Cheaters never win, and winners never cheat. While this quote goes hand in hand with sports, some sportsmen seem oblivious to this rule and hence this list of top 10 worst sports cheats.
Many sportsmen have held “sport” in high esteem and given noteworthy performances, so much so that they have gone down in history as folklore. Apt examples are Michael Phelps’ eight gold medal haul in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and Usain Bolt setting new 100- and 200-m world records, bettering his own previous records. Sadly, there are some who chose to take a shortcut to achieve victory.
Over the past few decades, cheating has unfortunately, been a “winning at all costs” scheme for many sportsmen, which has come in the way of their pursuits and tarnished their image. Instead of playing a fair game, these sportsmen chose to play foul, which did not work for them.
Take the example of the Spanish Paralympic Basketball Team, which was compelled to hand over their medals when an undercover journalist revealed that 10 of the 12 members bore no mental handicap.
Then there was Rivaldo, who instead of being only remembered for his hat trick against Valencia, added to his kitty an embarrassing incident – after being hit on his knee with the football, he clutched his face and fell to the ground. Later, he was fined for the act. These were just a few of the many examples.
Here, we have listed the 10 greatest cheats in sporting history, who may have resorted to drastic and nonlegal methods to achieve notoriety.
“I am deeply flawed … and I’m paying the price for it, and I think that’s okay. I deserve this.”
(On being stripped of his 7 Tour de France titles for doping)
✦ Born: September 18, 1971
✦ Nationality: American
✦ Sport: Cycling
✦ Achievements: Won 7 consecutive Tour de France titles
✦ Claim to Ill Fame: Using illicit performance-enhancing drugs
Lance Armstrong’s complicated system of deceitfully making it to the top is arguably the most publicized cheating scandal in sports history. After overpowering testicular cancer, he harked back to the cycling scene, winning seven Tour de France Titles from 1999 to 2005, consecutively. Amidst all the success, there were constant reports claiming he had cheated using drugs, but he downplayed it all. For 13 long years, he emphatically denied the charges, and won court cases against those who accused him of deceit. In 2012, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) charged him of doping and drug trafficking based on evidence from his tested blood samples. He was disqualified from racing and was slapped with a life ban for his offenses. Finally in 2013, he came clean and stated in an interview that he had indeed used performance-enhancing drugs, thus confirming what many in the cycling world already knew.
“I hope one day, when people remember me, that at the end of my name, there’s a ‘dot-dot-dot.’ Because the story continues. It doesn’t end when you make a mistake.”
✦ Born: October 12, 1975
✦ Nationality: American
✦ Sport: Track and Field Athlete
✦ Achievements: Only woman to win 5 medals (3 Gold) at the 2000 Sydney Olympics
✦ Claim to Ill Fame: Tested positive for a banned substance, lied to the federal agents and was sent to prison
When the BALCO fiasco – the most infamous doping scandal – broke out, Marion Jones was one of the main protagonists who was put to shame after being caught using (an undetectable) performance-enhancing steroid known as “The Clear”. After winning laurels at the 2000 Olympic Games, she was accused of using banned steroids, which she vehemently turned down. Ultimately, in October 2007, she confessed that she had lied to the grand jury about the usage of drugs (for which she was jailed). She suffered the ignominy of handing over her Olympic medals and eventually, hung up her boots.
Rosie Ruiz Vivas
“I feel bad because I ran the race. I guess it all boils down to just not being known.”
(in reply to the attention over her dramatic improvement of 25 minutes since her first marathon)
✦ Born: 1953
✦ Nationality: Cuban American
✦ Sport: Marathon Runner
✦ Claim to Ill Fame: Declared winner at the Boston Marathon (1980), only to have her title stripped after it was divulged that she did not run the entire marathon
Little could deter Rosie in her underhanded mission to clinch the Boston Marathon. On April 21, 1981, Rosie Ruiz “seemed” to win the Boston Marathon with a record-breaking time of 2:31:56. If only it were for real. A probe conducted after the race revealed that she actually came out from the crowd and joined the marathon just half a mile before the race got over. Further, it was revealed that she took the subway to finish the marathon. She was stripped off her Boston victory, and the title was presented to the real winner, Jacqueline Gareau (Canada).
“We both [were] out there trying to do the same thing, which is show the judges who the better figure skater is. I was training so hard. I was ready. … And I wanted to be the best when I finished.”
✦ Born: November 12, 1970
✦ Nationality: American
✦ Sport: Figure Skating
✦ Achievements: Two-time Olympian, and a two-time Skate America Champion
✦ Claim to Ill Fame: Her camp (that included her ex-husband) physically assaulted her competitor, Nancy Kerrigan
A whack that was surely heard loud by one and all became the first modern-day media frenzy. During the ongoing practice sessions for the 1994 US Figure Skating Championships (Detroit), Nancy Kerrigan – Tonya’s competitor – was attacked by assailants (her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, and her bodyguard hired Shane Stant) in the knee with a metal baton, forcing her to withdraw from the Championship. Tonya went on to clinch that event. Later on, she admitted to covering up the attack. Despite this, she was allowed to compete in the Olympics, where Tonya finished a dissatisfactory 8th while Nancy acquired the silver.
“… un poco con la cabeza de Maradona y otro poco con la mano de Dios.” (a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God).
✦ Born: October 30, 1960
✦ Nationality: Argentine
✦ Sport: Football
✦ Achievements: Earned 91 appearances and scored 34 goals (while playing for the national team)
✦ Claim to Ill Fame: “Hand of God” – the dodgy goal he handballed in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal between England and Argentina
Mention the ‘Hand of God’ to football-frenzy fans and the chances are they will recollect the quarterfinal handball (first of the two goals) he flicked over Peter Shilton during the 1986 World Cup; he was offside at that time. However, the dicey goal got the better of the officials, because in the next four minutes he scored a goal that went on to be called the “Goal of the Century.” Argentina won that World Cup.
“I’d like to say my name is Benjamin Sinclair Johnson Jr, and this world record will last 50 years – maybe 100.”
(on setting a world record of 9.79s at the 1988 Summer Olympics, which was revoked after he was tested positive for steroids)
✦ Born: December 30, 1961
✦ Nationality: Canadian
✦ Sport: Sprinter
✦ Achievements: 2 Olympic bronze medals and an Olympic gold (which he was later stripped off)
✦ Claim to Ill Fame: Tested positive for Stanozolol, a banned substance
Ben Johnson was notorious for trying deceitful methods to become the fastest man on Earth. During the 1984 Olympic final held in Los Angeles, he tried to unnerve Carl Lewis with a deliberate false start, but in vain. At the next Summer Olympics in Seoul, 1988 he won the 100m final, clocking 9.79s, taking down his own world record. However, within 48 hours of that victory, it was found that his urine samples confirmed the intake of Stanozolol. He was later disqualified, and his medals were rescinded. After having served a suspension period, his return was interrupted when he was nailed for the use of excess testosterone in 1993, after which he was banned for life.
“Tabloid sting will follow me to grave … so will four world titles.”
✦ Born: May 18, 1975
✦ Nationality: Scottish
✦ Sport: Snooker
✦ Achievements: World Champion in 1998, 2007, 2009, and 2011
✦ Claim to Ill Fame: Allegedly agreed to accept an illegal payment to lose frames in 4 unspecified matches
On May 2, 2010, Higgins and his manager faced match-fixing allegations after they both were caught on tape and video in a sting operation (conducted by the News of the World newspaper), evidently agreeing to lose frames in four future tournaments (that were not stated) for a sum of €300,000. The tape also revealed discussions on how the games were to be fixed, and the method of transferring the bribe amount to Higgins. Once the news broke out, he was immediately suspended from the game. After a complete investigation was conducted into this matter — he was declared guilty of appearing to violate betting rules, and not reporting the sting made by the News of the World team, he was handed a 6-month ban and fined £75,000.
“I tried to live a Christian life and walk the way the Lord wanted me to walk… I allowed Satan and the world to dictate terms to me.”
✦ From: September 25, 1969 to June 1, 2002
✦ Nationality: South African
✦ Sport: Cricket
✦ Achievements: Captained the National team; Runs Scored: 3714 in ODIs and 5565 in Tests; Wickets: 43 in ODIs and 114 in Tests
✦ Claim to Ill Fame: Made a secret plot with an Indian betting syndicate to lose a few games
In April 7, 2000, the Delhi Police announced that they had evidence of an alleged match fixing from a recorded conversation between Hansie Cronje and Sanjay Chawla (who represented a betting group). On April 11, Cronje was sacked from the captaincy when he admitted to accepting a bribe ($10,000 to $15,000) from a London-based bookie for predicting results – not match-fixing. When the King’s Commission was set up to investigate the allegations, further revelations were made by him. In 1996, he accepted money ($30,000) from an Indian bookie to forfeit a match. He also received $50,000 for providing team information. Later in 2000, he was offered $140,000 to forfeit the fifth ODI of the one-day series against India (with Gibbs, Strydom, and Boje expected to underplay during the match). Post his revelations, he was awarded a life ban from playing cricket and coaching.
“For three years I lived the life of a girl. It was most dull.”
(As told to the Time Magazine by Dora)
✦ From: November 20, 1918 to April 22, 2008
✦ Nationality: German
✦ Sport: High Jump
✦ Achievements: Won a gold at the European Athletics Championships (1938)
✦ Claim to Ill Fame: Competed in the women’s high jump category, but was later discovered to be male
Dora Ratjen, a.k.a Heinrich Ratjen who participated in the women’s high jump at the Berlin Olympics in 1936, finished fourth. Further in 1938, Ratjen struck gold with a record jump of 1.67 m at the European Athletics Championships. In the same year, while traveling on an express train from Vienna to Cologne, a conductor informed the police about ‘a man being dressed as woman.’ This incident led to the unfolding of Ratjen’s correct gender. Dora, or more correctly Heinrich, revealed to the Time Magazine that he was pressurized by the Nazis to pose as a woman ‘for the sake of the honor and glory of Germany.’
“Up until now and from the time they suspended me, I felt good. The only thing I didn’t feel good about was being suspended. … Sincerely, I didn’t do anything illegal but I’m okay because I know I’m a clean fighter.”
(on being asked about the hand wrap controversy, after he announced his retirement)
✦ Born: March 18, 1978
✦ Nationality: Mexican-American
✦ Sport: Professional Boxer
✦ Achievements: Former WBA, WBO, and IBF Welterweight Champion
✦ Claim to Ill Fame: Tampered hand wraps, which contained a substance similar to Plaster of Paris
Prior to a boxing match with his competitor Shane Mosley, Mosley’s trainer spotted Margarito’s hand wraps containing a pasty substance. Following this, Antonio was asked to rewrap his boxing gloves thrice. Similarly tampered hand wraps were seized from his dressing room and sent for an examination. Results confirmed the presence of a substance similar to Plaster of Paris, after which he was suspended. During his hearing, he denied knowing about any such thing while his trainer admitted to placing wrong inserts into the hand wraps. As he was responsible for his coach’s action as head of team, he was banned from boxing in the US.