Top 5: Sports Greatest Cheating Scandals

Drug cheats, lance armstong, rory nicklin, kettle mag
Written by Rory Nicklin

Cheating in sport is almost as old as sports itself. From handballs to bites and banned substances to blood capsules, it’s fair to say we’ve seen our fair share of unsavoury gamesman-like acts over the years from the more villainous characters within the world of sport.

So we’ve decided to present you with the top 5 greatest sporting scandals of all time.

5. The Bloodgate saga

It was the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup and Harlequins were 6-5 down against soon to be first time champions Leinster with just five minutes remaining on the clock. Club coach Dean Richards then made a tactical substitution, re-entering fly-half Nick Evans into the field of play for the seemingly blood covered Tom Williams. However A cheeky wink from Williams, almost identical to that wink by a certain Cristiano Ronaldo after Wayne Rooney received a red card against Portugal in the 2006 World Cup, suggested something was amiss.

 An investigation into the incident later revealed that a blood capsule was used by Williams to fake his injury allowing the tactical substitution to take place. Subsequently Richards, Willams, and the clubs physiotherapist Steph Brennan were all banned from the game for a period of time.  

4. Maradona and the Hand of God

At the post match press conference in 1986, after Argentina had knocked England out of the quarter-finals of the World Cup, Diego Maradona claimed his first goal in the game had been scored ‘a little with the head of Maradona, and a little with the hand of God.’ Cue an endless rivalry and years of hatred towards the South American country that only felt slightly just when David Beckham helped knock Argentina out of the World Cup in 2006 with that rather mediocre penalty.

Maradona’s divine abilities flourished once more that day when he scored what many perceive to be the goal of the century. Picking up the ball from inside his own half, the little Argentine skipped past 5 Englishmen before rounding Peter Shilton to secure victory. Argentina went onto win the tournament with Maradona claiming the player of the tournament award.  

3. Marion Jones

Our first and only female entry goes to the American Marion Jones who was stripped of her 3 Olympic Gold medals from the Sydney Games for admitting to doping in 2008. Jones addressed the worlds media with a tear in her eye during a press conference in New York. The 100m specialist pleaded guilty to two counts of making false statements and accepted that she was ‘responsible fully for her actions.’

Jones had a history of performance enhancing spouses. Her once husband and former Shot Putt World Champion C J Hunter, along with one-time boyfriend and former 100m record holder Tim Montgomery had both been accused and found guilty of substance abuse.

2. Ben Johnson  

It was the biggest race in history at the world’s biggest multi-sporting event. At the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul all eyes were on Ben Johnson and current Olympic gold medallist Carl Lewis for the 100m. Weeks before the event Johnson had sustained a hamstring injury that many believed would hamper his chances but he went on to win and ran into the history books with a World Record time of 9.79 seconds.

But just three days later the Jamaican-born Johnson tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid – stanozolol. He was subsequently stripped of his gold medal and banned from the sport for three years despite admitting to using banned substances since 1981.

The race was later dubbed the dirtiest race in history after six of the eight finalists were at some point in their career banned for using performance enhancing drugs.

1. Lance Armstrong  

There will be few surprises for guessing who tops the list of the greatest sporting scandals in history. It was deemed “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen,” Lance Armstrong, a man who created a fairy-tale story by battling testicular cancer, fighting his demons, and coming back to win not one, but 7 Tour De France wins in successions openly admitted during a television interview with American TV host Oprah Winfrey in January 2013 that during all of his Tour wins he had been using banned substances such as steroids and EPO.

During his documentary the American even admitted that his team pretended to have a breakdown on the tour bus in order to blood dope.

Lance Armstrong was accused of cheating throughout his career, and the sport went through an era of doping scandals throughout the 1990’s, with Armstrong, along with his Italian physician and cycling enthusiast Michele Ferrari leading the field.  

The question remains however, was it cheating if everyone else was doing it?

What do you think? Is the Lance Armstrong scandal the biggest cheating episode in sporting history? Who else should have made the top 5?