Wherever there is competition people will try to get a “leg up” on their opponent. Good sportsmanship has an inherent quality of honesty, integrity, fair competition, and a level playing field. The nature and integrity of sport is destroyed when someone cheats or has an unfair advantage. For the glory to be deserved, and the accolades to be applauded, men and women need to compete according to the rules of the game. The problem is that human nature often gets the best of a human being.
That competitive zeal that says “win at all costs,” or “the end justifies the means” drives a fierce competitor to bend, break, or in some cases, shatter the rules to be crowned the champion. We live in an era of sports where the battle is no longer won through brute strength, hours of training, or precise strategic planning, but we live in a time where the battles are won in chemistry labs, where Performance enhancing drugs are constantly being developed and altered to fly under the radar of the “doping police.” The “Mitchell Report” named hundreds of current and former professional baseball players that tested positive for using anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). Some of these men shattered long-standing records – what should their place be in sports history? Cheaters? You betcha! We live in an era of sports where greed seduces its participants to bet on games and fix games that they can control the outcome of. Perhaps at no time in sports history is it more apropos to say “Cheaters never prosper.” Many perpetrators have gotten away with the ruse for years, but more and more cheaters are being uncovered, and sooner or later cheaters get caught and the sport they represent is scrutinized and shamed. Here we have a list of the 20 biggest cheaters in sports history.
20 Brett Hull
Perhaps it's fairer to say that Hull was just a beneficiary of a controversial call, but don't tell that to Buffalo. Buffalo Sabres’ fans will always remember the 1999 Stanley Cup final against the Dallas Stars. Brett Hull scored the winning goal, but looking more closely at the replay Brett Hull’s skate was in the crease. The rule stated that a player couldn't score if he took a shot from within the crease. The officials allowed the goal and the Stars won the Cup.
19 Danny Almonte
His parents forged his birth certificate to say that he was two years older than he was. He was throwing a 70 mph fastball playing in the little leagues as a 12-year-old, (he was actually 14). He threw a no-hitter in the Little League World Series. After the forgery by his father was discovered, all of Almonte’s records and wins were wiped out. A promising career was now stained by scandal.
18 Sylvester Carmouche
Sylvester Carmouche was a jockey in the 1990s. His horse’s name was Landing Officer. His most memorable race came on a foggy day where no one could see the track. Once the gun sounded, instead of going around the mile-long track, Carmouche halted his horse and backed his horse up 200 yards before the finish line and waited for the other horses to come close behind him. He then kicked Landing Officer into full speed across the finish line – everyone thought he had won.
The other jockeys were upset, having not seen him, the 23-to-1 underdog, pass them. The video proved to be inconclusive, but upon inspection of the horse there were no signs of mud splatter on the horse’s legs from running on a muddy race track. The horse was not breathing heavily as would be appropriate for a vigorous race such as this. The Louisiana Racing Commission was not fooled and they banned Carmouche from horse racing for 10 years.
17 Rosie Ruiz
Rosie Ruiz took the world by storm in 1980 by winning the Boston Marathon without breaking a sweat. That is quite a feat. She won the race in a nearly record time at 2:31:56. The other runners certainly suspected something fishy going on. Upon further investigation it was learned that the spotters did not see her passing the checkpoints in the race, and the spectators did not recall seeing her. How did she do it? She took a shortcut and jumped out just before the finish line.
16 New England Patriots
It all started the “Spygate” scandal. Bill Belichick and team were caught videotaping the New York Jets’ defensive signals during a 2007 game. The NFL has strict rules against sideline cameras, which were being used by the Patriots. NFL Investigators found that this was not the first or only such act by Belichick. He was personally fined $500,000, the Patriots $250,000 and their 1st round draft pick was taken away. Does it create suspicion for an amazing 16-0 regular season?
Finally this year, we had the "DeflateGate" controversy. An investigation into the situation called the Wells Report concluded that Brady was 'generally aware' of footballs being deflated in the AFC Championship. Brady has been suspended four games, the Pats have lost two draft picks and the team was fined $1 million. The suspension is expected to be appealed.
15 Tim Donaghy
Tim Donaghy was a referee in the NBA until 2007 when he was dishonorably discharged of his duties for betting and gambling on NBA games. There was an insurmountable amount of evidence to convict him of fixing games. The most memorable, allegedly fixed, game was Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference finals with the Lakers playing the Kings. The Lakers shot 18 more free-throws in the fourth quarter alone, handing the Kings a defeat that otherwise would have given them a shot at the NBA finals. Donaghy’s shady deals landed him 15 months in federal prison.
14 Marion Jones
Marion Jones was a track star who won four medals in the Sydney Olympics. She tried denying for many years that she had used performance enhancing drugs, but that was not the truth. The truth came out in 2004, four years after the Olympic Games, when her drug supplier admitted to giving her five illegal PEDs. These drugs were apparently being used by Jones before, during, and after the Olympic Games.
She denied these claims, and even did so under oath to two Grand Juries. In 2006 she tested positive, and a Federal Investigation ensued. In 2007, she finally admitted to taking the PEDs at the Sydney Olympic Games. She was banned from Track and Field competition for two years, had to return the medals given to her at Sydney, and she spent six months in prison.
13 Alex Rodriguez
A-Rod has consistently denied using steroids or any performance enhancing drugs throughout his career. Recently he admitted to using them, but only conceded to using them in a three year period, from 2001-2003. Performance enchaining drugs are changing the record books of baseball, and the league is starting to crack down on its usage. Who knows how many of the records in modern baseball are the results of using PEDs? Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, and now Alex Rodriguez have all been suspected of using them. It brings such a shame to the game.
12 East German Women’s Swim team
The East German swim team from 1964-1972 struggled to be competitive in the Olympics – bringing home only 11 medals in that span. In an attempt to break the losing cycle the communist government initiated a doping strategy. The swimmers on the subsequent East German teams were unknowingly given performance enhancing drugs - like steroids and hormones - disguised as vitamins.
The results were quite evident in the following Olympic Games - in 1976 they brought home 18 medals (11 gold), in 1980 they brought home 26 medals (11 gold), in 1984 they boycotted, and in 1988 they brought in 22 medals (10 gold). That is a remarkable transformation. With the reunification of Germany in the 90s the doping initiative was uncovered and many of those responsible were brought to testify under oath. The truth was unveiled – East Germany had indeed created a state-sponsored doping program that drugged its athletes from 1968-1998 to enhance performance.
11 Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson was a sprinter on the Canadian team for two different Olympic Games. He broke his own world record in the 100-yard dash in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, winning the gold medal over Carl Lewis from the USA. The next day he tested positive for an illegal substance which disqualified him from the race. He was stripped of his gold medal. Johnson was banned from the sport in 1993 by the IAAF.
10 Carl Lewis
In an ironic twist of fate, Carl Lewis was awarded the gold medal after Ben Johnson tested positive and had his medal stripped. Information has since come out that certain U.S. athletes were allowed to escape bans after testing positive to illegal substances, confirming allegations that the USA was involved in covering up failed tests. Carl Lewis himself has admitted that he was a beneficiary of such cover ups. Lewis acknowledged that he failed three tests during the 1988 U.S. Olympic trials, which should have disqualified him from competing in the infamous race that “won” him the gold medal by default.
9 Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong had such a feel good story. Evidently too good to be true. The man who battled back from cancer to win the coveted cycling victory at the Tour De France seven times in a row. He always denied using illegal substances to enhance his performances, but eventually the truth caught up with him and his reputation is tarnished forever. In 2013 he admitted to cheating, but insisted that he did not use PEDs on his comeback tour of 2009 and 2010.
8 Sammy Sosa
The “Bat-Gate.” Sammy Sosa is no stranger to controversy. On June 4, 2003 at Wrigley Field, Sammy Sosa came up to bat for the Cubs. When he connected with the pitch, his bat shattered and was discovered to be hollowed out and filled with cork. According to the ruling, Sosa was ejected. He later claimed that it was a mistake – he accidentally grabbed a practice bat. Of course, the excuse makes many wonder and scratch their heads. Sosa served a seven game suspension. He was also named in a report that included the names of players who used PEDs.
7 The 2000 Spanish Paralympics Team
At the 2000 Paralympic games held in Sydney, Australia, the Spanish coach Fernando Martin Vicente fielded a basketball team that had no disabilities to win the gold medal. The team pretended to be mentally disabled, and there were no medical or psychological tests given to the athletes to confirm their supposed handicap. The final team fielded for the games had two players with an IQ of below 70, per the requirements, but the other 10 simply posed as disabled players. They had fake medical certificates provided for them.
6 Dong Fangxiao
Wow, what was with Sydney 2000? There was no shortage of controversy out in Australia with competitors finding new ways to cheat. In this particular case, China used an under aged gymnast to participate in the Olympic games. She used a fake birth certificate to qualify. She was stripped of her bronze medal along with her teammates. The Chinese are suspected for repeating the farce in 2008.
5 Mike Tyson
There seems to be no end to the lengths athletes will go to get a “leg up” or an “ear off” of their competition. On June 28, 1997 Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield met with the heavyweight championship at stake. Holyfield had beaten Tyson in their previous fight. This time, a frustrated Tyson bit Holyfield twice, the second time actually biting off part of Holyfield’s ear. Tyson was disqualified shortly afterwards when charging Holyfield’s corner during a break.
4 Tonya Harding
Tonya Harding was an amazing figure skater back in the early 90s with the potential to win multiple championships. However, the '92 Olympics featured a disappointing performance and her career seemed to be on the decline. In the months leading up to the ’94 U.S championships, her rival Nancy Kerrigan was beaten by a male perpetrator during a practice. That perpetrator turned out to be hired by Harding’s ex-husband.
Kerrigan had to withdraw from the competition due to her injuries, and Tonya Harding won the national championship. Harding later admitted to trying to cover up the attacks. In an ironic twist of fate, both Kerrigan and Harding made the Winter Olympic team as teammates. Kerrigan won the silver medal, with Harding finishing in eighth place. When it was all said and done she was banned for life by the US Figure Skating Association, and stripped of her championship. Her co-conspirators spent time in prison for their involvement in the attack.
3 Diego Maradona
Diego Maradona is a legend of the beautiful game, but his antics most certainly weren't beautiful. He is infamously known for his first goal in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal match against England. To score the goal, he lifted his left hand up near his head and slapped the ball into the goal. The referee’s angle made it look like a header. Maradona went on to score another goal later in the game, ironically one of the best goals in history, to give Argentina a 2-1 victory. They would go on to win the World Cup. When asked about the goal he said the goal was scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.”
2 Fred Lorz
Fred Lorz was a marathon runner in the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis. He completed the marathon in only three hours and 13 minutes – his closest competitor was nowhere to be found, perhaps because Lorz caught a ride in a passing car for 11 miles of the race. Once officials discovered he had cheated he was given a lifetime ban, but that was lifted a year later. He was able to compete in the Boston marathon the next year, and he won without cheating.
1 Pete Rose
Pete Rose is the “Hit King” of major league baseball. Retiring in 1986 holding a number of Major League and National League records including the record for hits with 4,256. He became the manager of the Reds in 1984-1989. He is most known for the accusation that he bet on games that he was involved in as a manager. This is strictly forbidden in baseball because as a manager you are in a position to make decisions that could affect the outcome of the game. There was an investigation into the allegations, and Pete Rose voluntarily accepted a permanent place on baseball’s ineligible list in 1989 - giving credibility to the accusations. Being on the ineligible list means that Pete Rose cannot be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He has been trying since 1992 to be reinstated all to no avail.