The Lance Armstrong cheating scandal rocked the sports world. But it also caused ructions beyond the sporting arena because this was a real case of a fallen idol. Sports stars are very much modern day heroes and we look to them not just to be a role model for sporting excellence but for inspiration and motivation and as models of discipline and perseverance. When we learn someone so well respected has cheated their way to success the fallout is considerable. Here are some of the biggest sports cheats in history.
1. Michelle Smith De Bruin
The recent revelations around Lance Armstrong may be hard to ignore, but it is nothing compared to how the Irish swimmer tried to deceive the world. She showed up with a rubber, urine-filled bulb tucked under her arm in an effort to clear her post-stage drug test. She was caught while pumping her elbow in and out to produce urine. Now, how creative is that? This creativity however led to a ban and ended her career on a depressing note.
2. Ben Johnson
This Canadian sprinter had a great career with an Olympic gold medal and two Olympic bronze medals as well, but it all came to naught when his urine sample showed traces of stanozolol, an anabolic steroid. His disqualification cost him the Olympic title and two consecutive 100-meter world records he set in 1987 and 1988. The 1988 Olympics is still considered the dirtiest race in the history and it made Ben Johnson one of the most notorious drug cheats of all time.
3. Tonya Harding:
Tonya Harding, the 1991 US figure skating champion, made figure skating popular for all the wrong reasons. In 1994 Olympics, her ex-husband hit Nancy Kerrigan in the knee – she was the 1993 US Champion and the 1992 Olympic Bronze medalist. Even after the act, Harding was given the chance to compete in the 1994 Olympics, but later it was revealed that she was behind the conspiracy. She was fined for this act, though she avoided a ban by threatening legal action against the US Olympic Committee. She later revealed her dark side by competing in female boxing, gaining a lot of weight, and ending it all with a sex tape.
4. Panama Lewis
In the early 1980s, one of the most notorious boxing trainers, Lewis set an example as one of the worst sports cheats ever by tempering with the fighter's fists of Lewis Resto who was competing against Billy Collins Jr. He removed padding (about an ounce) from Resto's gloves and covered the tapes on his fingers with plaster of Paris, which no one noticed for ten rounds. Later, the authorities banned him from the sport and put him on trial. He was charged with assault, and after proven guilty was sentenced to six years in prison.
5. Stella Walsh
An Olympic competitor for Poland, Walsh won a swag of trophies, as well as a gold medal in 1936 at the Berlin Olympics. She set 18 world records in her career, but the accusations that she had male attributes dogged her for years. Later it was confirmed through an autopsy report conducted after her accidental death that she had male organs but female traits. It may not look like a clear-cut case of cheating today when the IOC has almost dropped gender determination testing, but it was a big thing back in 1940s.
6. Diego Armando Maradona
Regarded as the greatest football player of all time, even the man of Maradona's caliber couldn't suppress the basic instinct of winning at all cost in a game against England. He scored two goals in the 1986 World Cup final – the first one became the "scandal of the century" and sparked a disagreement between the referee and linesman that's still simmering today. That "hand of God" goal that Maradona scored by using his hand did leave a dent in his popularity, but he came back strong after that and stunned the world with the kind of talent he had.
7. David Robertson
Scottish golfer David Robertson was found cheating in the 1985 qualifying round for the British Open golf tournament when he moved his ball to a better lie on a number of occasions. This made his caddies walk off the links midway through the round. The cheating led to a disqualification and a 20-year ban from the PGA European Tour.
We have to hope that these sports cheats are in the absolute minority and that our sporting heroes deserve our adulation because of their talent, training and commitment. Has one of your sporting idols fallen from grace?