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Barry Bonds, the Cream, and the Clear
Plenty of men have been caught doping in plenty of sports, but few did it so brazenly as Barry Bonds, who had a spot reserved in the Hall of Fame before the Steroid Era of the late-1990s arrived. But after seeing Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa captivate the nation with their historic home run race in 1998, Bonds decided to combine his incredible talent and his particular brand of arrogance with superior science to construct monster numbers that will absolutely never be seen again – including crushing 73 home runs in a single season despite most pitchers actively avoiding throwing to him for months. Bonds never won a World Series, but he avoided jail time after lying to a Grand Jury regarding BALCO, the Bay Area lab that supplied him with HGH. We’ll call that a win.
In 1999, South African runner Sergio Motsoeneng finished 9th in the Comrades Marathon (a 54-mile endurance race) to take home $980 that his father desperately needed to survive. Unfortunately, while Sergio was seen starting and finishing the race, he actually swapped places multiple times with his nearly identical younger brother, Fika, during bathroom breaks along the course. Their error? Despite wearing identical uniforms, numbers, and hats that covered their faces with the brim pulled down, the brothers were caught when a newspaper reporter noticed that they were wearing their identical watches on opposite wrists. The brothers were forced to give back the money and were banned from the event for 10 years. In 2010 Sergio actually finished third in the Comrades, but this time was caught with a banned substance in his system. He maintains his innocence.
Ben Johnson’s *9.79
Before Usain Bolt was shattering world records at the Olympics, there was Ben Johnson, a Jamaican-born Canadian specimen who made his name beating American hero Carl Lewis at every turn, and who pumped his way to a 9.79-seconds world record in the 1988 Seoul Olympics 100m sprint. While waiting for his scheduled post-race drug test, Johnson says that American sprinter (and Lewis’s Santa Monica Track Club teammate) Andre Jackson brought the champion a beer to celebrate, which he spiked with a substance that caused Johnson to fail the test, be stripped of his medal, and have him disgraced and barred from racing for three year. “Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t,” was the only response Jackson offered when contacted by ESPN for a 30 for 30 documentary on the race. Rumors persist that Lewis, who eventually accepted the 1988 gold after Johnson fled town, tested positive for three stimulants during the Olympic trials, but the sample was deemed an “inadvertent positive” and his accomplishments were allowed to stand.
Albert Belle’s Corked Bat
Despite Albert Belle’s unprecedented feat of hitting 50 home runs and 50 doubles during the 1995 season, by all accounts he did everything he could to cheat. But nothing quite captured the lengths he (and his teammates) would go like when he was caught with a corked bat against Chicago in 1994. The umpire confiscated the suspicious hardware and locked it in his dressing room for later inspection. But knowing that the bat was dirty, the team sent relief pitcher Jason Grimsley to retrieve it by climbing through the locker room’s drop ceiling with a flashlight in his mouth, lowering himself into the ump’s dressing room, and replacing Belle’s bat with teammate Paul Sorrento’s (since every one of Belle’s was corked). But as Grimsley, later popped for steroid use, was neither light nor nimble, he left behind enough broken ceiling tiles that the MLB investigated the matter and eventually suspended Belle for seven games.
The 1904 Olympic Marathon
You can’t really fault the multiple instances of cheating during the 1904 St. Louis Olympics marathon since it was basically a 26-mile Benny Hill skit that included one top contender being chased off the course by wild dogs, and another running in wingtips and trousers. The original winner of the race was Fred Lorz, a future Boston Marathon winner who led for nine miles before dropping out due to cramps, and then, after accepting a ride to the stadium, figured he’d play a joke on the crowd and jog triumphantly to the winner’s circle. He even received the champion’s wreath from President Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter before admitting to his hitchhiking. So instead, American Thomas Hicks, who was kept upright for ten miles by regular doses of strychnine and brandy, and who was effectively carried across the finish line by his coaches, won the gold because no one wanted to see the French second place finisher walk away with the victory.
Alex Vinokourov’s Blood
We all know the tale of Lance Armstrong, the great American cyclist who defeated cancer, won seven consecutive Tour de France titles, and attempted to hide his cheating by suing people for telling the truth. But Kazakhstan cyclist Alexander Vinokourov took his denial game to the next level when he was caught with someone else’s blood in his system via a transfusion during the 2007 Tour de France, and then claimed he had no idea how it got in there — “Must be an accident,” he explained. His entire team quit the Tour and suspended Vinokourov, who eventually went on to win gold at the 2012 Olympics before retiring.
Deflategate, or “Ballghazi” as some have begun calling it, isn’t the first or the most egregious form of cheating Bill Belichick has attempted. Back in 2007, during a season when the New England Patriots went 16-0 through the regular season and put up offensive numbers that had never been seen before (but have since been surpassed by Peyton Manning deftly taking advantage of new rules) a Patriots’s assistant was caught videotaping defensive coaching signals during a game against the Jets early in the season. Belichick apologized and said he leaned on his own “interpretation of the rule” and assumed it was legal since the tape wasn’t used during that game, but was instead meant to be studied later. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell disagreed with said interpretation, stripped the Pats of a first round pick, and also fined Belichick $500k, the largest amount ever imposed on a coach.
Spain’s 2000 Paralympics Team
Right in the middle of baseball’s Steroid Era, when sports officials had fixed a watchful eye on athletes attempting to dope for an advantage, the Spanish Federation tried instead to sneak able-bodied athletes into the Paralympics in order to “win medals and gain more sponsorship,” according to Federation President Fernando Martin Vicente. The Sydney Paralympics was only the second time during which athletes with intellectual disabilities (having an IQ of under 70) were allowed to compete in the events, and after testing it was determined that 10 of the 12 members of Spain’s basketball team, as well as members of the swimming, track, and table tennis teams, were ineligible to participate. The whole team was disqualified and forced to return their medals, and Martin Vicente resigned in disgrace after accepting responsibility.
"Say It Ain't So, Joe"
One of the history’s most famous sports scandals surrounded the 1919 World Series, when the Chicago White Sox, the 1917 champions that were considered far and away the best team in baseball at that time, lost in an upset to the Cincinnati Reds, 5-3, in what was then a 9-game series. Eight Chicago players were eventually investigated and accused of taking money from gamblers to throw the series, since owner Charles Comiskey had a penchant for underpaying his athletes. The eight men — including Shoeless Joe Jackson, who hit .375 during the series and smashed its lone home run — were dubbed the “Black Sox” and banned from baseball forever.
Maradona’s Hand of God Goal
Diego Maradona is no doubt one of the best soccer players the world has ever seen, and in 1986 he almost single-handedly led Argentina to the World Cup. But one of his most famous goals is also one of his most dubious. Tied 0-0 in the second half of their World Cup quarterfinal match against the English, Maradona flicked a pass to his teammate who kicked it high into the air — an easy grab for the tall English goalie, except that Maradona jumped up and punched the ball into the net with his hand. “I was waiting for my teammates to embrace me, and no one came… I told them, ‘Come hug me, or the referee isn’t going to allow it.” The hand ball was missed by the referees, and is the goal is now referred to as the “Hand of God.” To be fair, Maradona followed it four minutes later with what was labeled the “Goal of the Century,” when he dribbled more than half the length of field past five opponents and then tapped it in to secure the win.
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