Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Top 25 Sports Scandals

Scandal did not escape the sports world in the last 25 years. From baseball to boxing, bribery to murder, athletes, coaches, schools and administrators undermined the enjoyment that sports can bring.

USA TODAY reporting and writing by Rachel Shuster.

1 Pete Rose

Baseball’s all-time hits leader spent a lifetime as Charlie Hustle, in the good sense, but betting on the game as manager of the Cincinnati Reds cast that nickname in a different light. A certain Hall of Fame induction is a long shot at best.

2 BALCO/ steroids in baseball

It’s difficult to think of the bulging home run records of the late 1990s and early 21st century without wondering how many would have been set without chemical enhancement.

AP file photo

3 Ben Johnson

The 100 meters flew by in 9.79 seconds, a world record, but three days later the Canadian was stripped of the gold medal when he tested positive for an anabolic steroid in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. Carl Lewis was awarded gold, and his 9.92 seconds became the world record.

Merline Summers, AP

4 Tonya/Nancy

Forever linked, captivating a nation, the skating lives of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan diverged when Harding’s camp, with her knowledge, carried out a plot to injure Kerrigan before the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

5 Olympic bribery

The seedy underbelly of getting to host one of the most recognized international events was exposed when leaders of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Committee were charged with bribing to secure the bid. The two main figures were acquitted; reforms came in the bid process.

AFP photo

6 O.J.

An American sports icon bewildered us when O.J. Simpson was accused of killing his ex-wife and her friend in June 1994 in Brentwood, Calif. The 1995 criminal trial ended in acquittal, but a subsequent civil suit found Simpson liable for compensatory damages.

Jack Gruber, USA TODAY

7 Skating judging

Into the subjective world of judging landed accusations of a fix in pairs skating in the 2002 Winter Games. Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier skated flawlessly but lost the gold to Russians Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, who had a major error. A French judge said she was “pressured” to vote for them. The result: two golds.

Michael Conroy, AP

8 Mike Tyson

From heavyweight champion of the world to being led away in handcuffs. The ups and downs of Tyson’s life got no lower than when the boxer was sentenced to six years in prison for raping a Miss Black America contestant in 1991. Tyson, who denied the charge, served three years.

9 SMU football

The NCAA leveled its first “death penalty” in 1987, citing “long-term abuses and a pattern of purposeful violations” of rules, such as a banned booster paying thousands to recruits. The team did not play in ’87. SMU canceled the ’88 season because of penalties.

Chris Gardner, AP

10 Danny Almonte

What could be more perfect than a perfect game in the Little League World Series? Except it was not perfect. Dominican Republic birth records revealed Almonte was 14, past the Little League limit of 12, when he pitched in 2001 for the Rolando Paulino All-Stars of the Bronx, N.Y. Third place? Forfeited.

Susan Walsh, AP

11 Baylor basketball

The killing of Patrick Dennehy by teammate Carlton Dotson in 2003 set off a chain reaction. Coach Dave Bliss had paid two players illegally, including Dennehy, then tried to get coaches and players to agree to a phony story that Dennehy got extra cash from dealing drugs. Dotson got a 35-year prison sentence. Bliss resigned. Baylor got NCAA probation.

Kevork Diansezian, AP

12 Kobe Bryant

The L.A. Lakers star was accused of raping a 19-year-old in Colorado in 2003. He admitted adultery but said the sex was consensual. The criminal case was dismissed, a civil suit settled out of court.

13 Duke lacrosse

Accusations of rape vs. some white players by a black woman hired as a stripper in 2006. Indictments. DNA evidence withheld. Independent investigation clearing them. D.A. Mike Nifong resigned, was disbarred.

Elaine Thompson, AP

14 Minn. academics

Wholesale academic corruption of the men’s basketball program was exposed in 1999. University President Mark Yudof said it was “corrupt in almost any way one can think about it.” Coach Clem Haskins was ousted.

Bas Czerwinski, AP

15 Floyd Landis

With 7-time Tour de France champ Lance Armstrong retired, the USA’s Landis won last year but was accused of using a banned substance. His trial in the court of public opinion is as fierce as his arbitration case vs. the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

16 Korean boxers

At the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, Roy Jones lost in the 156-pound final to South Korean Park Si-Hun. Jones said the referee who announced the results muttered, “I can’t believe they’re doing this.” Papers showed the judges were bribed.

Duane Burleson, AP

17 Pistons/Pacers

What began as a hard foul by then-Detroit Pistons center Ben Wallace on then-Indiana Pacers forward Ron Artest deteriorated to such a level that players fought fans throwing objects at them at The Palace of Auburn Hills in November 2004. Artest got the stiffest sanction, suspended for the season.

18 Northwestern point-shaving

Basketball players Kenneth Dion Lee and Dewey Williams were sentenced in 1998 to a month in jail for accepting bribes from their bookie, Notre Dame kicker Kevin Pendergast, to shave points in three games in 1995. Pendergast served two months in prison.

19 Georgia academics

“How many points does a three-point field goal account for in a basketball game?” was on the final for Jim Harrick Jr.’s “Principles and Strategies of Basketball” class, taken by 3 players on his dad’s basketball team. Both men were let go in 2003. Georgia got probation and lost scholarships.

20 Kentucky recruiting

An assistant to basketball coach Eddie Sutton was alleged in 1988 to have sent $1,000 in an overnight shipment to the father of recruit Chris Mills. Dwane Casey denied doing that, but the NCAA said there was a violation and restricted his hiring for five years without its permission. Sutton was forced to resign after the 1988-89 season, shortly before Kentucky went on two years’ NCAA probation.

John Bazemore, AP

21 Bob Knight's end at Indiana

A controversy-marred basketball coaching career at IU unraveled in 2000 when ex-player Neil Reed said Knight choked him in practice in 1997. An IU investigation found a pattern of inappropriate behavior; Knight was suspended and fined. Later in 2000, he was accused of grabbing a student, cursing and lecturing him on manners and was fired.

22 Short stay at Alabama

Even before he got the chance to coach the football team in 2003, Mike Price was fired after five offseason months for inappropriate behavior at a golf tournament. The university president said Price was warned even before that alleged misbehavior took place.

Gannett News Service

23 Len Bias

Imagine the Boston Celtics with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and All-American Len Bias. Boston never could after Bias, the No. 2 pick of the 1986 draft out of Maryland, overdosed on cocaine and died of a heart attack 2 days after he was chosen, one of the first prominent athletes to succumb to drugs.

24 John Rocker

For sheer outrageousness, this major league reliever caused major controversy with such remarks as this about New York City: “The biggest thing I don’t like about New York is the foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?”

25 Eugene Robinson

Hours after receiving the Bart Starr award for charitable work and moral character, the Atlanta Falcons safety was arrested in Miami the night before Super Bowl XXXIII in 1999 for soliciting oral sex from an undercover officer. He started in the loss to the Denver Broncos and later returned the award.