her game, ready to take on the US Figure Skating Championships and looking to make the Olympic team. Just as her Olympic dreams were almost within her grasp, she was attacked, hit on the knee with a baton, and it seemed like all her plans had been thwarted. It turned out that her attacker had been hired by Jeff Gillooly, the ex-husband of rival skater Tonya Harding. Harding later pled guilty to hindering the investigation into the attack on Nancy Kerrigan, and as a result she got a lifetime ban from competing in U.S. figure skating competitions. Kerrigan, on the other hand, managed to take silver at the Winter Games in Lillehammer only seven weeks after the attack.
Chicago Black Sox
Usually cheaters are looking to win games, but some sports scandals involve losing on purpose, which is really so much easier. Not winning was the object of the game for several members of the Chicago White Sox team in the 1919 World Series. Between a miserly owner who underpaid his players and shifty underworld figures pressuring the cash-strapped team members to fix the game, one of the biggest sports scandals was born. In the end, the players were all acquitted in court but eight members of the team were banned from organized baseball.
In many professional sports it’s hard to cheat, because after all, there are dozens of cameras and millions of fans watching every move. But some people still find a way. From 2009 to 2011 the New Orleans Saints reportedly paid bounties to players who deliberately injured rival athletes. Around two dozen players were believed to be involved in the scandal as well as members of the coaching staff. After an investigation, the team was punished by the NFL with plenty of suspensions handed out as well as a $500,000 fine.
Rosie Ruiz Ruins Race
It turns out that if you shave about the first 25 miles off of a marathon, it’s not that big of a deal to run the race — or to win it for that matter. This is just what Rosie Ruiz did during the 1980 Boston Marathon. She used a very old-school, low-tech brand of cheating when she emerged from a subway stop about a mile away from the finish line and pushed through the crowd to join the race. She was the first woman to cross the finish line, but after eight days, she was stripped of the title and Jacqueline Gareau was declared the winner.
French Judge Fail
Some people cheat for money, others for glory, but then a few cheat due to misguided feelings of patriotism. Before the 2002 Winter Olympics, the French judge was given an offer she couldn't refuse when the Russians promised that France would take home a gold medal for ice dancing — so long as France favored Russia in the pairs competition. Even though Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier skated a technically flawless long program, the gold went to Russians Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze who suffered a wobble or two in their free-skate routine. The day after the medal ceremony, the French judge admitted she had been bought off, and Sale and Pelletier were upgraded from silver to gold.
Cleveland’s Corked Bats
Every once in awhile, a sports scandal will sound more like a plot device in a screw-ball comedy than an actual, real-life, attempt to cheat. During a 1994 game against the Cleveland Indians, White Sox manager Gene Lamont asked that the umpire examine the bat of outfielder Albert Belle. On the field no tampering was evident, but the bat was locked in the umpires’ dressing room for further examination. The only solution seemed to be to send a lanky pitcher, Jason Grimsley, to retrieve the bat by climbing around in the ceiling, breaking into the dressing room and replacing the corked bat with a normal one… which unfortunately had a different player’s name on it. Surprisingly enough, officials noticed the bats had been switched, and Belle was suspended for seven games.
Diego Maradona Didn’t Use His Head
Every kid who’s ever played soccer, even if only for a few minutes, learns the most basic rule of the game: only the goalie can touch the ball with his hands. Anywhere from the tips of the fingers to the upper arms are out of bounds for all the other players. That’s what made it more than a little surprising that during the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal game between England and Argentina, Diego Maradona used his hand to deflect the ball into the net. For some watching the game it looked like an amazing header, but it was clear from both slow-motion replay and a perfectly timed still photograph that Maradona touched the ball with his hands. In an interview the next day, Maradona claimed that it was "partly the hand of Maradona, and partly the hand of god.” Argentina not only won the game, the team went on to become the 1986 World Cup champions. It turns out that sometimes cheaters do win, but they rarely take responsibility for their actions.
Just Juice It
The 1998 baseball season was glorious. Home runs were hit by the dozens, records were smashed, game attendance was through the roof, and people who normally paid no attention to the MLB season were completely invested in the home-run race to break Roger Maris’s record. Unfortunately it seems like all the excitement and drama was mostly due to doping. In 2010, Mark McGwire admitted to using steroids when he beat the home-run record. Sammy Sosa reportedly tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003, and Barry Bonds, who broke McGwire’s record in 2001, has been plagued with legal trouble due to PED-use allegations. So far, all of these guys have been denied entrance to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Alright, so Tiger didn’t actually try to win a game through nefarious means in regards to his professional sports life, but he did admit to cheating on his wife, Elin Nordegren. It seems that that there were any number of nightclub promoters, cocktail waitresses, hostesses, porn stars, and strippers who were willing to help the Masters winner step out on his wife, and step out he did. In then end, Tiger has had some punishment. He’s lost endorsements, he’s had to pay Nordegren $100 million in a divorce settlement, and he hasn’t won a major since the news broke in 2009.