The active life of an athlete is something relatively short. In some sports, we get to see athletes playing the game well into their 40s, but the rule of thumb is that in the vast majority of sports when you reach the tender age of 35 you should already be getting ready for your retirement. It is kind of sad since these guys and gals provide the public with much-needed entertainment and amazement. At the same time, these are people who get paid a lot of money, which certainly makes up for the short lifespan of their careers. There are even sports in which athletes in their mid-20s are already considered old. Yes, gymnastics, we are looking at you.
Either way, the career path of most athletes is very similar. They come into the game as a young prospect, some become superstars, but the majority become the people who fill the spots in the middle of the pack. The end of their careers is also similar. The ones who made a lot of money will retire and enjoy their spoils of war for the rest of their lives, while the majority will try to get another job in order to support themselves and their children. However, there are some great athletes who stray from that path. We are talking about disgraced athletes. These are the guys and gals who did terrible things and ended up falling from grace. In order to show you what not to do, we separated a little list of 15 sad photos of athletes after they fell from grace.
15 Oscar Pistorius
What better way to start a list like this than with a man who fell from grace in a movie-like fashion? Oscar Pistorius was a pioneer when it comes to disabled athletes being able to compete with the regular bunch. Pistorius was a hero for everyone when he became the first sprinter with prosthetic legs to participate in the Olympics. This guy did something no one thought would ever happen. He qualified for the Olympics on his own merit. There was no politics behind it. The guy just ran faster than almost everyone in his country.
Nevertheless, Pistorius quickly went from hero to villain when he was arrested for murdering his girlfriend. Yes, this is the kind of story you usually only see in the movies.
14 O.J. Simpson
Since we are talking about murderers (cough, cough, alleged murderers), we see no reason to avoid putting this right at the top of our list. No athlete became as notorious for being accused of murder as the former football star, O.J. Simpson. It is not every day that you see a Pro Football Hall of Famer being tried for two counts of murder. OJ’s story is so worthy of a movie script that we can’t even count how many documentaries have been made about his trial.
In what could only be called one of the greatest lawyer moves in history, OJ’s lawyer managed to get the former athlete acquitted of the charges. Unfortunately, OJ went on to commit multiple armed robberies and unavoidably went to jail. Either way, according to the law he at least did not commit the murders.
13 Paul Gascoigne
Paul Gascoigne was one of England's brightest young football stars at one point. His performance at the 1990 World Cup won many people's hearts. He earned 57 caps for England and spent the prime of his career playing in Italy's Serie A, where he became known as Gazza. But Gascoigne's substance abuse problems have had him in and out of rehab for years and frankly, it's a miracle he's still alive today. Here was Gascoigne perhaps at his lowest point, as he was caught exposing himself in public after walking out in just a bathrobe. In 2017, Gascoigne entered rehab again, and apparently lived through the year "alcohol free". Let's hope he never sinks this low again.
12 Aaron Hernandez
One of the most recent cases of athletes falling from grace was the story of former New England Patriot and Super Bowl runner-up, Aaron Hernandez. The guy formed one of the deadliest tight end duos in the NFL playing alongside Rob Gronkowski and catching passes from Tom Brady. Oh yeah, he was also a national champion with the University of Florida during his college days. But becoming an NFL star was not enough for Hernandez, as he had to ruin everything because of a fight.
It was in 2013 that Hernandez was arrested for allegedly killing one of his friends, a guy called Odin Lloyd. Everything went downhill from there as his football career was finished, and he was sentenced to life in prison. A sentence Hernandez served until he committed suicide in April 2017. One of the last photos taken of him was Hernandez blowing a kiss to his daughter. With the events that happened a few days later, the kiss goodbye makes you feel for the girl.
11 Ryan Lochte
Most people lose endorsements and their jobs because of things they did. Better yet, they lose those things because of things that happened. Here is the exception. In what was arguably one of the dumbest moves ever, Ryan Lochte managed to single-handedly kill his swimming career by fabricating a story during the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Perhaps you are familiar with the story, but it is so funny that we cannot help but go through the facts again. Lochte and his buddies wanted some attention from the media and decided to tell everyone who would listen that they had been victims of armed robbery. The only problem for them was that there was security video footage that showed that instead of being robbed, Lochte and his crew were drunk out of their minds, fought with a security guard, and broke down a bathroom door at a convenience store.
10 Mike Tyson
Sometimes the greatest athletes are the ones who do the most stupid things. There is no better example of this than Mike Tyson. The guy was arguably one of the most dominant heavyweight boxing champions in history. Let’s just put it this way, by the early 90s, Tyson had already made enough money so that he could spend the rest of his life sleeping with prostitutes every night and still have cash to spare. Hence, there would be no need for him to put himself in harm’s way with the law.
Unfortunately, he didn’t follow that path and allegedly raped an 18-year-old girl in his hotel room. He was convicted of the crime and sentenced to six years in prison. He still returned to boxing after serving his time, but his relationship with the crowd was never the same. Tyson was also forced to register as a sex offender.
9 Tiger Woods
It really is sad that the greatest athletes are the ones with the biggest problems most of the time. Just like Mike Tyson, Tiger Woods had sort of a problem in the bedroom. He didn’t go as far as Tyson and become a criminal for it, but Tiger had his own way of dealing with it. One of the most decorated golfers of all time, Woods went from being a favorite in every single tournament he competed in one night, to becoming the disgrace of the nation the next morning.
Remember how we said Mike Tyson had the money to sleep with a prostitute every night if he wanted to? Well, Tyson might not have followed that path, but Tiger Woods came damn well close to doing it. The guy was a serial cheater who slept with all kinds of women despite being married.
8 JaMarcus Russell
When you think of JaMarcus Russell, you think of one of the biggest wastes of talent in the history of sports. Coming out of LSU, Russell was hailed as the savior for the Oakland Raiders, who drafted him first overall in 2007. However, it didn't take long for Russell to disappoint fans. He often showed up for camp out of shape, he didn't put in the work required for an NFL QB, and his play quickly dipped. He was eventually released by Oakland after three seasons, and proceeded to put on even more weight with no NFL teams showing interest. Russell declared bankruptcy within a couple years after retiring, despite getting $30 million guaranteed in his rookie deal. Russell's in better shape nowadays, but no NFL team has ever offered him a contract again.
7 Ryan Leaf
Ryan Leaf is the perfect follow up to JaMarcus Russell, because for a while, Leaf was considered the biggest QB bust in NFL Draft history. Leaf, like Russell, was known more for his attitude problems and not putting in the work that was necessary to succeed in the NFL. After a couple of seasons, the Chargers released him and Leaf quickly fizzled out of the league. Leaf was in and out of prison several times, including a multi-year sentence for burglary charges. This was definitely Leaf at his lowest, being taken in with his striped jumpsuit and in handcuffs. Fortunately, Leaf has bounced back. Since being released, Leaf has found new purpose as a father and is now a motivational speaker across the United States, trying to help others avoid his mistakes.
6 Tonya Harding
This is yet another story that is worth a movie. Wait, we think there is a movie coming out about Tonya Harding. We don’t know what light she will be shown in, but the facts of the story make it pretty clear that she is the villain in reality. A pioneer for American figure skating, Harding went on to become one of the athletes that spark most controversy among fans.
Her fall from grace happened when she conspired to injure one of her main competitors, Nancy Kerrigan. Alongside her husband, she hired a thug to break Nancy’s leg. Unfortunately for them, the guy was very incompetent, and he only managed to bruise the figure skater. Needless to say, Harding became a disgraced athlete and was banned from competitive figure skating.
5 Michael Vick
Michael Vick didn’t kill any person, but he still might be the worst individual on this list depending on who you ask. The guy was notoriously charged and convicted of running a criminal organization. But that was not what pissed off the public the most. Maybe if he were just a regular criminal, he would not have gotten as much heat as he did. The problem with Vick was that his criminal organization included a dogfighting ring. Yeah, if you want to get people angry at you, killing dogs is the easiest way to do that.
The two-time Pro-Bowler (and maybe even future Hall of Famer) was arrested and had to face 23 months in federal prison. He did manage a return to professional football after he was released from prison in 2009. Still, Vick was never really the same, and the crowd doesn’t seem to have forgiven him.
4 Marion Jones
The woman was once called “the fastest woman alive,” but that dream did not last very long for Marion Jones. We are sure she had her merits in becoming as fast a sprinter as she did, but unfortunately for her and everyone who cheered her on, Marion took a step in the wrong direction. Instead of working hard and making the most out of her natural talent, she decided to take the road of cheating and used steroids to gain an edge on her competition.
We said it once, and we must repeat it because it is the truth. Using performance-enhancing drugs is the lowest thing someone could do in a competitive sport. It is just disrespectful to all of the other athletes who work their butts off to reach the biggest stage only to be defeated by a cheater.
3 Jon Jones
Get ready for a sad story because the tale of Jon Jones is an infuriating one. Not many people are born into this world blessed with the kind of talent that Jon Jones was blessed with. The guy was perhaps the closest thing we ever got to a natural born fighter. He had height, he had strength, he had quickness, he had everything. Jones was probably the last person who would need performance-enhancing drugs to become great.
Nevertheless, he apparently didn’t see it that way. The guy was already dominant in the UFC, and no one thought he could ever be defeated. Still, Jones went down a rabbit hole of using drugs and steroids that ultimately led to him being basically banned from the UFC after getting several chances at a comeback.
2 Johnny Manziel
Johnny Manziel has hit some really low points since blowing his shot of being an NFL quarterback, and we wonder if anyone has any sympathy left for Johnny Football. Manziel elected to spend his spare time partying instead of practicing and preparing for games. Most of his Browns teammates were happy to see him go after the team cut him following two seasons. Since being released, no team has offered Manziel a contract and there's a possibility of Manziel going up to Canada to play in the CFL to revitalize his career. There are countless photos on the internet of Manziel appearing to be intoxicated and not learning from his past mistakes. His own father came out in an interview with ESPN to say he was truly concerned for his son's well being.
1 Ben Johnson
The late 80s were a heaven for sprinters. The competition was fierce, and the world didn’t have a single overwhelming talent like Usain Bolt. The year 1988 might have just been one of the best years in terms of competition in the 100-meter dash. And that year’s Olympic Games followed the trend with one fantastic final.
The man who came out on top of that race was the then world record holder, Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson. Johnson won the gold medal with a time of 9.79, which would have been a new world record if no one had found out that he used steroids before the competition. Yes, the man could have been an Olympic champion, but because of steroids, the gold medal went to the American sensation, Carl Lewis.