Performance-enhancing drugs are not just a part of the sports and athletics scene for men. Female athletes are very much in the thick of things when it comes to doping, steroids and other illegal substances used to get that extra edge in an ultra-competitive environment. Why wouldn't they be? There is a lot on the line for these women! From runners to cyclists, soccer players and race car drivers, there isn't a sport that hasn't had a potential controversy over a female athlete being the target of speculation or the result of an investigation. When caught, the punishments have been harsh.
Not everyone gets caught, however. There are a number of female athletes who we might think have been using the juice or some other form of illegal substance to dominate their sport but we don't really know for certain. Are they just so good that the fans and the media need any reason to knock them down a peg? Or, did they actually do something that would warrant such speculation.
We've put a list together of 15 female athletic competitors who have been at the center of the steroid controversy. Some of these women got caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Others almost did but we can't prove it. Finally, some are squeaky clean. Want to know who is who?
15 Never Did: Lindsey Vonn
She looks great and she's one of the most decorated female athletes ever, having won four World Cup Championships in alpine ski racing. She also won a gold medal in downhill racing in 2010. She won eight World Cup season titles, five Super-G titles, and 20 World Cup crystal globe titles. Anyone that good these days has to be on something right?
The worst we can say for Lindsey Vonn is that she made a poor decision by dating Tiger Woods and getting caught with some steamy photos that leaked on the Internet. As for her history with performance-enhancing drugs, and pretty much everything else, she seems squeaky clean. She's even managed to do so in the face of some pretty serious injuries which is often how people get on PED's in the first place.
14 Clearly Did: Kelli White
Kelli White was a gold medal winner twice at the 2003 World Championships in Paris, France. She was also a huge cheater. As part of the (BALCO) Scandal, White was caught using performance-enhancers in 2004 and all her previous medal wins were nullified. She started using after she competed in 2002 and didn't do very well. The pressure of underperforming must have gotten to her and the only way that she could find a solution was to start cutting corners and taking shortcuts. She was banned for two years by USADA (the United States Anti-Doping Agency) in May of 2004 and by 2006 she had retired from running track. Either she couldn't handle the pressure of getting caught or she couldn't win without the drugs.
13 Never Did: Ronda Rousey
She dominated mixed martial arts for years and every time she fought a competitor (until her last couple fights) she would destroy her opponents in a matter of seconds. Naturally, people might have thought she was taking PED's (performance-enhancing drugs). After all, there were a ton of people in the UFC who were getting caught taking substances banned by USADA.
Now, she may be a part of the WWE trying to carve out a professional wrestling career and they test on a regular basis through their Wellness Policy. She has the potential to be WWE's biggest female star in history and her best bet would be to ensure she doesn't get caught up in using illegal substances and wrecking her chances before she realizes her potential. As far as we know, she's been clean to date.
12 Clearly Did: Marion Jones
Not only did Olympian and former WNBA player Marion Jones get caught for using illegal steroids during her run in the 2000 Summer Olympics (she won three gold and two bronze), she was sentenced to jail for six months when she lied about it and some other illegal activities in 2008.
Jones was stripped of all her medals that came after her 1997 and 1999 wins when she finally confessed and was all over the news. Jones was probably the most famous female athlete linked to the BALCO Scandal. To make matters worse, people romantically linked to Jones were caught too. That included her ex-husband C.J. Hunter and sprinter Tim Montgomery who fathered her first child. Jones was suspended for two years from track and field and retired pretty much right after that.
11 Never Did: Danica Patrick
Danica Patrick is far too awesome to be clean right? She's one of the most popular female athletes ever and it just hurts the media and others that there really hasn't been much in the way of scandals surrounding her. Except, she's not completely squeaky clean. Back in 2009, she did an interview where she was asked if she could get away with using performance-enhancing drugs, would she? It was a question to which many were surprised to hear her say a resounding yes, as long as she didn't get caught.
She came back later and tried to clear the air when that response got her in a lot of hot water. It was all a joke when asked again. Since then, there hasn't been any proof she's done anything but many believe she would have or could have.
10 Clearly Did: Hope Solo
Hope Solo is undeniably attractive. She's also a bit nutty. As part of the U.S. Olympic soccer team, she became quite famous. When she competed on "Dancing With the Stars", she became a household name. It helped make her famous when she also tested positive for a substance listed on the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's list of banned substances. She claimed not to know anything about it, saying her doctor prescribed pre-menstrual medicine that created the flag and was let off with a warning. Solo was also arrested for assault in 2014 when she abused her half-sister and nephew. She became a poster child for a double standard in sports as many other athletes were forced to sit out their respective sports while charged with a crime, but she was allowed to play. Just because she wasn't officially nailed for using PED's, most people believe there is a good chance she was doing something illegal.
9 Never Did: Laila Ali
Laila Ali was a female boxer who was following in the footsteps of her very famous father Muhammad Ali. She retired undefeated after having held the WBC, WIBA, IWBF and IBA female super middleweight titles, and the IWBF light heavyweight title. Some might wonder if anyone this famous and part of such a special legacy could get through her career without bowing to the pressure, but she did just fine. The worst she's had thrown at her is that she's ducked challenges from other female boxers to keep her shining record unblemished. Ali claimed those deals never came through for financial reasons. She's gone on to a very famous television and entertainment career. All without the scandal of taking steroids.
8 Clearly Did: Chyna
Chyna was a famous WWE competitor and one of the most muscular women to ever lace up a pair of boots in the professional wrestling industry. While she was never suspended or there was never a huge scandal around her use of steroids or PED's, (she was popular before the WWE Wellness Policy really kicked in), she was likely all over them.
When Chyna passed away she had spent years struggling with substance abuse. Her life spiralled out of control and her use of illegal substances and depression ultimately became the end of her. In a time that a lot of WWE Superstars were taking things, she was one of the biggest athletes, male or female. Most everyone knows she was taking something illegal. She just never got officially busted for it.
7 Never Did: Serena Williams
Take one look at her and you'll think Serena Williams is taking every imaginable enhancer there is. She's absolutely jacked! She also happens to be one of the more decorated female tennis players in history and her size and skill naturally lead people to believe she's just at an unfair advantage. She doesn't and hasn't used steroids.
Williams is, in fact, one of the most respected athletes in all of sports. She's created a huge winning brand for herself, tied herself to fantastic causes and made friends with some extremely influential people. She would jeopardize all of that by making a foolish decision on the back nine of her tennis career. Williams is the kind of athlete people should emulate and not think took shortcuts to achieve her success.
6 Clearly Did: Tammy Thomas
You hear horror stories of what steroids can do to your system and your body. Tammy Thomas was an evident example of how steroids and people can go badly. She was an Olympic cyclist who got caught for steroid use. She was part of the 2002 USA team and unlike other competitors who you had to rely on tests catching them, it was clear Thomas was on something. She started to look like a man, had gotten huge and showed features exclusive to male athletes. Caught in the BALCO Scandal, she lied, was banned for life from cycling and convicted of perjury by a Grand Jury. Her life was pretty much ruined because of how much junk she took and her body was destroyed leaving her with some serious physical health issues.
5 Never Did: Rosie Ruiz
Rosie Ruiz was not leveled with a steroid scandal or caught using performance-enhancers. That would have been far too much work for her. Instead, she was caught doing something that was arguably worse. She took one of the most sacred races in the history of the world and cheated by not actually racing!
After she apparently won the 1980 Boston Marathon, it was determined that she actually jumped into the race about a half-mile from the finish line and broke her own personal marathon best by over 25 minutes. She set all sorts of marathon records and wasn't even tired. Nobody had seen her racing and she'd checked into the injury station saying she had been injured running which then got her name added to the list of racers. Once she was on, she hopped in and ran the last half-mile. She was disqualified and arrested for a bunch of other stuff later in life. That Rosie Ruiz was a real winner.
4 Clearly Did: Florence Griffith-Joyner
Considered one of the fastest women of all time, Olympic sprinter Florence Griffith-Joyner dominated the racing scene for years. She showed dramatic improvements in her racing times over a short period and other racers like Ben Johnson and Joaquim Cruz believed there was no way she could have achieved those results naturally.
Former teammates testified that they sold her performance enhancers in 1988 and while Daryll Robinson (the man who tried to blow the whistle on Joyner's career) was later booted from the racing scene for not providing sufficient evidence, it was enough to create suspicion. There's no proof Joyner violated the rules but belief is pretty widespread that something was going on. Joyner suspiciously decided to retire from Olympic competition one week after random drug testing was introduced.
3 Never Did: Caster Semenya
This one is an odd one. Less about drugs, Caster Semenya was subject to some strange gender testing after winning medals in 2009. A South-African runner, people believed she was just too good and she was withdrawn from competing until it was proven she was not, in fact, a man. The results of the test were never officially revealed but she was allowed to return to competition so we can assume things came back in her favour. I'm not sure what's worse. Would you rather be accused of taking something you shouldn't have taken or accused of being a different gender because you're just too good to be believable? Fortunately for Semenya, one was probably a lot easier to prove than the other. She ended up medalling again in 2016.
2 Clearly Did: Crystal Cox
Crystal Cox didn't just hurt herself when she was caught taking anabolic steroids but her use of illegal substances almost cost her entire teammates of their 2004 gold medals. The Associated Press and ESPN.com found out about her steroid abuse between the years of 2001-2004 and as a result, everything she'd won up to that point was now gone. She was suspended for four years. Fortunately, after an investigation, her teammates got to keep their medals.
She eventually popped up on an episode of the reality show Survivor: Gabon and did incredibly poorly in all of the physical challenges. She made it farther in the show than she should have, but it was a serious fall from grace. Nothing like getting caught for using illegal substances and almost dragging everyone down with you.
1 Never Did: Diane Modahl
Diane Modhal was a middle-distance runner who won the 880 m title at the Commonwealth Games. She won a bunch of other medals and afterward a drug test revealed that she had a sample that looked just like one that would have been busted for steroids. The only issue was, she never actually took anything. The way her test was conducted included some major errors in their testing.
She hired a whack of lawyers and professed her innocence all the way through until it was shown that she wasn't guilty. She was reinstated and she eventually wrote a book about her story. She is one of the few people who has been accused of taking a drug test, accused of cheating and was later proven innocent.