Five scandals in sports history that rocked the world from the Tour de France, the World Cup, the Winter Olympics, Baseball and the Paralympic Olympics.
Society looks up to athletes as role models. Countless superstar athletes have even become influencers and political icons. As their voice carries weight on key societal issues, polishing their brand image is now part of the job. But being in the public’s eye has its drawback. And when athletes’ flaws are exposed, they fall from grace as quickly as they had been put on a pedestal. Below, we look at some of the biggest scandals that shook the sports world.
In the 2006 Tour de France race, Floyd Landis was lagging behind. But after a meltdown on stage 16, Landis made a miraculous comeback during the next round. The American cyclist went on to win the Tour de France. Yet, his spectacular victory arose suspicions. Landis was eventually tested positive for testosterone and stripped of his Tour de France title.
But the scandal was barely starting. Landis later implicated many top world cyclists, including his former teammate, Lance Armstrong. Seven-time champion of the Tour de France, Armstrong was found guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs and stripped of all his achievements. So was another Tour de France victor, Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde, amidst soaring doping controversies.
Some scandals are the stuff of legend. And Diego Maradona’s Hand of God definitely went down in history. The controversy took place during the 1986 Soccer World Cup. Argentina was facing England during the cup’s quarterfinal. The game was a draw until Maradona tapped the ball with his hand and scored. The referee allowed the goal, but the entire world had seen this blatant cheat.
Argentina eventually defeated England and won the tournament. But it wasn’t until 2005 that Maradona admitted to touching the ball with his hand. The late Argentinian icon never apologized, though, adding to the myth.
Harding and Kerrigan
The feud between ice skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan is probably one of the most unethical scandals in sports history. In 1994, Kerrigan was attacked with a metal pole six weeks ahead of the Winter Olympics, leaving her leg badly bruised. Two days after the assault, Kerrigan’s rival Tonya Harding won the U.S. Figure Skating Championship title.
Faced with increasing suspicion, Harding eventually accused her ex-husband and bodyguard of plotting the attack. She was temporarily banned from skating, but finally performed at the Olympics. Having recovered from her injury, Kerrigan secured a silver medal while Harding placed eight, bringing the scandal to a satisfactory ending.
Unfortunately, sports controversies are as old as time. And back in 1919, the Black Sox Scandal shook the baseball world. During the World Series, the White Sox were accused of purposefully losing their game against the Cincinnati Reds. It turned out that eight players had, indeed, thrown away the match in exchange for a gambling syndicate’s money. The NFL later banned all players involved for life, including on-field mastermind Arnold Gandil.
Many other gambling scandals tainted sports history in the following years, from the NBA to the NHL. Yet, sports gambling is now under greater scrutiny. Sports betting is safer than ever, thanks in no small part to online platforms. Online bookies offer secure banking options with top-notch encryption technology that preserves your personal details. All the best sports betting websites like SBO are licensed by national authorities to avoid scams. On the plus side, they also offer generous bonuses. So, you can bet on any sports you’d like in all fairness and transparency.
Spanish Paralympic basketball team
The biggest fraud in the history of the Paralympics happened during the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The Spanish Paralympic team had just claimed the gold medal at the intellectually disabled basketball tournament. But in fact, ten out of twelve players were faking their disability. The truth behind the cheat unravelled after Spanish sports paper Marca published a photo of their victory celebration, and readers came forward to reveal some players were not disabled.
The team’s former boss was convicted thirteen years later. Yet, this blatant deceit had long-lasting consequences for all ID athletes, who were banned from competing until the 2012 London Olympics.
Scandals are a sad downside to sports. And athletes are fallible, just like everyone else. Still, there is a silver lining. Indeed, epic and inspirational moments in sports history far outweigh even the most disgraceful scandals.