Biggest sports sex scandals
Biggest sports sex scandals, "Say it ain't so, Joe. Say it ain't so," a young newspaper boy pleaded with "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. The young boy wanted "Shoeless" Joe to tell him that he and the other seven White Sox really hadn't thrown the 1919 World Series. He just couldn't believe that one of his heroes, his idol, could be guilty of foul play during the biggest event in professional baseball.
From the 1919 "Black Sox" World Series scandal through the drug and betting scandals of present day, there have been some notable transgressions on and off the field. I wanted to focus on a handful of those that I felt were absolutely the worst of the worst. Not only were the findings shocking in some instances, but I also found a few that I had forgotten about in all the years that I've paid attention to sports.
1919 Chicago "Black Sox"
In 1919, the life of professional baseball almost ended because of a betting scandal surrounding the Chicago White Sox and the World Series. Eight members of the team took a bribe to throw the series as revenge against owner Charles Comiskey for his "shallow" pockets when it came to compensating his players. First baseman, Chick Gandil in cahoots with Joseph "Sport" Sullivan (a professional gambler), organized the fix and recruited seven other players to involve themselves for a $10,000 per player reward.
In September of 1920, four of the eight members confessed their guilt to the grand jury. Comiskey immediately suspended seven of the players (Gandil was already serving a suspension over a salary dispute). The case went to trial in the summer of 1921, but was dismissed on the grounds of insufficient evidence on August 3rd, 1921. The very next day, the new baseball commissioner, Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis banned the eight players for life. This scandal would have meant the death of baseball as we know it. However, on a single positive note, it set the stage for Babe Ruth to be the "savior" of the sport.
1972 U.S. Men's Olympic Basketball
Arguably the biggest "snow" job in the history of the Olympics, the USA Men's Basketball team had their streak of victories dating back to 1936 destroyed by a corrupt British FIBA official, who decided to put three seconds back on the clock after time had expired on the game with the US winning 50-49. With three seconds left on the clock. Doug Collins sank two free throws to give the US the lead, despite the horn blowing when Collins was in the midst of his second free throw.
The Soviets failed to score, but an official stopped the game with 0:01 showing on the game clock, claiming that the Soviets were screaming for a time out. The clock was to be reset at 0:03 but instead it displayed 0:50 when play resumed. The Soviet team once again failed to score but R. William Jones, the FIBA Secretary General from Great Britain, vehemently protested and ordered 0:03 to be put back on the clock again, declaring there was an error when the clock was restarted the first time.
Jones had absolutely no authority to intervene in game decisions but because of his reputation, the officials would not disobey him. With the three second "gift" the Soviets in bounded the ball the length of the court where a waiting Soviet player easily made a lay-up, ending the game with the USSR winning 51-50, and the US' hopes of the gold medal dying.
1989 Pete Rose
Rose consented to a status of "permanent ineligibility from baseball" in August of 1989 (only three years after he retired) resulting from accusations of gambling on baseball while he was playing for and managing the Reds. Some of the accusations even stated that he had bet against his own team. After years of public denial, Rose eventually confessed to betting on his team, but not against them.
As a result, of his admission, Rose was permanently banned from baseball which remains a contentious topic today because of his amazing career records. Additionally, the Baseball Hall of Fame also voted to ban those on the "permanently ineligible" list from induction. Previously, those who were banned (most notably, Shoeless Joe Jackson) had been excluded by informal agreement among voters.
From my perspective, should the ban on Rose be lifted and he is inducted into the hall, it would open up an endless debate over the eight players banned for the 1919 "Black Sox" incident.
1994 Tonya Harding vs. Nancy Kerrigan
In January of 1994, the figure skating world was stunned by the attack on Nancy Kerrigan in Detroit at a practice session. She was considered the heavy favorite for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. As she was leaving the ice, an assailant struck her in the knee disabling her from the competition. Because of Kerrigan's absence, Tonya Harding (the 1991 champion) easily won the championship and got a spot on the U.S. Figure Skating team for the winter Olympics the following month in Lillehammer, Norway.
The mystery surrounding the attack would not last long. Shawn Eckardt, an accomplice to the assailant, would spill the details of the attack to the FBI. Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, had hatched the plot to assault Kerrigan and get her out of the way so as to enable Harding an easier road to the Olympics and a possible gold medal. Eventually Harding admitted that she knew about the attack after the fact but failed to come forward.
1997 Tyson Nibbles Holyfield's Ear
Where human beings are concerned, this particular scandal proved that Mike Tyson may not qualify for human status. Tyson fought Holyfield on November 9th, 1996 and saw a supposedly "washed up" Holyfield defeat Tyson with a TKO in the 11th round of the bout. A rematch was scheduled and took place on June 28th, 1997. Tyson was disqualified in the third round when he viciously bit off a piece of Holyfield's right ear. He had already bitten his left ear and was given a warning.
After the fight had been called, the piece of Holyfield's ear was found on the mat. The end of the fight caused a near riot with several people being trampled and injured. On July 9th Tyson was fined $3 million and the Nevada State Athletic Commission revoked his boxing license. Unfortunately for the sport of boxing and its fans, the revocation was not permanent and his license was restored on October 18th.
1998 Salt Lake City Scandal
The 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Committee was brought under federal indictment by the U.S. Justice Department for bribing the IOC in an effort to secure the city's bid for the '02 winter games. The scandal hit the news on December 10th, 1998 when Swiss IOC member Marc Hodler announced that several members of the IOC took bribes.
Immediately following the announcement, the U.S. Department of Justice along with the IOC, the USOC, and the SLOC formed committees for the purpose of conducting independent investigations. However, before any of the investigating started, Dave Johnson and Tom Welch, the heads of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, resigned their positions. Other members soon followed their lead.
The Justice Department filed charges against Johnson and Welch --- 15 charges of bribery and fraud to be exact. The two would eventually be acquitted of all charges in December, 2003. Ten members of the IOC were expelled and another ten were summarily sanctioned by the time the Justice Department was finished. It was the first expulsion and sanction in the 100+ year history of the IOC.
2000 Marion Jones
In 1997, Marion Jones would excel in the 100 meter race at the World Championships in Athens, and in 1999 attempted to win four medals. But she injured herself in the 200 meter race after winning the bronze in the long jump and the gold in the 100 meter race. In 2000, at Sydney for the summer games, Jones boldly announced her pursuit of five gold medals. She was the media darling of the Olympics, but fell short of her goal earning three gold and two bronze medals.
In the years that followed, rumors surfaced that Jones was using performance enhancing drugs. Her ex-husband Hunter, an Olympic shot-putter and a confessed steroid user, testified under oath that he had seen her inject herself in the stomach before performing in Sydney. Until 2007, Jones denied any and all allegations of drug use. In October of 2007, she confessed to using steroids while performing in Sydney. She pled guilty to perjury in the BALCO investigation in the U.S. District Court on October 5th.
She accepted a two year suspension for her actions and then retired from track and field competition the same day. The United States Anti-Doping Agency stated that the sanction "also requires disqualification of all her competitive results obtained after September 1, 2000, and forfeiture of all medals, results, points and prizes."
2002 Winter Olympics Skating Scandal
Despite a near perfect performance in the pairs competition, Jamie Sale and David Pelletier were cheated on points by a corrupt French judge. The judge later confessed to lowering their scoring marks citing that she was pressured to lower their scores enabling the Russians to win the gold medal. Outraged, Canadian newspapers printed headlines such as "Skategate", "Outrage!", and "Scandal on Ice!" In an editorial, the New York Times called the decision "a throwback to the days of the Cold War."
Suspicion fell almost immediately on the French judge, Marie-Reine Le Gougne. Upon returning to her hotel room, Le Gougne was confronted by Sally Stapleford, chair of the International Skating Union's Technical Committee. The judge had an emotional breakdown in front of Stapleford and confessed that the head of the French skating organization, Didier Gailhaguet, had coerced her into voting for the Russians regardless of the other competitor's performances. Sale and Pelletier were awarded a second gold medal as a result.
2003 - Kobe Has Sex
In 2003, Kobe Bryant made the news off the court by being accused of raping a Colorado hotel employee named Katelyn Faber. His image and reputation were damaged by the sexual assault charges and major sponsors such as McDonald's cancelled their contracts with Bryant. Sales of "Bryant Wear" greatly diminished as well.
During the case and the investigations, Kobe involved Shaquille O'Neal by saying that he should have followed Shaq's example and paid the woman to keep silent, and said that his teammate had paid over $1 million to women for similar situations. But Kobe got off easy with a public confession of adultery (with his wife at his side on national TV) and the jury dismissing the case and all charges because Faber decided not to testify.
2003 Sammy Sosa and the Corked Bat
On June 3rd, 2003 Sosa was ejected from an interleague game between the Cubs and Devil Rays in the first inning when the bat that he hit an infield grounder with shattered and revealed a corked center. All 76 of Sosa's bats were confiscated by MLB but were found to be clean. Sosa adamantly proclaimed that he had no idea that the bat was tampered with and that he accidentally pulled it out of the bat rack. He also stated that it was a bat that he only used for batting practice and didn't know how it got in the dugout rack.
Sosa was suspended for eight games on June 6th but after an appeal by him on June 11th, it was reduced to seven games. His career has pretty much been a lackluster one since then and to make matters worse there are suspicions of steroid use. In the initial hearing on steroids in pro baseball in 2005, Sosa uttered the words "No habla englais" when the panel questioned him regarding performance enhancing drugs.
2006 Landis and the Tour de Farce
The 2006 Tour de France was doomed for scandal from the beginning with 17 eliminated from the race due to alleged doping charges. But the biggest of the bunch took shape in the form of Floyd Landis. Four days after Landis had worn the famous yellow jersey, Landis tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone in his "A" or initial urine test sample after he had won the 17th stage of the race. He denied using anything that would cause the imbalance.
A "B" or second test was administered and it proved that the first test was correct. On September 20th, 2007 Landis was found guilty by arbitrators of the USADA. He was stripped of his title and placed on a two year ban from professional racing.
2006 The Duke Lacrosse Team
The infamous Duke University Lacrosse team scandal began when an African-American student from North Carolina Central University (who was also a part time stripper and escort) falsely accused three white lacrosse players of raping her at a party held at two of the team captain's house in Durham North Carolina. On April 11th, 2007 North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dropped all charges against the three men declaring them innocent.
Claiming that the case was "a tragic rush to accuse", Durham County D.A. Mike Nifong was labeled as a "rogue prosecutor" by Cooper and withdrew from the case in January after the North Carolina State Bar Association filed two rounds of ethics charges against him. That June, Nifong was disbarred for "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation." Nifong was found guilty of criminal contempt and served one day in jail.
2007 Tim Donaghy Bets on NBA Games
On June 20th, 2007 the FBI contacted the National Basketball Association to discuss the possibility of one of its officials gambling on games that they officiated. On June 21st, FBI officials met with Commissioner David Stern regarding the issue. After questioning by the FBI, Donaghy resigned on July 9th after a 13 year career as an NBA official. Stern was quoted as saying that he would have fired him but wanted to avoid any incidents that could affect the investigation.
Prosecutors accused Donaghy of betting on games but that was not part of his plea. On Wednesday, August 15th, 2007 Donaghy pleaded guilty to two felony counts of affiliation with an NBA betting scandal. Donaghy faces a maximum of 25 years in prison when he is sentenced for conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting waging information through interstate commerce and will be responsible for $530 thousand in fines and restitution.
2007 Michael Vick Goes to the Dogs
On Tuesday, July 17th, 2007 the NFL would suffer one of the greatest scandals in all of pro football and quite possibly the history of professional sports. Michael Vick, Atlanta Falcons QB was indicted by a grand jury and charged with running a dog fighting operation. The news came as a stunning blow to the NFL, its fans, and animal lovers nationwide. The operation was quoted as being "so grisly the losers either died in the pit, or sometimes were electrocuted, drowned, hanged or shot."
Vick pleaded guilty to the charges which not only damaged his career but left him facing a possible prison term. Dog fighting is a federal offense that is punishable by a five year prison sentence and up to $250,000 in fines. On August 24th, Vick entered his plea admitting that he had bankrolled the operation and killed some dogs, but that he never engaged in the betting. On September 25th, he was indicted on state charges as well and is now awaiting sentencing to take place on December 10th, 2007.
Commissioner Roger Goodell stated that Vick's admitted conduct was "not only illegal but also cruel and reprehensible" and regardless whether he personally placed bets, "your actions in funding the betting and your association with illegal gambling both violate the terms of your NFL player contract and expose you to corrupting influences in derogation of one of the most fundamental responsibilities of an NFL player."