In a way, we usually put athletes up on a pedestal. We see them as superhumans, Gods even. We tend to worship them for anything and everything - the way they walk, talk, smile, move and most of all, play.
Perhaps, the display of overwhelmingly good athleticism can easily take anyone's breath away. Because we know for certain that we can never be like them. We can't possibly accomplish what they have on the field. And we can't possibly win as many titles and awards.
Indeed, athletes, when successful, get all the respect and admiration. However, when they come undone in public, the situation can get pretty ugly. They get disgraced and somehow, shunned by society.
Just check out these 20 athletes (and athletic teams) who ended up falling from grace:
20 2000 Spanish Paralympics Team
As you may know, the Paralympics is quite special because it is a chance for people with a handicap to show off their remarkable sports abilities. However, in 2000, the Spanish Paralympics Team decided to cheat by bringing in a basketball team who only pretended to be disabled.
In the end, the team was asked to return its medals. Moreover, the issue also went to court.
19 2000 China Gymnastics Team
At some point, China thought it would be a good idea to gain an edge in the Olympics by cheating. In this case, they decided to include several girls in their 2000 gymnastics team who were still below the age of 16.
In fact, it turned out some of the girls on the team were only 14 years old at the time of the competition. At that time, the minimum age to compete was 16.
18 Marion Jones
Marion Jones was a sprinter who had managed to win as many as five medals during the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. The problem is it was later found that Jones had been using performance-enhancing drugs.
Following this discovery, Jones was stripped of her medals. At the same time, she lost her endorsement deals and eventually became broke.
17 Shawne Merriman
Shawne Merriman is a former football linebacker who was drafted by the San Diego Chargers during the 2005 NFL Draft. The following year, an announcement was made that Merriman would receive a suspension for four games after he reportedly violated the NFL’s policy regarding performance-enhancing drugs.
According to a report from ESPN, Merriman claimed his positive test was due to a tainted nutritional supplement.
16 Floyd Landis
At one point in his career, Floyd Landis had been a professional road racing cyclist who was initially declared the winner of the 2006 Tour de France.
However, things took a turn for Landis when it was found that Landis and other members of the United States Postal Service team had been using performance-enhancing drugs to have an edge in the sport.
15 Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong’s cheating in cycling only came to light after Landis made his own admission.
According to The Atlantic, an investigation by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) found that Armstrong and the team manager ran “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.” As a result, Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour victories. He also lost seven sponsors, according to The Atlantic.
14 Ryan Lochte
At one point, Ryan Lochte had been a competitive swimmer who proudly represented the U.S. during the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. As you may remember, he got into some trouble with the law after allegedly filing a false robbery report while in Brazil.
Two years later, Lochte found himself in the headlines again for the wrong reasons. This time, the USADA announced the sanctioning of Lochte for violation of the anti-doping rule.
13 Dora Ratjen
During the European Athletics Championships back in 1938, German athlete Dora Ratjen competed in the women’s high jump and won a gold medal. The problem is Ratjen was only presenting to be a woman. In the end, Ratjen was convicted for fraud and his gold medal was asked to be returned.
According to Sportscons.com, Ratjen’s name was also expunged from the records.
12 Boris Onischenko
Boris Onischenko was once a pentathlete who represented Russia in various international games. During the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, it was discovered that Onischenko had made illegal modifications to his epée in time for a fencing meet.
According to a report from Paste Magazine, the athlete rewired the electronic sensing technology on his epée so that he would immediately score a hit even if he had failed to hit his opponent.
11 1994 Arizona State Basketball Team
Back in the 90s, one of the most controversial scandals that hit the world of basketball was one that involved the 1994 Arizona State Basketball Team.
According to a report from the Arizona Daily Sun, several bets were placed on five of the Arizona State games in Las Vegas which occurred from December 1993 to May 1994. Of those, four were fixed successfully. In the end, several players were found guilty and sentenced to jail.
10 English Rugby Team
During the 2009 Heineken Cup, the English Rugby Team decided to do the unthinkable – blatantly cheat. According to a report from The Guardian, the team tried to pull off a fake blood injury to allow kicker Nick Evans back on the field.
Upon discovery of their cheating, the team’s winger, who faked the injury, ended up being banned for a year.
9 Hansie Cronje
Hansie Cronje had been a cricketer for the South African national team. And as vibrant as his career was, Conje became involved in a match-fixing scandal later on.
According to a report from The South African, Conje eventually acknowledged that he received R100,000 (approximately $6,975) for his involvement in fixing the match. As a result, Conje was given a life ban from the game.
8 Michelle Smith
Michelle Smith is an Irish Olympic swimmer who is best known for her performance during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Here, she won the gold medals in the 200-meter individual medley, 400-meter freestyle, and 400-meter individual medley.
Her image, however, was tarnished two years later when it was found that she had tampered with her urine sample during a drug test.
7 Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall
Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall had been a pentathlete who was a member of the Swedish team for the 1968 Summer Olympics.
According to reports, it is believed that Liljenwall consumed two beers to help calm his nerves before taking part in the pistol shooting event. When this was discovered, his team was forced to return their medals.
6 Ben Johnson
At one point, Ben Johnson was a celebrated track and field athlete who had been a member of the Canadian team. However, later on in his career, Johnson tested positive for the use of steroids and was subsequently banned from the sport.
In the end, he admitted that he had been taking steroids since 1981.
5 Nesta Carter
Nesta Carter was once known as a Jamaican sprinter who specialized in the 100-meter event. Unfortunately, around the time of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, it was found that Carter was taking a banned stimulant.
According to the BBC, the Court of Arbitration for Sport said, “Reanalysis confirmed the presence of methylhexaneamine.” As a result, Carter and his team were stripped of their Olympic gold.
4 Tom Brady
As you may know, NFL star Tom Brady was once caught in a highly publicized sports scandal that later came to be known as “deflategate.” Essentially, Brady and certain members of his team, the New England Patriots, deliberately tampered with the game balls around the time of the 2014 to 2015 AFC Championship.
In the end, Brady was slapped with a four-game suspension.
3 Rosie Ruiz
At one point, Rosie Ruiz became known as one of the most successful marathon runners in history after being declared the winner of the Boston Marathon in April 1980. However, Ruiz would be stripped of her win just eight days later.
As it turned out, Ruiz did not exactly run the race. Instead, she emerged from the crowd and ran around one-half mile to the finish line.
2 Park Si-hun
During the 1988 Summer Olympics, South Korean Park Si-hun was declared the winner during a match against U.S. boxer Roy Jones, Jr. However, it was later discovered that all three judges at the event were bought off to declare Park the winner.
Following the Olympics and controversy, Park decided to retire.
1 Tonya Harding
Without a doubt, Tonya Harding remains to be one of the most controversial figures in American ice-skating history. As you may recall, Harding was implicated in the incident that left her skating rival, Nancy Kerrigan, viciously attacked and unable to compete in the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
Eventually, Harding’s husband and bodyguard eventually admitted their involvement in the attack. Harding also ended up pleading guilty to the charge of “conspiracy to hinder prosecution,” which resulted in a lifetime ban, according to Biography.
Sources: Arizona Daily Sun; The Guardian; The Atlantic