Sports history holds many tales of tremendous athletic achievement which will never be forgotten. However, amongst the stories of great sporting legends, are a number of drug scandals which rocked the world of sports, and are equally as famous as the sporting events themselves. Many of these involve performance-enhancing drugs used by players to get ahead, while others revolve around drug abuse of substances such as cocaine, which is also considered a performance enhancer. In either case, the consequences can prove to be disastrous with idolized sporting legends being stripped of their titles, disqualified, sent to rehab or prison, and in some cases dying from overdose. Unfortunately, these much-loved athletes will be remembered as much for their scandals as for their talent and accomplishments. Read on for the six biggest drug scandals ever in sports history.
American sprinter Tyson Gay is tied for the title of the second fastest man alive, after Usain Bolt. Gay competes in 100 and 200-meter sprints, with a 100m personal best of 9.69 seconds. He posted the second-fastest time for the 100-meter dash in the 2009 Shanghai Golden Grand Prix and won a silver medal at the 2012 London summer Olympics.
However, in 2013, he tested positive for an anabolic steroid, which is a banned substance. He was subsequently stripped of his silver medals and banned from the sport for two years. He had his punishment halved to just one year after providing the US Anti-Doping Agency with substantial assistance during their investigation. He then came back to win the Prefontaine Classic event in Oregon; however, the scar on his reputation will never go away, and fans will always question the legitimacy of his wins.
American cyclist Lance Armstrong won the Tour De France seven years straight from 1999 to 2005 and won a bronze medal in the 2000 summer Olympics in the men’s individual time trial. This is despite being diagnosed with cancer in 1996, aged 25, and making a miraculous recovery. He constantly battled with allegations of using performance-enhancing drugs, which he persistently denied, even under oath. In January 2013, after years of denial, Armstrong admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, which has now become famous.
As a result, many sponsors dropped him, losing him $75 million in endorsements. During the interview, he told Oprah Winfrey that he feels ashamed. Unfortunately, his exceptional athletic achievement and miraculous recovery from cancer will always be overshadowed by his scandal, and this is what he will be remembered for.
Track and field star Marion Jones made headlines when she won five medals, three of which were gold, at the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics. However, her reputation went severely downhill after she was linked to the 2002 BALCO (Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative) scandal, in which the US Federal Government investigated the laboratory and discovered that they were supplying banned substances to athletes.
In 2007, Jones admitted to using steroids over the course of her career, and she was consequently stripped of her Olympic medals. Furthermore, she was sentenced to six months in prison for lying under oath about her use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Many sports fans would argue that there was a point when Deigo Maradona was the greatest soccer player in the world. One thing he will be remembered for is shooting the most controversial goal in world cup history. Unfortunately, he will also be remembered for his cocaine addiction. As the drug qualifies as a stimulant, it interfered with his ability to play, causing him to fail a substance test in 1991. Consequently, he was banned from playing for 15 months and became an outcast in South America, as well as experiencing severe health issues as a result of his addiction. Maradona still qualified for the Argentinean team for the 1994 world cup; however, a drugs test showed that he was on ephedrine and he was kicked out.
This became his last international tournament. His reputation was tarnished as fans learned that some of his most celebrated goals occurred whilst under the influence of cocaine, and his career plummeted to the point of no return.
Prior to their cocaine scandal, the Pittsburgh Pirates were doing well; in 1979, they won the World Series. However, in 1986 they became the subject of one of baseball’s largest scandals. Several players were called before a grand jury for charges of cocaine distribution, and possession with intent to distribute. 20 were found guilty, and 11 were officially suspended from playing baseball; however, it was then decided that they could continue playing on three conditions: they had to donate a percentage of their base salaries to drug abuse programs, submit to random testing and complete drug-related community service.
The dealers who were selling to the players received far greater punishments than the players themselves. Many people believe that this incident began the drug culture in sports, and was the precedent to all future scandals. It is also widely considered that the scandal shaped how incidents like this would be treated in the future.
For a number of years, Alex Rodriguez was the number one player in major league baseball. However, in 1991 he admitted to using performance-enhancing substances earlier on in his career, before going on to lead the New York Yankees to victory later on in that season. In 2013 he was involved in the Biogenesis scandal – regarded by many as the biggest scandal in baseball history. As a result, he was suspended for 211 games.
He appealed the suspension and continued playing for the Yankees in the meantime, but he lost his appeal and missed the entire 2014 season. He returned to baseball in 2015; however many sports fans could no longer view him in the same way after learning about his use of performance-enhancing drugs.