Integrity is essential in sport. Otherwise, it is pointless. However, the reality is that many sports stars and coaches have cheated their way to glory down through the years. The most obvious way is by taking banned substances like performance-enhancing drugs. But there are many ways to exploit the rules or just totally disregard them.
Today, we’ll take a look at 30 different stars from the world of sports who cheated in some fashion or another. Some of these characters almost deserve respect because they were so creative. Unfortunately for them, most of them faced some kind of consequences for their unethical actions. Check out the list below via Casino.
30. Jose Canseco
Canseco is an extremely colorful character. Firstly, he openly acknowledges that he cheated throughout his MLB career. However, the former Oakland Athletics star became an important figure in anti-doping. This was because of his scandalous book in 2005. A six-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion, Canseco felt no sentiment toward his fellow athletes. Dramatically, he disclosed that most of the league cheated during his MLB tenure.
As a result, Canseco remains a curious case. Some fans even believe that Cooperstown should make an exception about its anti-doping stance. They say this because of his role as a whistleblower. However, they are in a minority. The reality is that he made millions of dollars by taking illegal substances. After retirement, Canseco competed in MMA and became a reality TV figure.
Bill Belichick was responsible for the biggest videotaping scandal in NFL history. But he wasn’t the only one who followed this dubious practice. Indeed, one of his former protegees, McDaniels, followed in his footsteps as head coach of the Denver Broncos. McDaniels cheated by tasking his team’s video operations director to film a Niner’s practice session. But he didn’t escape unscathed.
The NFL doesn’t approve of this type of malpractice and duly shut him down. They fined him $50,000 for his shoddy attempt. Furthermore, the Broncos didn’t have a good season so it’s not like it even helped them. Meanwhile, Steve Scarnecchia, the video operations director, was also involved in the Patriots’ scandal. He was lucky to avoid a permanent ban from the NFL.
This boxing promoter is notorious for his corruption, violence, and exploitation of athletes. He murdered more than one person in cold blood and conned millions out of his fighters. But he’s on this list because of what happened after the 1976 Olympics. King pitched ABC to hold a televised national boxing tournament to jump on the momentum of boxing’s success in the Games.
However, he paid off Ring Magazine to falsify the records of numerous fighters and effectively rigged the tournament. King made sure that fighters under his banner had advantageous match-ups. In the end, the conspiracy was unmasked and the tournament was canceled. It’s a strong indication of the ruthless greed that King employed and why he is one of the vilest promoters ever.
Athletic commission officials and a member of the opponent’s team observe when a fighter wraps their hands. It’s extraordinarily rare in high-level boxing, but people have cheated in the past. One of the most shocking cases involved Margarito, a former welterweight champion who defeated the likes of Miguel Cotto. Before his 2009 fight with Shane Mosley, a substance called gypsum was detected in his hand wraps.
In short, this solidifies into Plaster-of-Paris. Margarito and his team received bans for their brazen attempt to cheat the system but there were still questions. Critics questioned his victory over Cotto because a similar substance was present in his wraps before that fight but nobody questioned it. This is extremely dangerous because boxers take a lot of damage to their heads and endure severe trauma.
The NFL changed the rules after Merriman made the Pro Bowl in 2005. He joined the San Diego Chargers after they used their first-round pick in the draft to bring him to the West Coast. Merriman was incredibly productive in his rookie season and won all kinds of recognition. As well as his Pro Bowl selection, Merriman also won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award.
However, Merriman also failed a drug test toward the end of the season. Despite this, he made the Pro Bowl after this was made known. The NFL suspended him for the first four games of the next season which is standard practice for a first-time test failure. But they also changed the rules to prevent athletes from playing in the Pro Bowl in the same season as a drug test failure.
To be fair, when the mafia are involved, sometimes it’s better to do the wrong thing. LaMotta was one of the best boxers of the 1950s. Robert De Niro’s stunning performance in Raging Bull immortalized him forever. He had a sensational six-fight rivalry with the great Sugar Ray Robinson. However, he makes this list because he once threw a bout to seal a title fight.
LaMotta admitted that he made a deal with the mafia to lose the match against Billy Fox but it didn’t work out well for him. It took him ten more bouts to finally achieve the titles that he craved. The fact that he cheated also didn’t go down well with his fans at the time because LaMotta was obviously a superior boxer to Fox. Boxing is historically one of the most corrupt sports out there.
Bielsa is one of the most compelling soccer coaches active today. The Argentine is both brilliant and eccentric in equal measure. During his promotion-winning season with Leeds United, he generated controversy because he sent a member of his staff to secretly record Derby County’s training session. His spy hid in bushes at the training ground but a Derby staff member spotted him.
Later, Bielsa correctly claimed that they hadn’t cheated. He gave a remarkable two-hour presentation to assembled media about Derby County’s style of play. It appeared that he knew more about the club than their own manager, Frank Lampard. However, the FA didn’t agree with Bielsa. They claimed that his actions were against the spirit of the game. He received a hefty fine for his efforts.
Dillashaw had the world at his feet, but became greedy. The UFC bantamweight champion went down to flyweight to try and beat flyweight champion Henry Cejudo in order to claim a second UFC title. In doing so, he cut a ridiculous amount of weight. Meanwhile, Cejudo destroyed him in the first round. But things got worse for Dillashaw. Later, he tested positive for EPO, a PED that enhances red-blood-cell regulation.
EPO means that the athlete’s body works more efficiently. It improves their cardio and endurance. In combat sports, this is a gamechanger because fighters tire as the bout goes on longer. Dillashaw claimed that he took the substance because the weight cut was too much. However, his former teammate Cody Garbrandt disagreed. He insisted that Dillashaw always cheated. ‘The Viper’ received a two-year suspension.
Rodriguez is one of the most controversial MLB players of the 2000s and not only because he somehow lured Jennifer Lopez into an engagement. In the end, that fell apart like his late baseball career. A-Rod broke an incredible number of records. For example, he became the youngest player to reach 500 home runs. Meanwhile, he was also a 14-time All-Star. But he still cheated with PED use.
Biogenesis revealed his steroid history and MLB suspended him for an incredible 211 games. They reduced this after he appealed but he still missed an entire season. Furthermore, it affected his popularity significantly which was arguably the worst part of this for him. It didn’t help matters that Rodriguez was notoriously unproductive in the clutch, but he still has a World Series ring.
Derrick Rose was incredible at his athletic peak. Sadly, he just hasn’t been the same since his MVP season. However, his inherent talent is undoubted. If his body didn’t let him down, he would probably be a future Hall of Famer. He was so good that Memphis pulled out all of the stops to land him. However, somebody should have had a word in head coach Calipari’s ear because he should have stopped.
After losing their title game in heartbreaking fashion to Kansas, an investigation began. Rumors emerged about how exactly they landed Rose. It emerged that his SAT scores were fake because somebody had taken the tests for him. This made him retroactively ineligible for the season. Calipari knew this but cheated anyway. He reached a $100,000 settlement and bolted from Memphis to Kentucky.
Most people cheat to win, but in Tyson’s case, he cheated not to lose. After Evander Holyfield knocked him out in 1996, a rematch was booked. Holyfield was outboxing Tyson again, when ‘Iron Mike’ bit a chunk of his ear off. Incredibly, the referee, Mills Lane, didn’t stop the fight. He docked two points from Tyson but allowed the bout to continue. Holyfield was furious but remained professional.
People forget that Tyson bit Holyfield a second time. Finally, Lane disqualified him. He lost by DQ and sealed his place in notoriety forever. Tyson was past his prime but still found a way to expand his legend. Nowadays, the pair are friends despite the bite. Holyfield said that he forgave his former foe for literally disfiguring him. But this was definitely an iconic moment.
Most NBA doping violations occur because of marijuana use instead of PEDs. In 2019, the NBA suspended Chandler for 25 games after he tested positive for Ipamorelin. This steroid enhances fat loss and clean muscle gain so it is of clear benefit to elite athletes. The NBA has a three-strike rule when it comes to SPED (Steroids and Performance-Enhancing Drug) test failures.
If it’s the first time like Chandler, the player receives an automatic 25-game ban. That number increases to 55 games after the second failure, and two years after three failed drug tests. The Brooklyn Nets star played for 12 seasons before his first code violation. Many older athletes have cheated in the past as their physical abilities begin to decline. Unfortunately, it can tarnishes their legacy.
McGwire was one of a generation of baseball players who brazenly cheated during the late ’90s and early 2000s. A 12-time All-Star, he admitted that he took performance-enhancing drugs. First, McGwire attempted to say that he took one substance that wasn’t illegal before BALCO. But then the truth emerged and he revealed the truth of the situation. Jose Canseco’s book played a big part in his disclosure.
The baseball star said that his steroid use was mainly to help recover from injuries as opposed to enhancing his performances. Of course, neither of these situations is acceptable. Furthermore, McGwire knows that he’ll never be a Hall of Famer. Cooperstown explicitly rejects drug cheats as these stars discovered. While his record is immaculate, his legacy is tarnished forever.
The Patriots have cheated on numerous occasions over the past couple of decades. ‘Spygate’ is the most notorious of these instances because head coach Belichick sanctioned a sensational plot. The Philadelphia Eagles claimed that the Patriots secretly videotaped their plays before Super Bowl XXXIX. Then, it emerged that this occurred at least 40 times over a seven-year period.
Needless to say, the rest of the league called for Belichick’s head. The NFL fined him a record $500,000 and stripped the next year’s first-round pick of the Patriots. Arguably, it could have been worse because the league could have stripped them of the Super Bowl. This notoriety enhanced Belichick’s mystique as one of the most ruthless coaches in the sport and does whatever it takes to win.
Jones made waves in Sydney at the 2000 Summer Games when she won three gold medals. Instantly, she became a household name and one of the most important female athletes in North America. She inspired many young girls across the United States, but sadly, this story doesn’t end well. BALCO implicated Jones as one of the most famous athletes who took steroids in the early 2000s.
Her ex-husband confirmed that she injected steroids into her stomach before the Games. This shouldn’t have surprised many fans. Finally, the IOC stripped her of her medals and she became a shame of the sport. Jones spent almost six months in jail for her actions because she also attempted to mislead a court investigation.
One of the finest strikers to set foot on a soccer field, Henry played with great success for the likes of Arsenal and Barcelona. He also helped France to multiple World Cups. In 2009, the struggling French team faced the Republic of Ireland in a two-legged playoff series. After taking the lead in Dublin, the French allowed the Irish back into the tie. The momentum was with the away side before Henry’s infamous handball.
In extra time, Henry handled the ball. He palmed it into the path of his teammate William Gallas, who scored. Instantly, the Irish players surrounded the referee who didn’t notice that Henry cheated. The goal stood and France went to the World Cup. In the end, they failed to make it out of a group that included Mexico and South Africa. It was a terrible moment for Swedish referee Martin Hansson.
Bonds played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the San Francisco Giants during his 22-season tenure in MLB. Over the course of this period, he broke a huge amount of records. The 14-time All-Star was one of the faces of the sport during his era. But he will never make the Hall of Fame because of PEDs. It is now widely accepted that Bonds used steroids to enhance his performance in the ballpark.
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig didn’t even attend the game when Bonds broke the home run record. Everybody knew the game was compromised. A court charged him with obstruction of justice when the BALCO investigation indicted him. He remains the subject of hot debate. Many fans believe that he should be in the Hall because everybody was doping at the time. Several others insist he cheated and should never make it in.
Mosley was an excellent boxer before things went wrong for him. A three-weight champion, he fought the best of the best but suffered losses to the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Canelo Alvarez. In 2003, he defeated Oscar De La Hoya in one of the most controversial matches in recent memory. First of all, most analysts and journalists had De La Hoya winning the fight easily because he threw over 100 more punches.
Meanwhile, the BALCO report named Mosley as a recipient of PEDs. He admitted that he cheated by using EPO before the fight against De La Hoya. Mosley claimed that he believed that he had taken supplements. PED use in combat sports is extremely controversial. This is because athletes set out with the direct intention of harming each other. If one person has a chemical advantage, it’s extremely unfair.
‘DC’ became one of the UFC’s most recognizable fighters after winning both the light heavyweight and heavyweight titles. While the Louisiana native spent most of his career at 205 lbs, the reality was that this was a difficult cut for him. Cormier was no stranger to difficult weight cuts. In 2008, he suffered kidney failure before the Beijing Olympics. As a result, he missed out on the tournament.
At UFC 210 he fought and defeated Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson. However, there was controversy at the weigh-ins because Cormier cheated to make the weight. As the gaunt fighter stood on the scale, he pressed his body weight on the towel in front of him. Onlookers insisted this deceived the scale into presenting a lower number. After the fight, the NYSAC admitted they made a mistake but it was too late to do anything about it.
The late, great Maradona remains one of the most iconic soccer players in the world’s most loved sport. Two incidents in one game against England stand out. They played at the World Cup in Mexico in 1986 and Argentina claimed victory. The first goal was notorious because he slapped the ball into the net over England goalkeeper Peter Shilton. It became known as the Hand of God.
The referee failed to spot the incident even though everybody watching around the world saw exactly what had happened. Then, to rub salt into England’s wounds, Maradona scored a second. He ran past five England players before he put the ball in the net. It became known as the ‘Goal of the Century.’ He obviously cheated but it remains iconic. Meanwhile, England fans like to forget that their players tried to kick him off of the field.
In 2015, the Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game. Then, controversy arose involving New England’s legendary quarterback Brady. It emerged that he ordered the deliberate deflation of the Patriots’ balls. Obviously, the Colts weren’t impressed when they uncovered this and they pushed for an investigation because they believed he cheated.
The NFL agreed and suspended Brady for the first four games of the following season. And when he returned, he won the league’s MVP award. However, many commentators believed that the Patriots suffered harsh penalties because they lost two draft picks and received a one-million-dollar fine. In the end, Brady cheated and his franchise paid the price.
Few fighters have been as self-destructive in recent years as Miller. ‘Big Baby’ almost welcomed Anthony Joshua to the U.S in 2019 but failed a drug test. As a result, Andy Ruiz fought and knocked out the British boxer in Madison Square Garden, where he became the first Mexican heavyweight champion ever. It was also one of the biggest shocks in the history of the sport.
If Miller stayed clean, then this fight would never have happened. There’s a reasonable chance that Joshua would have added him to his list of scalps, but Miller had the chance to fight for four world titles. Unfortunately, Miller tested positive for PEDs again in 2020 before his comeback fight. Furthermore, he also cheated and failed a test during his tenure as a GLORY kickboxer.
One of the best pitchers of his era, Clemens also cheated like the sport was going out of fashion. An 11-time All-Star, he also won two World Series. However, the Cy Young award-winner is unlikely to make the Hall of Fame because of his alleged doping. Clemens rose to fame during the Steroid Era as the Mitchell Report alleged his use of anabolic steroids as he got older.
Clemens denied this, however, the damage to his legacy is irreparable. Fellow MLB star Jose Canseco revealed everything in a tell-all book that explained how Clemens was an expert on doping. The former Yankees icon vehemently denied wrongdoing in a testimony in front of Congress. But the reality is that everybody knows the truth about the 24-season MLB veteran.
It’s safe to say that most UFC fans didn’t know what a picogram was before Jones tested positive for the anabolic turinabol in 2017. This was the second time that he failed a drug test and resulted in the UFC stripping him of his title for an unprecedented third time. Originally, USADA, the UFC’s anti-doping partner planned to suspend him for 48 months but reduced this because Jones gave them information about other cheaters.
The biggest victim of Jones’s mixed anti-doping record is his legacy. While some fans believe that he is the greatest MMA fighter ever, others believe that his record is tarnished forever. They claim that he may have cheated throughout his entire career so an asterisk remains beside all of his wins. It’s undeniable that Jones cheated at least once, so this criticism is fair.
Armstrong won an unprecedented seven successive Tour De France titles before one of the most shocking drug scandals in all of the sports. The American even recovered from a potentially lethal form of cancer before winning cycling’s most prestigious tournament again. However, he was unable to shake allegations of doping and finally, an investigation uncovered the truth.
USADA discovered that Armstrong was a serial cheat. He also bullied his teammates into taking PEDs too. They banned him from competition for life. Then, World Cycling stripped Armstrong of all of his title wins. Finally, in 2013, he admitted that he cheated. This came after he lost millions of dollars in sponsorships. It was one of the biggest falls from grace in global sports history.
Technically, it wasn’t Harding who cheated in this situation but her ex-husband. However, she knew about his plan. Harding and Nancy Kerrigan were rivals competing for the U.S Women’s Figure skating title. In 1994, an assailant attacked Kerrigan and severely bruised her leg with a baton. As a result, Harding won. Both women qualified for the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer.
Then, it emerged that Harding’s ex-husband hired a goon to attack Harding’s rival. An investigation uncovered that Harding had concealed knowledge of the assault plot. The fact that she basically cheated meant that her skating career was effectively over. In the end, Harding became a national disgrace. She ended up as a boxer and a B-List celebrity. It was a massive fall from grace.
Silva holds the record for the most title defenses in UFC middleweight history. He captured the belt in just his second fight with the promotion and went on an unbelievable tear. With his cerebral striking and slick movement, ‘The Spider’ amassed millions of fans around the world. Then, Chris Weidman came along. The American knocked him out in their first match and broke his leg in the second.
After his lengthy rehab, Silva returned against Nick Diaz. He won a decision against the popular Stockton star. But he immediately failed two drug tests and tested positive for three banned substances. The killer part was that Silva claimed he hadn’t cheated. Instead, he said that he had taken a tainted sexual enhancement pill in Thailand. The Nevada Athletic Commission suspended him for a year and handed him with a hefty fine.
One of the shadiest figures of his era, Liston infamously fought Cassius Clay in 1964. Ali was a massive underdog but he bullied Liston. Finally, the champion retired with a swollen shoulder after a night of heavy drinking. Meanwhile, he allegedly threw their rematch and suffered a first-round knockout. A tough, menacing figure, Liston had connections to the underworld.
In fact, it is believed that the mafia may have had Liston killed. The boxer died of a heroin overdose. While he was a drug user, he maintained a fear of needles. Also, there was no drug paraphernalia in his house. It remains one of the darkest mysteries in boxing. However, there’s no doubt Liston cheated on numerous occasions as he threw multiple fights for money.
Technically this wasn’t just one player but an entire roster that cheated. The Astros became a force in baseball but used nefarious methods to establish themselves. Their sign-stealing scandal ruined the reputation of the franchise and tarnished their 2017 World Series victory. However, MLB bizarrely never stripped them of this win despite the fact it was proven that the Astros cheated.
There were also question marks over their 2019 run to the World Series. Astros players had a massive role in this cheating system but escaped scot-free because they ratted out their GM and field manager. Meanwhile, Houston received a five million fine and lost two draft picks. Many believed that the punishment wasn’t harsh enough. They also questioned how much MLB knew about the Astros’ systemic cheating.
Baffert is one of the faces of American horse racing. Earlier this year, he won the Kentucky Derby for the seventh time but this story doesn’t have a happy ending. After the race, his horse, Medina Spirit, tested positive for betamethasone. This steroid reduces swelling and inflammation. Meanwhile, it was the fifth time in the space of 12 months that one of his horses failed a drug test.
Instantly, his reputation was in shatters. The leading governing bodies across the nation suspended him. Then he was unable to send his horses to compete in prestigious races. Baffert claimed that a groom consumed cough syrup and urinated on the horse’s hay. However, this is one of the worst excuses in the history of horse racing. Donald Trump labeled Medina Spirit a ‘junkie.’ He wasn’t wrong.