Although baseball players being accused of taking steroids is nothing new, the sweeping suspensions handed down by the MLB that resulted from the Biogenesis investigation officially made it one of the biggest sports scandals ever. But where does it rank on the all-time list of sports scandals? Here we rank the 10 biggest, and for the purposes of this list we will not be including off-the-field scandals like the ones O.J., Tiger, or Kobe have been caught up in. Onto the list:
10. Sprinter Ben Johnson stripped of gold medal—Still the most famous Olympian to lose a gold medal, 100-meter sprinter Ben Johnson was forced to give up his gold at the 1988 Seoul Olympics after beating out a field that included the legendary Carl Lewis. Johnson’s time of 9.79, which was a world record at the time, was of course thrown out and the Canadian sprinter has not been heard of since.
9. Patriots Spygate Scandal—After being drubbed 38–14 by the New England Patriots in the 2007 opener, the New York Jets, coached by former Patriots’ assistant Eric Mangini, filed a complaint with the league alleging the Patriots filmed their defensive coordinator’s signals during a game.
After an investigation, it was found that the Patriots, which had claimed three of the last six Super Bowls, had been using the tactic since 2000. New England, which lost the Super Bowl that year after an undefeated regular season, was forced to surrender it’s first round draft pick. In addition, head coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000.
The punishment doesn’t seem to have slowed New England very much as the team has gone 60–20 in the regular season in the five years since being docked a first round pick.
8. A-Rod and the Biogenesis Case—Aug. 5, 2013, saw the MLB officially suspend 13 players, including three-time MVP Alex Rodriguez, for using PEDs provided by the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic.
A-Rod’s penalty was the harshest, resulting in a 211-game ban that encompasses all of 2013 and 2014, though the slugger is appealing the suspension—the only one indicted to do so.
7. New Orleans Saints bounty program—The NFL suspended Saints coach Sean Payton, GM Mickey Loomis as well as defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for running a bounty program, which rewarded players with cash for injuring opposing players.
Originally, the NFL sought to suspend players as well, but those were later overturned.
6. Lance Armstrong finally admits to doping—Although a number of riders had admitted to doping, seven-time Tour de France-winner Lance Armstrong maintained his innocence for years—until opening up to Oprah earlier this year.
It was too little, too late though as Armstrong had already been stripped of his Tour de France wins and is banned for life from the UCI (International Cycling Union) and USADA (U.S. Anti-Doping Agency) as well as the Olympics.
5. NBA referee Tim Donaghy resigns amid controversy—On Aug. 15, 2007 NBA referee Tim Donaghy pleaded guilty to two federal conspiracy charges that he used insider information to bet on NBA games. And although he wasn’t actually charged with betting on games that he refereed himself, it was widely believed that he had privately admitted to doing so as well.
4. Pete Rose banned from baseball—Baseball’s all-time hits leader, and one-time manager, Pete Rose has still not found his way to the Hall of Fame and it’s entirely due to his gambling problem.
On Aug. 24, 1989, Rose, who had managed the Reds since 1984, was indefinitely suspended from baseball after being accused of betting on games he managed. Rose, after years of denial, finally admitted his guilt but has yet to be reinstated or added to the Hall of Fame balloting.
3. The Malice at the Palace—Still the biggest black eye in the history of the NBA, Nov. 19, 2004, in Detroit saw an on-court fight between the Pacers and Pistons eventually spill into the stands and involving fans.
Seconds after Pacers forward Ron Artest got tangled up with Pistons center Ben Wallace, Artest was hit with an object from the crowd, which sent him rushing into the stands to repay the perpetrator in an absolutely shocking scene. Several teammates followed him into the stands and the resulting suspensions seem light in retrospect: Artest was suspended 86 games, while teammates Stephen Jackson (30) and Jermaine O’Neal (15) were temporarily banned as well. In all, nine players faced fines or suspensions for their involvement.
Artest, now ironically known as Metta World Peace, was traded the following season and the Pacers, which had won 61 games in 2003–04, were forced back into rebuilding mode until finally assembling a contending team this past season.
2. White Sox throw 1919 World Series—In 1921 the new MLB commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis suspended eight White Sox players for life, including star outfielder ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson, for accepting bribes to throw the 1919 World Series.
Jackson, easily the most famous of the bunch, actually hit a team-best .375 in the eight-game set against the Reds, while hitting a home run, three doubles, and driving in six runs. Cincinnati won the series 5–3.
1. SMU Gets Death Penalty—The NCAA has handed out just one death penalty and, after it’s decimating effect on SMU’s football program, it probably won’t have to handout another.
In 1987 SMU, a repeat NCAA offender at the time, was accused of using a slush fund, provided by a booster, to illegally pay players to attend the school. The death penalty that was handed down was no joke, resulting in the loss of all games for the 1987 season and the loss of home games for the following year. In addition, all players were granted an unconditional release, while the program’s scholarships were cut by 55 over the next four seasons.
SMU, which went 61–19–1 from 1980–1986 has had just four winning seasons in the 24 seasons since.