Ten Sporting Scandals

Ten Sporting Scandals

Scribbled as a hasty response to the Tiger Woods scandal. I’m sure he read it and simply laughed his head off.

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Tiger Woods

The Hero
Hero? A god. A clean-living, shy, married-with-kids, down-home, regular, untouchable, sanitised, superstar billionaire.

The Scandal
From the moment he thumped gently into a fire hydrant, the mask was ripped from his battered face like the fairground owner in Scooby Doo. As allegation after allegation dragged the Tiger image towards Cheaptown, there was a feeling that, while the unreality ride had been interesting, could we all get off now?

Shock Value
Huge. It’s like your dad revealing he’s really your mum. If he’d sat down with a crack team of screw-up experts and drawn up plans to destroy his life, he couldn’t have done it better.

What Happened Next
Tiger Woods sat in a dark room somewhere, looked at the smouldering wreckage, and reflected that OJ could at least escape it all on the golf course.

Michael Vick

The Hero
Vick was the projects kid made good: a popular and successful quarterback with the Atlanta Falcons, appearances in the Pro-Bowl, a raft of corporate endorsements and everything going pretty well.

The Scandal
In 2007, we learnt that, instead of the usual pastimes of playing PlayStation and chasing booty, Vick was an integral part of a dog-fighting ring and, in fact, fronted up most of the betting money.

Shock Value
White-bread America was scandalised. You can get away with almost anything but being nasty to doggies. NFL chief suit Roger Goodell called it “not only illegal, but also cruel and reprehensible”.

What Happened Next
For Vick, the wheels fell off, then the engine, then the gearbox. He was suspended from playing, ended up in jail and succeeded in throwing his fortune away in world record time. His name is now a byword for the ugly side of sport, but at least he’s back playing.

Mike Tyson

The Hero
During the late-‘80s Iron Mike was less a hero than the invincible warrior from planet Fear. The big shock was his 1990 loss to Buster Douglas due to overconfidence and undertraining. It was just the start of a long series of big steps down, until…

The Scandal
In 1992, beauty contestant Desiree Washington said Tyson had raped her in his hotel room. The jury believed her. He went to jail for three years.

Shock Value
The rape allegation was bad enough, but the grisly courtroom details of the incident and the state of Tyson’s personal life, was enough to make the most hardened sports fan drop his beer.

What Happened Next
Revenue of his fights actually went up, as people realised Tyson was capable of anything. In 1997, he bit chunks out of Evander Holyfield’s ears and as his career spiralled into the ground, he managed to lose all his money and chalked up too many comedy mishaps to list. “I’ve wasted my life,” is his generous assessment.

OJ Simpson

The Hero
“The Juice” was a celebrated and popular running back, who became a smooth corporate spokesman and entrepreneur, and whose career was upshifting smoothly into film work. They always said he had a bit of a temper, though…

The Scandal
The first hint that things might not be completely well was footage of Simpson’s Ford Bronco being slowly chased along a freeway by the entire Californian police force. His ex-wife and her friend had been found dead, he was in the frame, and trial by jury and television was coming down the pike.

Shock Value
Makes Woods’ alleged adventures with porn stars and waitresses look like the Wiggles go to Fluffyland. Dazed viewers saw weeks of darkness, murder and brutality unfold in front of them. Followed by OJ’s eerie grin as he was let off.

What Happened Next
Simpson slid past the legal case, but lost his fortune in a civil suit. He played golf like a lonely zombie for a few years, before his true nature as a vicious dumb-ass bubbled to the surface again. He was jailed for a bungled hold-up and the key thrown quietly down the nearest drain.

Paul Gascoigne

The Hero
The greatest English footballer of his generation, the zany, attacking midfielder lit up Italia 90 and was the idol of the terraces.

The Scandal
Less of a scandal, than the slow realisation that Gazza wasn’t just zany – he had a mental illness. Once past his peak, his life descended into alcoholism, gambling, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder and he was finally sectioned.

Shock Value
Minus 128. Initially everyone just hoped he didn’t end up like George Best (ie, alcoholic then dead). Now there’s a feeling that, while the journey may be slightly different, the destination will be the same.

What Happened Next
At the time of writing, he has just been arrested for a drunken rampage. By the time you read this, he could have been arrested for another one. And on it goes.

John Daly

The Hero
If “to err is human”, Daly may be the most human of all of us. Somewhere inside his fat frame is a fantastically talented golfer, but after his 1991 breakthrough victory, it was quickly obvious this southern boy had a whole lot of other things going on. None of them were willpower.

The Scandal
Which one? The domestic violence? The drunkenness? The insane gambling? The traffic violations? He wrote the shortest, most honest and definitely most incident-packed sports autobiography ever, but even after it had gone to print, the entertainment continued.

Shock Value
Nil. When he was found passed out drunk in front of Hooters, in 2008, everyone just hoped he was OK. The National Enquirer could barely be bothered to report it.

What Happened Next
After three divorces, and continuing to keep Marlboro, Jim Beam and the Hershey corporation afloat on his own, Daly got gastric bands, lost a bucket of weight and gained a new girlfriend. And everyone still hopes he’s OK.

Nick D’Arcy

The Hero
Not much of a hero, but the Brisbane butterfly merchant was a fast-improving prospect, who was on his way to the Beijing Olympics.

The Scandal
The night he was named in the Olympic squad, D’Arcy was so overjoyed he punched former swim champ Simon Cowley in the face, leaving him with a shattered nose, eye socket and jaw.

Shock Value
As D’Arcy’s brain slowly cranked around to the knowledge that instead of going to Beijing he might go to jail, national coach Alan Thompson put up a fabulous defence of his star: “He is a young man who is just like a lot of young men around, who enjoys himself.”

What Happened Next
D’Arcy didn’t make the Olympics – or jail, getting a suspended sentence. Swimming Australia dropped him like a short-tempered rattler and haven’t picked him up again.

Nathan Baggaley

The Hero
In 2005, Alpha was so impressed with just how darn fit the Olympic medal-winning kayaker was, we asked him for tips. Turns out the one tip he forgot was “take a bunch of steroids”.

The Scandal
The scandal was not so much the 2005 steroid bust, but just how stupid Baggaley continued to be in the next few years. His ban was nearly up, when police found mucho drugs and cash in his car; he was tried for manufacturing and supplying ecstasy, as well as using local kids to distribute it, like a Sherlock Holmes villain.

Shock Value
After the initial bust, the rest of the caper was more weird and interesting, than shocking. Not content with being the Gold Coast’s Mr Big, he even found time to nick a surf-ski from Byron Bay Surf Club.

What Happened Next
Nine years in the clink. Try checking his website in 2016 and see if there’s news.

Tonya Harding

The Hero
In another life, figure skater Harding would be famous for her awesome triple axel. She was a US champion and grabbed silver at the Munich World Championships, ahead of fellow American Nancy Kerrigan.

The Scandal
As Kerrigan left the practice ice for the 1994 US Champs in Detroit, a shadowy figure ran up behind her and began beating her about the knees with a baton.

Shock Value
As Blades of Glory taught us, there’s more to figure skating than twirling and smiling, but the allegation that Harding, her ex-husband and her bodyguard had hired someone to knobble her main rival, was surely going too far. And why does a figure skater need a bodyguard?

What Happened Next
Banned from skating, Harding’s life turned trashier than an afternoon of Maury Povich reruns. There were the tattoos, the tell-all book, the sex-tape, the truck crash, and the boxing career, which was not a good look for her. After three fights she realised she had asthma and quit.

Hansie Cronje

The Hero
As South Africa emerged from the political and sporting desert in the early ‘90s, batsman, then captain, Cronje was its symbol: dashing, honest, upright, handsome, talented, honest…

The Scandal
In 2000, the beloved captain was taped having a more than casual chat with some bloke from a betting syndicate. He admitted to not being “entirely honest”, which to be honest, wasn’t being entirely honest. He was up to his ears in match-fixing, even tempting other players to do the same. Cue trial, disgrace, ban, but…

Shock Value
Cronje may be South Africa’s OJ, but the shock was so great many remained in denial. In 2004, he was voted the 10th greatest South African. Ever. Ahead of Steve Biko.

What Happened Next
Dead. In 2002 his plane out of Johannesburg got lost in cloud and crashed into a mountain. Or, he was murdered by the forces of evil. Whatever.

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