Athletes Defeated By Scandal: A Brief History

I need a hero. Requirements include: strong, fast and fresh from the fight. Hell, even a white knight sans the fiery steed would be acceptable. Bonnie Tyler aside, I do think that the world of professional sports is in dire need of some heroics, especially as of late.

Alex Rodriguez, who is fifth on the all-time home run list, just received a 211-game suspension for his supposed steroid use. He is the latest in a seemingly endless line of recent disappointments, where top-performing athletes are revealed to be less than extraordinary.

Along with Rodriguez, 13 other major leaguers were suspended for their involvement with Biogenesis, the Miami clinic that baseball officials say supplied the players with illicit drugs.

Athletes are venerated for their physical aptitude and for being masters of their respective fields, on their respective fields. Perhaps these superstars crumble under the weight of the public’s pressure or maybe they are enticed by the promise of augmented compensation or maybe it’s just that easy to crash from their lofty pedestals.

When an athlete is considered No. 1, there is really only one way to go. So scandals, like A-Rod’s current disgrace, are not a modern phenomena; they span generations and various sporting events. Some of which include:

1. “Black Sox Scandal”

The “Black Sox Scandal,” of the early 20th century, is still considered to be one of the pastime’s darkest memories. Eight members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox were banned from baseball for life after accepting money from underworld figures to intentionally lose games, including the 1919 World Series.

2. Tonya Harding

In 1994, a man struck Olympic hopeful, Nancy Kerrigan’s leg with a metal pole right before the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. It was late revealed that fellow competitor Tonya Harding conspired with the attacker. In the 1994 Olympic games, Harding placed eighth as the rehabilitated Kerrigan secured a silver medal.

3. Pete Rose

Oh, Pete. This all-time hits leader is the only living person currently banned from baseball. He agreed to permanent ineligibility from the sport in 1989 when he was caught gambling on games that he managed with the Cincinnati Reds in 1987 and 1988. Because of this he can never be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

4. “Crashgate”

Nelson Piquet Jr. admitted that in the 2008 Singapore GP he intentionally crashed under the orders from team manager Flavio Briatore so that Fernando Alonso could claim a victory. As a result, Briatore left the Renault F1 racing team.

5. “Bloodgate”

Being American we don’t pay a lot of attention to rugby, which is kind of a shame. “Bloodgate” references when the Harlequins’ club manager, Dean Richards, offered a lofty pay increase to Tom Williams if he agreed to keep a blood capsule in his sock, insert it in his mouth and then bite upon contact to make it seem like he was bleeding, thus stopping official time. After Williams accidentally dropped the capsule from his mouth during gameplay, they were found out and Richards received a three year ban from rugby, while Williams was suspended for four months.

Media coverage has a tendency to focus on the scandals, the disatsers, the disgraces and the fake blood capsules. But, we cannot forget the street-wise Hercules’ that are often overshadowed by steroid use, corked bats and cheating rumors.

An athlete like Serena Williams is exemplary of such valiant behavior. She is a four-time Olympic Gold medalist, as well as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and a strong supporter of Big Brother Big Sisters. Or the Detroit Lions Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who gave $600,000 to his alma mater, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Engineering to endow a scholarship. Or even someone like Shannon Easton, who may not wear a number on her back, but did make history as the first female on-field official at an NFL game.

Heroes, such as these, are not discovered where the mountains meet the heavens or where the lightening splits the sea (this was the last Bonnie Tyler reference, I swear). They are real and they can still be found on the court, the track, the rink and the diamond. They are students of their own ambitions, gameplay groundbreakers and understated do-gooders.

They are the heroes to hold out for.

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