Biggest Sporting Scandals
Doping, murder, fixing and everything in between… the sporting world has been rocked by its fair share of outrageous scandals. In recent times, Lance Armstrong was exposed by The Times journalist David Walsh for “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen”. On 15th February Armstrong’s downfall is brought to gripping life in the widely acclaimed biopic, THE PROGRAM, which arrives on Blu-ray, DVD and digital platforms.
Here, we take a look at how Armstrong’s scandalous fall from grace compares to the outrageous downfalls of other famous sportsmen and sportswomen…
One of the most sophisticated doping programs in the history of competitive cycling was masterminded by Lance Armstrong, who at the peak of his cycling career enjoyed the life of a sporting hero.
After being diagnosed with a potentially fatal testicular cancer he began treatment, and after his recovery, he founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation to assist other cancer survivors- by January 1998, Armstrong had renewed his training, and signed a new contract with US Postal. He was a member of the US Postal/Discovery team between 1998 and 2005, in which he won his Tour de France titles, as well as a bronze medal in the 2000 Summer Olympics. He retired from racing at the end of the 2005 Tour de France, but returned to competitive cycling in January 2009, finishing third in the 2009 Tour de France. He then retired for a second time in 2011. Sunday Times journalist David Walsh remained unconvinced of Armstrong’s messiah-like return to form, and embarked on a relentless investigation to expose the man behind the myth.
Armstrong had been the subject of doping allegations ever since winning the 1999 Tour de France. In 2012, a United States Anti-Doping Agency investigation concluded that Armstrong had used performance-enhancing drugs during his career and called him the ringleader of “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.” He received a lifetime ban from competing in all sports that follow the World Anti-Doping Agency code and was stripped of all of his awards after 1998, including his seven Tour de France titles.
NFL superstar OJ Simpson played running back for 11 seasons, with the Buffalo Bills from 1969 to 1977 and with the San Francisco 49ers from 1978 to 1979. He was the first NFL player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season, and he maintains the record as the only player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a 14-game season.
In 1994, Simpson’s wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman were found stabbed to death outside Brown’s condominium in LA. Simpson was a person of interest in their murders, and on June 17, after failing to turn himself in, he became the object of a low-speed police pursuit which interrupted coverage of the 1994 NBA Finals. The subsequent trial was among the most widely publicised events in American history, and finished with a verdict of “not guilty” for the two murders. An estimated 100 million people nationwide across the US watched / listened to the verdict announcement. Following Simpson’s acquittal, the crime remains unsolved to this day.
He is currently serving a 33 year sentence for multiple felonies, including armed robbery and kidnapping.
The greatest golfer in history was the subject of a hugely damaging scandal in 2009, when his former wife Elin Nordegren chased him out of the family home on Thanksgiving with a golf club. After Woods had fled the house with Elin in hot pursuit, he crashed his car into a fire hydrant- knocked out, he was taken to hospital for treatment, and released.
In the weeks that followed, as the world speculated on the incident, facts slowly but surely trickled through. Elin had thought Woods had been having an affair with one, perhaps two women, but as the truth slowly came to light, Woods found himself in the centre of a media storm that showed no signs of abating.
Two weeks after the accident, the number of his known mistresses was up to 14. He lost major endorsements with Nike, Gatorade, Gillette and Accenture and announced he was taking a leave from golf. By the end of the month, he was in rehab for sex addiction, and has since returned to golf- although his career has never fully recovered.
Former French captain Zinedine Zidane went down in history in 2006 for one of the biggest world cup controversies the sport had ever known. 19 minutes into the extra time of the final against Italy, he head-butted Marco Materazzi of Italy for allegedly hurling insults. Seemingly out of nowhere, Zidane launched himself at the Italian player, and the force of the head-butt knocked him to the ground.
France were then forced to play the remaining ten minutes of the extra time without the man who had led them to the 1998 World Cup victory. After extra time failed to produce a winning goal, Italy became the world champions through a penalty shoot out.
Zidane earned himself a red card, marking the end of an incredible international career – and despite initial vitriol, on his return to France he was welcomed as a hero. Materazzi admitted to the insults (which were in relation to Zidane’s sister), and French media reported the mood of the nation was one of affection, and forgiveness- with tributes led by Jacques Chirac himself.
Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan
On Jan. 6, 1994, figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was attacked by an assailant with a metal baton while leaving a practice session in Detroit. She was originally a favourite to win the Figure Skating Championships, but was now forced to the sidelines. In her absence, 1991 champion Tonya Harding took the spotlight and won the U.S. title, as well as a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.
However, it wasn’t long before accomplice Shawn Eckardt caved and informed the FBI about a plot that he put together with Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly.
Harding admitted that she knew about the attack after the fact but failed to come forward. She avoided being kicked off the US team after a swift lawsuit, but when Kerrigan recovered in time to compete in Lillehammer, the competition became the ultimate showdown. Heading into the finals, Kerrigan was in first place, ahead of Ukrainian teenager and world champion Oksana Baiul and France’s Surya Bonaly. Harding was a distant 10th. In the finals, a controversial judging decision led to Kerrigan receiving a silver medal- and Harding, somehow, avoided jail.
THE PROGRAM races onto Digital HD from 8th February, 2016 and onto Blu-ray™ and DVD on 15th February, 2016, courtesy of STUDIOCANAL.