Top Five US Sporting Scandals

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A look back on five of the biggest sporting scandals to hit the US.

Tour de France

Bribery, corruption, failed drug tests and assault all play their part in some of the most notorious events in American sporting history.

Here are five of the biggest US sports scandals.

The Black Sox (Chicago throw the World Series – 1919)

The Chicago White Sox were the best team in baseball immediately after the First World War, but the only thing that united a fractious dressing room was their hatred for owner Charles Comskey.

He had reneged on a bonus payment when they had won the World Series in 1917 and some of the players weren’t taking the chance of being short-changed when they reached Fall Classic two years later to face the Cincinnati Reds.

First baseman Chick Gandil was the ringleader of a betting scam that would rock the sport and hatched a plan with bookmaker Sport Sullivan to throw the series for $80,000.

Catcher instructions were ignored by pitchers, including ace Eddie Cicotte and they eventually fell in the best-of-nine series, with plenty of money bet on the underdogs Reds.

Rumours abounded and eight players were hauled in front of a Grand Jury. Despite being acquitted, they were banned for life and, even 100 years later, debate rages about who was involved and who wasn’t.

Ice maiden rivalry spills over (Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan – 1994)

American figure skaters Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding were set to battle it out for glory at the Lillehammer Olympics in 1994, but the Harding camp did not want to leave anything to chance.

Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillolly, with whom the skater shared a turbulent on-off relationship, hatched a plan to injure rival Kerrigan and eventually Shane Stant was hired for $6,500 to attack her, hitting her behind the knee with a baton after she had finished a training session.

That put her out of the US Championships, but it did not take long for the plot to be discovered and unravel.

Both skaters went to Norway where Kerrigan won silver and Harding’s quest for glory was derailed by a dodgy shoelace.

Her role in the plot was soon uncovered and she pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution, earning three years probation and a $100,000 fine.

The incident inspired the film I, Tonya, starring Margot Robbie in the title role.

It wasn’t all about the bike (Lance Armstrong – 2013)

Lance Armstrong’s story of claiming seven Tour de France titles following a successful battle against testicular cancer was one of the most inspirational in sporting history, but it was all built on lies.

Armstrong had regularly been suspected of taking banned substances to aid his performance and his world came crashing down after Floyd Landis, who failed a drug test following his success at the 2006 Tour, turned whistleblower regarding the time when he was a team-mate of Armstrong at the US Postal Service team.

Further accusations followed from other former teammates and Armstrong was stripped of all his achievements after Armstrong did not contest charges from the United States Anti-Doping Agency that he had ‘used, possessed and trafficked banned substances.’

He later confessed all in an exclusive interview with Oprah Winfrey.

The novice and the Boston Marathon (Rosie Ruiz – 1980)

Just completing the marathon is a gruelling event but Rosie Ruiz’s finishing time of 2.31:56 at the 1980 Boston Marathon was particularly impressive as she was a virtual unknown and had run the third fastest time by a woman ever.

However, she hadn’t done it. Ruiz wanted to impress her boss who had reportedly funded her trip after she had qualified via a previous time in New York, but she joined the race just a mile from the end.

A lack of sweat and her absence from all pictures apart from at the end aroused suspicions and she was stripped of her crown eight days later.

It was revealed she had aimed to move into the race into the middle of the pack with the other 448 female runners but went too early.

Also, it came to light that, for her qualification time in the Big Apple, she had taken the subway.

The referee and the schoolmate bookie (Tim Donaghy – 2007)

Tim Donaghy was a well-known face among the NBA refereeing fraternity, but he became synonymous with being a cheat in 2007 when it was discovered he had been betting on the basketball matches he had been officiating.

He took charge of 772 regular-season and 20 playoff matches, but it was discovered he was in league with a high-school classmate James Battista and the pair would fix games for betting purposes.

Donaghy would get $2,000 for each correct pick and use the money to fuel a destructive gambling problem.

He would also provide bookmakers with privileged information regarding players’ physical condition and player-referee relations for cash, and, following an FBI investigation, was jailed for 15 months.

A vastly experienced journalist, Ian has worked the beat on a number of local newspapers and covers a number of different sports for the Racing Post
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