40+ Examples Of Shady Sportsmanship And Cheating Scandals

By Peace L

Since long before we were born, different forms of sports have been practiced all over the world. These sports have evolved over the centuries to meet more civilized standards, making them safer and more entertaining. Compared to back in the ancient era, we can see a significant difference in the way different sports were played then, and how they are played now, we can also trace the roots of some of these sports back to the older sports. Sports nowadays have been shaped to do more than just entertain the audience. They build the character of the athletes and also the audience or spectators. Some of these character-building traits can be seen in the introduction of rules and regulations to govern the proceeding of sports. However, we have seen instances where these rules are disregarded by the parties involved directly in the sports: the coaches and the athletes. It is unfortunate that while rules have been set to ensure the smooth and fair proceedings of the different sports, some people still try various despicable means to obtain an unfair advantage. We’ll be looking at some of these individuals who were caught in the act. 

Tim Donaghy

While it is common for athletes and sometimes coaches to use illegal methods for their own gain, it is even more shocking to discover that an official who is meant to ensure a fair and controlled game was also involved in illegal activities going against his job. 

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Tim Donaghy was a referee for the NBA, and he is qualified to be known as one of the most scrupulous refs to have officiated in the game. He was caught selling out information concerning players and also games to others just for his gain. He was later sent to serve time.

Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos incident happened in 2008, and it is still fresh in the memories of NFL supporters. The whole scam was called to the attention of the masses by the owner of the Oakland Raiders and was later verified by the NFL.

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It was discovered that the coach of the Denver Broncos was paying some players higher than the stipulated maximum salary for NFL players. The coach, Mike Shanahan, was found to have paid Terrell Davis and John Elway 29 million USD illegally, which led to a lawsuit that cost the team two million dollars. 


This instance is quite unfortunate regarding one of the most popular Italian football clubs in the world. In 2006, it was discovered that a group of refs and clubs were in coalition to gain unfair advantages during their matches, and it so happened that Juventus was among the clubs involved. 

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Investigation into the matter revealed that five clubs and some refs were making attempts to influence the selections of refs for their games. They were trying to get refs that were in coalition with them to officiate their games. The evidence against Juventus was a recorded phone conversation between the manager of the club and some officials in the referee organization. 

Ray Lewis

Ray Lewis was a former player for the Baltimore Ravens. He played as a linebacker, and he spent a total of 17 years playing for the team. During one of their games, Ray Lewis sustained an injury that required quite a while to heal and for him to regain form enough to play.  

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However, to the surprise of the NFL association, Ray Lewis made a somewhat miraculous recovery. It is worthy to note that this player tore his tricep muscle, and this is an injury that requires surgical attention and also a stipulated recovery time of six months. However, with the aid of an illegal steroid, Ray Lewis recovered within three months, and he even won the Super Bowl. 

Lawrence Taylor

Lawrence Taylor was a player for the New York Giants back in the 90s, and he played as a linebacker from 1981 to 1993. This man was a brazen culprit in sports malpractice, and it was quite unfortunate that he was never caught during his time as a player.

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Lawrence Taylor wrote a book after he left New York Giants in 2003 titled, Over the Edge; Tackling Quarterbacks, Drugs, and a World Beyond Football. The book was his autobiography, and he talked about the different schemes he employed to attain his position. These things include giving fake urine samples, adopting other despicable methods to render opposition players unfit for their games against their team, and more. 

Dora Ratjen 

This is still one of the most baffling scams that have ever occurred in the world of sports, and it is even more fun than it is tragic. Dora Ratjen, a German athlete, was the winner of the women’s high jump in the 1936 Olympics. 

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Years had passed before an issue was finally raised due to the suspicions surrounding this athlete. It was later discovered that the winner of the women’s high jump for the 1936 Olympic season was not a woman but a man. 

Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry was a player for France, and it was thanks to a pass from a fellow that Gallas was able to score the goal that won them their qualification in the 2009 World Cup qualifiers. All would have been fine if it had been a game of basketball.

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After the game, Thierry Henry admitted to using his hand to make that beautiful pass to Gallas. How the referee and the other officials managed to miss this is still a mystery, but you can imagine the misery and injustice the Ireland fans would have felt at that point.

Whitey Ford

This incident is related to the world of baseball. Whitey Ford was one of the MLB pitchers for the New York Yankees. This man can still be regarded as one of the most creative cheaters to have cheated in the game of baseball. 

Image courtesy of Ernie Sisto / The New York Times

Talk about working on your pitch. Whitey Ford took the extra step to ensure that his pitches were one of the best. While there is nothing wrong with taking steps to better your pitch, it becomes an issue when you start stuffing the ball with mud, which is precisely what this man did.   

1951 New York Giants 

This is another one of the significant hoaxes that were recorded in the history of baseball. In previous cases, it was individual players that were caught cheating. However, this case involved the whole team. The New York Giants came up with a way to cheat using a telescope.

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It was discovered that the team was using a telescope to read the motions of the opponent’s catcher, and then they’ll send signals to their batter using a buzzer or a bell. Using this method, they were able to win the National League Pennant. 

2017 Houston Astros 

Talk about learning from past experiences. This scandal is one that was probably inspired by the 1951 New York Giants scandal. The method employed to cheat by the Houston Astros was very similar to the one used by the New York Giants in 1951.

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It was discovered that the team was making use of high-tech cameras to read signs from the opponents’ pitcher, and then they’ll pass on their discovery to their batter using buzzers or by banging a trash can. Using this method, they won the 2017 ALCS against the New York Yankees and then the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

2000 Spanish Paralympics Team

This scandal can be considered one of the most disgusting occurrences in the history of paralympic basketball. The Paralympics was created by the Olympics body to give people with special conditions a chance to participate in the Olympics. This is why this scandal is considered one of the most despicable. 

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The Spanish Paralympic team that participated in the 2000 Olympics put on a performance that stunned the whole audience, and they ended up winning the gold medal. Their performance would have been deemed worthy of winning the game. However, it turned out that only two athletes on the team had a disability.   

East German Female Olympic Team

This scandal was more or less like a plague in the German female Olympic swimming team. While it is not unusual for individual players to use illegal boosters, it is a whole new level when the entire team is also involved.

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The shocking part was that it wasn’t only one team involved in this malpractice, but also consecutive teams from 1968 until the arrival of the 80s. That is over a decade of unfair practices by the German Female Olympic Team. 

Peyton Manning 

Peyton Manning was a football quarterback, and he played for the Indianapolis Colts and the Denver Broncos. This man is considered as one of the major football icons after is 18 seasons career. It was later discovered that Manning had made use of some cheating techniques to gain an unfair advantage in his games.

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Peyton Manning spent 14 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, and during that time, he employed the use of advanced ear devices to communicate with his teammates. Also, during his four seasons with the  Denver Broncos, it was rumored that they had messed with the headsets of the other team.

Graig Nettles

Graig Nettles was a major baseball player with an impressive career record of 22 years. He played for different teams such as the San Diego Padres, New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians, Montreal Expos, and Minnesota Twins. He played as the third-baseman, and he put in extra effort to boost his performance.

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The extra effort he employed was the use of a superball which was banned since they give an unfair advantage to the hitters. Graig Nettles’s schemes came to an end in 1974 when an opponent catcher noticed something suspicious about the ball and called the umpire’s attention to it.

Jerry Rice

Jerry Rice was a receiver during his football career, and he happens to be one of the receivers that were deemed to be the best. He played for the San Francisco 49ers during his career. Jerry Rice played out his entire career as a receiver without getting caught for any illegal activity.

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However, a long while after retirement, Jerry Rice disclosed that he had indeed been involved in the form of cheating during his time as a receiver. Jerry Rice admitted to using a prohibited substance called stickum- a type of glue, that helped him get a better grip on the ball. He justified his actions with the claim that the other receivers were also doing the same thing. 

Micheal Waltrip 

While we’ve seen some exciting cheats in football, basketball, and other athletic sports. This scandal is about a renowned car racer by the name of Micheal Waltrip. He is recognized as the winner of the Daytona 500 race and is also respected as a top NASCAR racer. 

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However, in 2007, officials caught Micheal Waltrip and his team trying to pull a fast one in the Daytona 500. It was discovered that they were using a fuel popularly known back then as “rocket fuel.” The racing body prohibited this fuel because it has the same effect doping has on humans, just with cars. Waltrip and his team ended up with a fine.

Marion Jones 

Marion Jones was a track runner representing America. She participated in the 2000 summer Olympics and also played for the famous basketball team, Tulsa Shock. Marion Jones’s performance over the years as an athlete was impressive, and she managed to bag three gold medals and two bronze.

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Unfortunately, not all that glitters is gold. Over time, it became known to the public that Marion Jones might not be very deserving of those medals. It was discovered that she was using steroids to boost her performance, which led to her losing all her awards.

Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick is the coach of the legendary New England Patriots. He has made a name for himself as one of the best coaches in the history of baseball. Unfortunately, this man was caught cheating at one of his games and probably previous games.

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In 2007, Bill Belichick was making video recordings of the opposition, the New York Jets. Belichick was recording the signals that were being used to communicate between the defense of the opposition. This would have given him an unfair edge in the game.

Mike Tyson 

In the world of boxing, Mike Tyson is a name that can’t not be mentioned. The man was a professional who shook the entire boxing world back then, and his name still rings in the boxing hall of fame. Throughout his career, he had multiple championship belts and held an undefeated record for a long time. 

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It is said that this legend would stoop low as to commit an atrocious foul out of spite for his opponent. The opponent, in this case, was Evander Holyfield, who had previously won the title of the heavyweight champion from Tyson. During their rematch, Tyson bit down on Evander’s ear, an act that anybody knows is illegal in boxing.

Barry Bonds & friends

Barry Bonds was a baseball player that ruled the game from the 90s into the 2000s. This man and others like Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa were considered legends during this time due to their unparalleled performances. They were even known to have broken different existing homerun records over that time.

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However, it turned out that Barry Bonds and company were not achieving these stunts purely based on their talent. Investigations by George J. Mitchell revealed that these groups of players were involved in doping. They were using anabolic steroids to boost their performances. 

Lance Armstrong

While cheating is not new to the world of sports, this case happens to be very saddening and disappointing. Lance Armstrong is a man whose life story has served as an inspiration to countless people. He was diagnosed with cancer, which he managed to beat. Lance then went on to win the Tour de France seven times after beating cancer.

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With a back story like that of Armstrong, it is impossible not to have a good impression. However, it was later revealed that Armstrong was involved in doping. He was using steroids to boost his performance, and it is sad to say that he lost all his titles after he was caught. It is even more painful for those that were looking up to him as their motivation. 

Tonya Harding

This story was one of the hottest and intense sensations back then. The scandal was so elaborate that a movie had to be made from it. Tonya Harding was a figure skater aspiring to win the Figure Skating Championship. She came from a complicated background with little to spare.

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However, she was faced with an opponent who stood in the way of her winning the championship – Nancy Kerrigan. Tonya’s ex-husband hired thugs to damage Nancy’s knees while coming back from practice to ascertain her victory. Tonya later lost the right to the medal that year.

Kenny Rogers

It would seem like baseball has the highest record of cheaters. Kenny Rogers was a pitcher for the Detriot Tigers. He was suspected of cheating when a view by chance of the camera showed something suspicious on Kenny Rogers. It was later discovered that he had indeed done something illegal.

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Like other baseball cheaters that we’ve discussed, Kenny Rogers had taken it upon himself to mess with the ball before making his pitch. Officials discovered that he was rubbing a mixture on the ball to make it more difficult for the hitter to hit it. However, this act was deemed insignificant because his team still lost the match.

Ben Johnson

Ben Johnson was a Canadian track star back in the late 80s. He was recognized as one of the fastest men before Usain Bolt came into the picture. Ben Jhonson took part in the Seoul Olympics in 1988, and he came out as the victor and winner of the gold medal.

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However, they retracted the right to the medal from Ben because, you can already guess, doping. Blood tests from Ben Johnson showed that he had been using anabolic steroids during the race, and unfortunately for him, he wasn’t lucky enough to get away with it.

Danny Almonte

This scandal is one of a kind compared to the others that we’ve talked about. Everybody knows that the game of baseball is separated into groups based on age group. There is the league for the big dogs, and then we have the little league for those that are 12 and below.

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In the case of Danny Almonte, this little man was doing wonders in the little league with his pitches. Suspicion then started to arise from the other teams, and they decided to hire a private investigator. The investigator later discovered that Danny was not 12 but 14 years old. 

Amos Otis

Amos Otis was a baseball player back in the 60s. He played from the 60s into the 80s when he finally retired. It wasn’t until after he had retired that news of him sharing the method he used to cheat was made known.

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Amos Otis made a statement admitting to cheating during his time as a baseball player. Amos said that he made use of bats that were stuffed with a cork, and he had these bats made for him by his friend who made bats for a living. He also stated that other players at that time were doing the same thing.

Joe Niekro

We have yet another baseball scandal. Joe Niekro can be said to have come up with an advanced method of cheating. Unlike other pitchers that used things like vaseline and other pastes to alter the ball’s flight, Joe Niekro came up with a more ingenious way, and most still don’t know how his schemes worked until now.

Image courtesy of Doug McWilliams / National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Joe Niekro would have never been caught but has a chance will have it. When he was making a pitch in 1987, some things slipped out of his pocket, and they were an emery board and sandpaper. Although nobody could explain how it worked, Joe was still penalized and punished for cheating. 

Stella Walsh

The Stella Walsh case still causes controversy. While some remain adamant that she cheated, some still argue that she didn’t. Stella Walsh was a track runner for Poland back in the 30s, and she represented them in the summer Olympics of 1932. 

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Stella Walsh’s performance was one of a kind, and she remained undefeated. She managed to win some gold medals, and nothing suspicious was discovered until after she died later. During her autopsy, they found that she had both male and female genes. This is why there is controversy as to if she was cheating or not.

Antonio Margarito

Antonio Margarito is probably the sportsman with the fastest record of being caught cheating. Antonio was a boxer that had come to face his opponent Shane Mosley, and he sure came prepared for a knockout. Unfortunately for Antonio, his preparations were not exactly in line with the regulations.

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Antonio’s preparations were seen by the officials before the game even began. Otherwise, Shane Mosley might have been left with more than just a damaged ego. It turned out that Antonio had gone the extra mile to make his fists harder with the aid of cement wraps. These wraps were designed to make his punches way harder. 

Ty Cobb

This man is one of the dirtiest players to have played the game of baseball. Ty Cobb did not make any attempt to hide his unlawful tacts on the pitch, and he very openly committed all kinds of despicable fouls to secure a win for his team.

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Ty Cobb was known to do things as petty as tripping opponent players making a run for the base, and he would sometimes use his cleats to impale the foot of players or even steal signs. This unwarranted attitude was attributed to his rough background and upbringing. 

Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona is a soccer legend, and his name still rings in the hall of fame of soccer to date. He played for Argentina and other clubs up till his retirement from professional football. While Maradona was known for his skill and dexterity with the ball, what made him more famous was his feat in the 1986 world cup final.

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Maradona became even more renowned after he scored the winning goal of the 1986 world cup final. The goal was a beautiful header into the back of the net, or so the ref thought. After the match, Maradona admitted to using his hand instead of his head to score. It was this incident that brought about the popular phrase “hand of God.”

Marie-Reine Le Gougne

We’ve seen an example of a few officials that have gone against what they were trained to do. Marie-Reine Le Gougne just happens to be another official that misused her position for her benefit. Marie was a judge in the figure skating 2002 winter Olympics.

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While other judges were making reasonable and fair judgments, people noticed that Marie was making some unreasonable calls. These outrageous calls aroused the suspicions of the other judges, and it led to an investigation. The investigation revealed that Marie had collected bribes from the skater.

Arnold Schwarzenegger 

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a well-known Hollywood actor that has left his name in the Hollywood hall of fame. However, many people are aware that he was a world-renowned bodybuilder before he became an actor. He was even named the “Mr. Universe” at the age of 20.

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However, back then, it became public knowledge that the young star was involved in the use of illegal substances. Arnold admitted to having used steroids to keep up with bodybuilding competition. He also realized that every other bodybuilder and weight lifter was into steroids at that time. 

Clem Haskins 

Clem Haskins is yet another basketball player that tried to beat the system but ended up getting caught. He once played professional basketball, but he became well-known after he started coaching college basketball teams. He coached teams like Western Kentucky University and the University of Minnesota.

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While Clem Haskins was able to make a name for himself as a coach, it was later revealed in the limelight that Clem was involved in some illegal activities regarding his team players. It was discovered that Clem collaborated with some counselors to do the schoolwork of his players. After he was caught, the school lost the ability to participate in the playoffs for some years, and he also stopped coaching. 

Albert Belle

Albert Belle was a baseball player back in the 90s, and he was well-known for the amazing records that he set. He was recognized as a five-time slugger, had about 290,000 home runs, and 1200 runs in which he batted in. Albert was an absolute champ hat stood out among his peers.

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It is due to these outstanding records that Albert stood out and eventually attracted the audience’s attention. When it was discovered that Albert was using a corked bat, it turned out as a huge sensation due to his popularity, and this scandal eventually brought him to the end of his career.

Jose Canseco 

Jose Canseco is another baseball player who has made a name for himself. It just so happens that the name Jose made for himself is now on the negative side of history. Jose Canseco was a well-recognized hitter back then, but it turned out his hits weren’t purely from his ability.

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It was mentioned earlier that Jose made a name for himself. That name was “the godfather of steroids.” It turned out Jose was using steroids to boost his performance. After news got out of his substance abuse, Jose shocked the world with his indifference, and he even advocated for the legalization of steroids in sports.

Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez is yet another baseball player that tops the board in his days, but it turned out that he was also involved in the illegal use of substances. Alex broke records and did the impossible throughout his career, and he currently holds the record for most grand slams with a fantastic 25 slams.

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However, suspicions had been rising concerning his performance, and an investigation later revealed that Alex was indeed using steroids. When faced with these allegations, he admitted to it. This scandal cost him his reputation and made him very unpopular.

Tom Williams, Dean Richards & Nick Evans

Dean Richards was the coach of the Harlequins Bloodgate as of 2009. There was an uproar at one of their matches after it was discovered that the coach had conspired with one of his players to take advantage of the rules that had been set.

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In football, there is an exception to the rules, which allows a player that had been subbed off to go back into the game if the other player is suffering from blood loss. Dean Richards tried to take advantage of this rule and gave a blood pill to Tom Williams. They were later discovered, and both the coach and player were banned.

Rosie Ruiz

Talking about thinking outside the box. Rosie Ruiz took this to another level. She was a part of the 1980 Boston Marathon. She finished first and was crowned the winner of that race. She later came back for the marathon again and even spent 20 minutes earlier than her previous record.

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Such a performance improvement was sure to attract the attention of people. After investigation, it turned out that Rosie had indeed taken some measures to ensure that she came out first. She had taken the subway and then entered back into the race.

Gaylord Perry

Gaylord Perry was a well-known baseball player. He played for 20 years, and over those years, he held the position of pitcher in up to eight teams. Gaylord Perry managed to make a name for himself over the years of his career.

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What name, you asked? “Spitball.” The famous spitball name came from the unique method of cheating that Gaylord Perry was fond of using. He would hide vaseline on his hand and then rub it on the ball before making his pitch. The vaseline would have the flight pattern of the ball, making it more difficult to hit.