Many children around the world see professional athletes as role models, people they want to grow up to be like. Many parents also view professional athletes as good role models for their children to look up to. More often than not athletes are great people and are very deserving of the adoration they receive from parents and children alike.
There are, however, always exceptions to the rule. Throughout sports there have been many athletes who have used poor judgement in their personal or professional lives that have ended up costing them their careers. Sometimes the repercussions can be worse, and cost them their freedoms and rights as a person. Athletes, just like everybody else, face temptations in life and sometimes, the temptations just become too much for a person to resist.
Temptations such as drugs, sex, and status can cause people do things they normally would never do. When a professional athlete succumbs to such temptations they risk losing more than just their careers. Professional athletes are so often forced into a spotlight that they may never have expected or even wanted, that when they mess up or give in, while the entire world is watching.
There have been many instances when an athlete has committed a crime or made a mistake that costed them dearly. Today we will take a look at the 15 worst instances of a professional athlete ruining their life by making bad decisions. There are a few athletes that I am sure will jump right into your head when you start to brainstorm who could be on the list, but there are some other less "high profile" athletes you may have forgotten about, or just never knew about at all. Before you give yourself a brain cramp trying to think of all 15 lets get into the list. As always feel free to let us know who we forgot in the comments below.
15 Barry Bonds
Barry Bonds was once regarded by some as the greatest baseball player to ever play the game. His career statistics stand as some of the greatest ever produced by a Major League Baseball player. During the late 1990s and early 2000s Barry Bonds was alleged to use HGH and other steroids to enhance his already incredible skills.
Bonds' statistics skyrocketed as a result of the performance enhancing drugs, but his steadfast denial of using steroids has resulted in him being denied entry into the Hall of Fame and it is likely that he will never hear his name called into Cooperstown.
14 Lenny Dykstra
Lenny Dykstra was a three time All-Star for the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets; he was a standout on the 1986 Mets team that won the World Series. Dykstra was know as a clutch, gritty, scrappy, win at all costs type of player on the diamond. Unfortunately Dykstra was accused of being a shady, untrustworthy individual off the field. The former Met center fielder was also included in the Mitchell Report, accusing him of using HGH during his playing career.
Dykstra has had nine incidents in which the police or other law enforcement officials were forced to get involved. In 2011, he was arrested and charged with 25 misdemeanor and felony counts of grand theft auto, identity theft, filing false financial statements, possession of cocaine, and possession of ecstasy. Dykstra was ultimately sentenced to three years in prison for his crimes.
13 Pete Rose
The all-time hit leader in baseball history falls in at number 13 on this list. "Charlie Hustle" was one of the most intense and competitive athletes of all-time, however his competitive fire is what ultimately get him in trouble. It was revealed that during his days as a player/manager, Rose bet on games that he had direct impact on.
Rose denied the claims for decades until recently in 2007, when he admitted to the gambling; he admittedly denies ever betting against his own team. Rose has been banned from baseball since 1991 and his lifetime ban still stands today. Rose was also charged with tax evasion in 1990, perhaps a byproduct of the gambling habit.
12 Lamar Odom
Lamar Odom had a sparkling NBA career, he spent time with many different teams, but had his greatest success with the Los Angeles Lakers. Odom was part of two NBA Championship Laker teams, sharing the court with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. As good as the move to L.A. was for his basketball career, it was equally as bad for his personal life.
While in L.A. he met celebrity Khloe Kardashian, and subsequently appeared on the network television reality show Keeping up with the Kardashians. The fame that came along with the show was a different type than Odom was accustomed to, and he began to unravel.
Once Odom was traded away from the Lakers in 2011, he was quickly out of the NBA and found himself struggling with addiction. In 2015 Odom was found unconscious in a Nevada brothel, Odom was put on life support for several days until finally regaining consciousness. His recovery has been a slow, and publicized one.
11 Michael Vick
Michael Vick was a superstar NFL quarterback with the Atlanta Falcons before he was found to be the kingpin behind a vicious dog fighting ring. Vick changed the way the quarterback position was viewed, his athleticism and speed combined with his uncanny arm strength made him a never before seen oddity at the position.
In 2007 , Vick pleaded guilty to the dog fighting charges and was suspended indefinitely by the NFL. The quarterback would ultimately spent three years in prison for the felony charges and also filled for bankruptcy in 2008. Vick has since done his best to bounce back from such horrible decisions, making a comeback in the NFL in 2010. He has redeemed himself off the field to an extent, donating time and money to anti-animal abuse causes. If it was not for his minor redemption, Vick would be placed much higher on this list.
10 Marion Jones
Marion Jones is regarded as one of the most athletic females the world has ever seen. She was talented enough to have a career in the WNBA as well as winning 17 Olympic medals. Jones, however, was stripped of nine of those medals due to her involvement in the BALCO performance enhancing drug investigation.
Jones initially denied any wrong doing, vehemently denying any involvement with BALCO. In 2007 Jones admitted to her involvement and use of steroids, which she previously lied about under oath to federal agents. Jones was also involved in a check-fraud case, which landed her in prison for six6 months a year after her steroid scandal.
9 Ryan Leaf
Ryan Leaf was the 2nd overall selection in the 1998 NFL draft, he along with fellow draft class mate Peyton Manning were touted as the next big things in football. Leaf's career never panned out as it was expected, in large part due to his terrible decision making skills. Leaf was repeatedly given chances to blossom into the player most thought he would be, but due to his inability to cooperate with coaches and other players, his career never materialized.
After his playing days were over he continued down the same path, being indicted on burglary and controlled substance charges in 2009. In 2012, he was arrested on burglary, theft and drug charges, and four days later he was arrested again on burglary, theft, and two counts of criminal possession of dangerous drugs.
After breaking the terms of his probation agreement Leaf was placed in a Montana state penitentiary in 2014, and was sentenced to 5 years in prison with time served.
8 Ray Rice
Ray Rice was a quality running back with the Baltimore Ravens for five seasons. In 2014, Rice, and then fiancé (now wife), Janay Palmer were in an Atlantic City hotel for a vacation. Rice and Palmer, admittedly had been drinking and got into an argument in the hotel.
While in the hotel elevator Rice struck Palmer in the face, rendering her unconscious. Surveillance videos show Rice striking and dragging his unconscious girlfriend into the lobby. Rice was ultimately suspended for one year by the NFL, after initially being suspended for two games. Since the incident Rice has not played a game, nor has he even been invited to join an NFL roster.
7 Plaxico Burress
Plaxico Burress was a star wide receiver in the NFL for over a decade during the 2000s. Burgess was a huge part of the New York Giants team that beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Though he was a genius on the field, Burress, was not thinking very clearly when he brought an unregistered gun into a New York nightclub in 2008.
At the time it was a felony offense to possess an unregistered firearm in the state of New York. Burress' biggest mistake was made when he accidentally pulled the trigger of the firearm, as he was trying to readjust it. He ended up shooting himself in the thigh and also exposing himself as having an unregistered firearm in his possession.
In 2009, Burress accepted a plea deal that put him in prison for two years with an additional two years of supervised release. After his release from prison he was given another chance at playing football, but he never was able to regain the status he once had.
6 Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong had build himself an empire after he overcame testicular cancer and became an American hero. The cyclist was the face behind "Livestrong" movement, and the yellow rubber band that everyone wore around their wrist. Armstrong was accused of doping to give himself an edge over his competition, an allegation, that for a long time, had no proof of Armstrong ever actually doping.
It wasn't until 2013 that Armstrong finally admitted to his doping over the years. While Armstrong was dominating the world of cycling he was accused of cheating by many, even his own teammates reported seeing him inject performance enhancing drugs into his body.
Lance stood firm on his denial and ruined other athletes' careers along the way to protect his own name. Ultimately Lance admitted to all the cheating he had done during an interview with Oprah Winfrey. Armstrong is still fighting lawsuits against him by many competitors and corporations to this day.
5 Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods had it all, he was on track to be the greatest golfer of all-time, he had a beautiful wife and children, and million dollar endorsement deals with AT&T, Gillette, and Gatorade. Seemingly Woods would lose it all in the middle of the night, during November of 2009.
After reports of infidelity, Woods left his Miami home in his Cadillac Escalade, and as he returned, he crashed into a fire hydrant, and then a tree, and then finally came to a stop in the middle of some hedges.
This was the beginning of the end for Tiger Woods as his wife Elin Nordegren left him after he came clean about his massive amount of infidelities in their marriage. After admitting to his transgressions, Woods checked himself into a sex-rehab clinic. Woods has not won a major golf tournament since 2009, and has been a shell of his former self.
4 Rae Carruth
Rae Carruth was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the first round of the 1997 NFL draft. He was expected to be a very productive player for the already talented Panthers team, and finally help them reach the promise land. Carruth, however, never did live up to those expectations.
In 1999 Carruth assisted in the murder of his then pregnant girlfriend Cherica Adams; Adams was shot four times by an associate of Carruth. Amazingly, Adams was able to call the police after being shot, and she told police that Carruth was involved. She claimed the former Panther stopped his car in front of hers, and when she stopped a car pulled up next to her and opened fire.
Adams was eight months pregnant with Carruth's child when she was shot. The baby was delivered by the way of an emergency C-section while Adams was still in a coma as of a result of the shooting. Carruth was able to post a $3 million bail on the condition that he would turn himself in pending the death of his child or Adams.
Adams died in December of 1999, and Carruth fled authorities. He was found the next day hiding in the trunk of a car outside of a motel. Also in the trunk with him was $3,900 cash, bottles of his urine, extra clothes, candy bars, and a cell phone. Carruth was sentenced to 18-24 years in prison for his role in the heinous crime.
3 Oscar Pistorius
Oscar Pistorius had one of the greatest stories in Olympic history, becoming a sprinter despite having had his legs amputated from the knees down when he was 11 months old. He was considered a South African hero, as he won six gold medals over the course of three different Olympic Games.
On Valentines Day 2013 Pistorius' life took a different turn as he shot and killed his girlfriend, South African model Reeve Steenkamp. Pistorius claims it was an accident and he mistook her for a burglar, however, Pistorius shot Steenkamp four times from behind a bathroom door. In 2014 he was found guilty of culpable homicide and was sentenced to five years in prison. He spent only one year in prison, and is now under house arrest as he awaits a new trial. The courts have overturned his culpable homicide charge and he is now pending trial for a murder charge, which could see him receive 15 more years in prison.
2 O.J. Simpson
O. J. Simpson had the world in his hands, after an iconic NFL career and his successful transition into television and movies. His life took a turn for the worse when Simpson was charged and tried for the murders of his wife Nicole, and her friend Ronald Goldman. Simpson was found not guilty of murder in 1995, in one of the most controversial cases in American history.
In 1997 Simpson was taken to civil court by the Goldman family and this time he was found liable for the wrongful death of Goldman and Brown. Simpson was ordered to pay $33.5 million in damages to the Goldman family. O. J. was forced to auction his Heisman Trophy and other memorabilia to help cover the costs.
In 1999 the state of California put a tax lien on Simpson for unpaid taxes and in 2003 Simpson was arrested for simple assault when he got into an altercation with a fellow driver on the streets of Miami.
Simpson's troubles continued in 2007 when he and some associates broke into a Las Vegas casino and robbed them at gun point for sports memorabilia, things O. J. claimed to have had been stolen from him previously. Simpson has been incarcerated since 2013 and will have his next hearing in 2017.
1 Aaron Hernandez
Aaron Hernandez was on his way to a stellar career and potentially many Super Bowl titles with the New England Patriots; Hernandez was not ready for that life. Hernandez having grown up in Bristol, Connecticut had many ties to gangs in the area, and he was unable to break away from the gang life as his career progressed.
Hernandez's legal troubles began when he was a 17-year-old freshman at the University of Florida, during an incident where he was drunk at a restaurant and refused to pay his bill. When the restaurant manager escorted him outside, Hernandez punched the man in the side of the head and punctured his eardrum.
In 2007 Hernandez was involved in an incident where three men were shot and wounded while stopped at a red-light. Hernandez was identified as the shooter, but he was able to elude any criminal charges at the time thanks to great legal work by his lawyers.
During 2013 Hernandez was officially released by the Patriots after he was charged with murdering semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd. In 2015, Hernandez was found guilty of murder in the first degree, a charge that in Massachusetts carries a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Since the verdict in the Lloyd case, Hernandez has had two other cases put against him, one for attempted murder, and one for witness intimidation. Needless to say, Hernandez will be spending the rest of his life in prison, which is a shame as he is only 26 years old.
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