When somebody extols that “winning is everything” in the sporting arena, perhaps these dark secrets will give them pause. The desire to succeed in pro sports is accentuated by the press, by the multi-million dollar contracts and personal drive that elevates these athletes and officials to make the top level. But making an omelette requires cracking a few eggs and individuals will easily cross the line if a scandal can be hidden and their reputation remain in tact.
Reflecting on the disturbing history of sports cover ups, it’s disparaging to think the games that give millions of people around the world joy are eaten up and spat out by the naïve, the greedy and the downright evil people in society. Whether it is through neglected cases of sexual abuse, drug taking, throwing games, back-door dealings or murder, corruption can begin with one poor decision or lack of oversight.
No game has a squeaky-clean history when it comes to cover ups. Boxing, baseball, football, basketball, golf, tennis – every one of the them have skeletons in their closet that have either come out, are coming out or will be in the near future. Sports like athletics, soccer and cricket are touching the tip of the iceberg right now, with experts predicting a wave of new scandals to be revealed in the coming years.
These athletes and organizations who have disgraced themselves never considered how much the risk outweighed the reward. Lance Armstrong overcame cancer and raised millions to battle the disease, yet all anyone will remember is the cheating. Tiger Woods took golf to new heights, but most will immediately recall the scandal that engulfed his impressive career.
During the lifecycle of every scandal, a cover up ensued. This was before the press went digging for the information and before the public knew it to be true. These are the top 20 sports cover ups.
20 Maria Sharapova Drug Tests
19 The 1919 World Series
18 Tim Donaghy NBA Betting Scandal
17 Penn State
16 Sandman Horse Murders
15 Essendon Supplements Saga
14 1999 Boxing Racketeering
13 Marion Jones Doping
12 Pakistani Cricket Spot-Fixing
11 Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Ring
10 Tiger Woods’ Extramarital Affairs
9 Michael Schumacher’s Crashes
7 Russian Soccer’s Racism Epidemic
4 Lance Armstrong
3 FIFA Corruption
Many of these cover ups have involved cheating spouses, drugs or footballs that aren’t as heavy as they should be. But the Hillsborough cover up is of unspeakably horrendous and epic proportions that is hard to put into words. In 1989, Liverpool were playing Nottingham Forest in the semi final of the FA Cup away at the neutral territory of Sheffield Wednesday’s home ground, Hillsborough. But 96 Liverpool fans never came home. They were all crushed to death when stadium officials and police failed to plan for the influx of supporters that flooded into one end without any control measures put in place. With rows of dead patrons bagged in an adjacent school across the road, the authorities and government created a narrative that Liverpool fans were ultimately culpable for the deaths. The incredible ESPN 30 for 30 documentary on the tragedy and cover up will leave viewers in tears and outraged beyond belief, outlining how victims families have had to fight for decades in the courts to clear the names of their dearly departed. A heartbreaking the tale the likes sport has never seen, nor never wishes to see again.
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