While sport can bring tumultuous joy to fans around the world with moments of inspired wonder and ecstasy, there are times when its heroes and their ill-judged actions bring the sporting world to its knees.
Below are some of the biggest scandals to have rocked the world of sport.
Allegations of doping have been rife in cycling’s premier competition the Tour de France since its inception at the turn of the 20th century. But no cyclist caused more controversy than Lance Armstrong, the seven-time winner. After years of denying accusations of using performance-enhancing drugs and blood transfusions, the world’s greatest cyclist came clean in January 2013. He was stripped of his titles and banned from racing for life.
Operation Puerto’s blood bags
Operación Puerto was the code name used by Spanish police investigating doctor Eufemiano Fuentes (pictured), the mastermind behind the country’s biggest doping ring that involved many of the world’s most famous cyclists. Following a 2006 raid of Fuentes’ office, over 200 blood bags were seized understood to belong to Spanish athletes from tennis, football, boxing and track and field, as well as cycling. Incredibly, the Spanish courts ordered the destruction of the bags rather than turning them over to anti-doping authorities to discover their identities. The ex-chief of the World Anti-Doping Agency labelled the decision as “seriously undermining the credibility of sport.”
Hand of God
During the 1986 World Cup quarter final between Argentina and England, one of the world’s greatest ever players scored the most scandalous goal in history. Diego Maradona – former manager of Al Wasl – scored two goals that day, one was labelled “The Goal of the Century” while the man himself came up with the name for the other – “The Hand of God”.
The second most successful golfer of all time and the world’s first billion dollar sportsman crashed his car into a fire hydrant outside his Florida home at 2 am on 12 January, 2009. What unravelled from that moment was the most public of out comings as Woods was forced to admit to and apologise for a string of marital affairs and take an indefinite leave from golf. The 14-time major winner has since returned to the sport and on several occasions this year has not looked far off his best form. However he is still to win a major since his comeback.
“The Dirtiest Race In History”
The men’s 100 metres is the pinnacle of every summer Olympic games, often becoming the most notable of images from each four-year cycle. But the 1988 race in Seoul is remembered for the wrong reasons. Canada’s Ben Johnson beat the United States’ Carl Lewis with a world record time of 9.79 seconds. But shortly afterwards, Johnson tested positive for steroid use, his record time becoming void. Carl Lewis was rightfully handed the gold medal, and the two runners-up were promoted in turn. The race was nicknamed “the dirtiest race in history”.
Formula One has a history of scandalous stories covering the last two decades, but one of the more alarming incidents was that of ‘crashgate’. Nelson Piquet Jr. – driving for the Renault team in the 2008 season – was on the 14th lap of the Singapore Grand Prix when he crashed into the wall at turn seventeen. What seemed like an over-zealous piece of driving from a rookie driver later turned out to be a deliberate move on the orders of his team, in order to benefit Renault’s other driver Fernando Alonso. Manager Flavio Briatore was suspended from Formula One indefinitely and chief engineer Pat Symonds received a five-year ban. Nelson Piquet Jr. hasn’t raced in F1 since, instead plying his trade in Nascar.
Sporting rivals can often be competitive with one another but most are aware of how to toe the line. In 1994 ice skater Tonya Harding (right) obliterated that line in one of the most sickening examples of an athlete’s desperation to win. Her rival, Nancy Kerrigan (left), had just finished practicing ahead of the U.S. figure skating championships when a man confronted her and struck her across the leg with a metal pole, before fleeing the scene. What seemed like a random attack later proved to be anything but when Harding admitted she had paid the man to break Kerrigan’s leg. The plan backfired though when at the following Olympics, Kerrigan finished with a silver medal, while Harding placed eighth.
Pakistan Cricket Spot-Fixing
A gentleman’s game it might be but cricket has had its fair share of match-fixing scandals over the years. One of the more recent was the match between Pakistan and England when two of the Pakistani bowlers – Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir (pictured) – bowled several no balls during the away side’s innings. Innocent enough. However a newspaper sting found that along with their captain Salman Butt, the players were part of a spot-fixing scheme to bowl no balls at pre-decided moments in exchange for large sums of money. All three players received bans from the governing body the ICC, ranging from five to 10 years, and all served short periods in prison.