Following Lance Armstrong's fall from grace, we take a look back at the six greatest cases of sporting infamy.
Photo: Getty Images
SIX THINGS: Following Lance Armstrong's fall from grace, we take a look back at the six greatest cases of sporting infamy...
6. Rosie Ruiz takes a shortcut – 1980 Boston Marathon
In 1980 Rosie Ruiz finished the Boston Marathon in a record-breaking time of 2:31:56, the third-fastest time recorded for any female marathon runner in history. It was 25 minutes faster than the time she set in coming 11th at the New York Marathon six months earlier, which had earned her qualification in the Boston race. And what's more, she did it without breaking a sweat, and ran so quickly that her rivals couldn't remember seeing her pass them during the race.
Unfortunately, Ruiz's cover was soon blown by a post-race investigation, which found that she had actually emerged from the crowd to join in the race about half a mile before the finish line. Not only that, but it also emerged she had only completed the New York race by catching the subway to the finish line.
Ruiz may well have taken inspiration from Frederick Lorz, who "won" the 1904 Olympic marathon after driving 11 miles of the race in a car.
5. Maradona's 'Hand of God' – 1986 World Cup
One of the most successful cases of cheating in the history of sport, even if it was less a case of pre-planned deception and more a moment of mischievous inspiration. He may have been the greatest footballer of all time but Argentina legend Diego Maradona is arguably best known for his handball goal that helped sink rivals England in the '86 FIFA World Cup.
The diminutive forward – starting from an offside position – challenged England goalkeeper Peter Shilton to a high ball. With the 185cm Shilton enjoying a 20-centimetre height advantage, Maradona took matters into his own hands, punched the ball into the net and was promptly awarded a goal by the referee. Argentina went on to win the game and knock England out of the tournament, with Maradona going on a weaving run to score a second goal – one of the greatest in history.
Maradona's cheeky suggestion later that the goal came with some help from "the hand of God" ensured the moment became part of sporting folklore. Argentina went on to win the World Cup, with Maradona winning the Golden Ball as player of the tournament.
4. Spanish basketball team – 2000 Paralympics
Spain's thirst for gold at Sydney in 2000 led to one of the most bizarre cases of cheating on record. The Spaniards took out gold in the men's basketball competition for athletes with an intellectual disability, only for a journalist embedded with the team to later reveal that 10 of the 12 team members had no disability whatsoever.
"There were five months of training with not a single disabled person in sight," the reporter Carlos Ribagorda said. "I think people saw it as a free trip to Australia."
A doctor, an engineer and several university students played in the team, with one player having once been a professional in Spain's Liga ACB. Ribagorda also suspected that other gold medals won by Spain in the category were the result of cheating, and the incident led to the International Paralympics Committe banning intellectual disability sports altogether.
3. Onischenko and his magic epee – Montreal 1976
Sometimes a cheating athlete can combine genuine talent, creativity and chutzpah in a bid to circumvent the rules – and still come up with nothing. That was the case for Soviet modern pentathlete Boris Onischenko, who had won medals in the 1968 and 1972 Olympics but wanted to be sure of gold in '76.
To help him get there, Onischenko rewired his epee in the fencing section of the competition so that he would score points without having to hit his opponent, with the buzzer instead being set to count a successful hit whenever he flicked a switch.
What made the cheating attempt worse was the fact that Onischenko was already considered the best fencer in the competition, plus the fact that his rewiring job was a little too sensitive and started buzzing when he was nowhere near his opponent. He was caught, disqualified, and left his sport in disgrace.
2. Ben Johnson tests positive – 1988 (and 1993, and 1999)
The glamour sport of the Olympic Games is undoubtedly the men's 100m final, so the eyes of the world were watching when Canada's Ben Johnson beat American great Carl Lewis at Seoul 1988 in a world record time of 9.79 seconds.
But the glory would last only days, with Johnson stripped of his gold after his urine sample was found to contain the banned steroid stanozolol.
After first denying taking drugs, Johnson admitted a year later that he had taken steroids for both the Olympic Games and another world record run in 1987. His coach Charlie Francis told a Canadian government inquiry Johnson had been using steroids since 1981.
It got worse. Johnson made his comeback in 1991 after suspension but in 1993 tested positive again, this time for excess testosterone, and was banned for life. In 1999 he made a bid to be reinstated to the sport and ran alone in a track meet in Canada, running a time of 11 seconds, only to again fail a drug test later that year by testing positive to banned diuretic hydrochlorothiazide.
1. Lance Armstrong's tainted Tour record
For seven years between 1999 and 2005, Lance Armstrong was cycling. The American superstar won the Tour de France in every one of those years, smashing all records. Off the track, he was (and still is) an inspirational cancer survivor, having beaten testicular cancer and formed the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
And he was perhaps the greatest drug cheat in the history of sport.
After years of allegations, it all started crashing down for Armstrong in June 2012 when the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) officially charged him with doping and drug trafficking. In August Armstrong lost a legal battle against USADA's investigation, and then announced he would not challenge the charges – despite maintaining his innocence. He was stripped of all seven Tour titles and banned from the sport.
In October USADA released a 200-page document detailing "overwhelming" evidence that the cyclist "did not just use performance-enhancing drugs, he supplied them to his team-mates". Blood test results and the testimony of 26 witnesses supported the claims that Armstrong had cheated since before his first Tour victory, with the disgraced cyclist now facing potential perjury charges after denying drug-taking allegations under oath in 2005.
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of BigPond Sport.