Integrity, sportsmanship, respect and pride are essential elements of sports ethics. That is, unless you really want to win. Amateur athletes aspire to professional heights and will push the envelope for personal gain. Professional athletes are entertainers and wage earners whose plays often reflect these facts. But, whatever their motives or methods they tend to get caught.
One of my personal favorites was game day September 19, 2011. The New York Giants vs the St. Louis Rams. Late in the first quarter the Giants’ defensive line was exhausted, disorganized and in the red zone. Suddenly the Giants’ defensive back, Deon Grant and linebacker Jacquian Williams drop to the ground with phantom injuries. Jacquian jumps up feigning a stumble, but Grant was already caught on tape. The training staff rushed onto the field and helped him to the sidelines. After a miraculous recovery he re-entered the game. The Giants won 28-16. (view video).
Faking injuries is a time-honored method of tipping the scales by giving the team a much needed breather and slowing the offense. Every team in the NFL has used it at some point. It does not matter. Even if the league office reviews the tape and finds the guilty culprit, they only issue a memo with “harsh language”, heap huge fines and the team might lose a chance at draft pick. The referees are powerless . They are not trained nor do they have the authority to assess a player’s injuries. The NFL teams cannot be held responsible for playing within the guidelines set by league officials. Here are twelve of the more memorable sports’ scandals through the decades.
Don’t Air Your Dirty Laundry: The “Black Sox” Scandal
In 1919 the Chicago White Sox dominated Major League Baseball. Despite their reputation, they lost eight out of nine World Series games to the Cincinnati Reds. The Sox had been bribed to fix the series. Allegedly they hated owner Charles Comiskey; a cheap greedy scoundrel who made the players pay for their uniform laundering.The eight players were banned for life and Joe Jackson, one of the greatest players in the league, lost his Hall of Fame status.
Gender Bending And Falsifying Records
Stella Walsh, the fastest woman in the world, won the gold and silver medals in the 1932 and 1936 Olympics respectively. Born Stanlislawa Walasiewiczowna, s/he and his/her parents emigrated from Poland to Cleveland, Ohio, changed his/her name to Stella and won a combined sixty-one women’s track and field world records, AAU titles and a 1975 induction into the U.S.Track and Field Hall of Fame. After her tragic death an autopsy revealed she was born with mosaicism; possessing both XX and XY chromosome pairs, male genitalia and female characteristics. One of the world’s greatest woman athletes was a man. The NFL could design their own test-tube babies with this knowledge.
Germany performed dismally in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. To save face, the superior Aryan Hitler youth coerced their best high jumper, Hermann Ratjen, to bind his genitals and compete as a woman. The irony was “Dora” Ratjen placed fourth behind three actual women. Mazal Tov.
Danny Almonte pitched a perfect game and led his team of twelve-year-olds to a third-place finish at the Little League World Series in 2001. His father and coach forged the fourteen-year-old dynamo’s registration form and was banned for life.
Point-Shaving, Bribes And Taking a Dive
The only school in history to win both the 1950 NCAA and NIT tournaments jumped into the spotlight again in 1951. The prestigious City College of New York basketball team, along with seven other schools across the country, was indicted for conspiring to shave points and occasionally lose regular-season games.
The 2002 Olympic figure skating pairs team from Canada was flawless. Unfortunately, Russia had always dominated this event. When the scores handed the gold medal to the Russians the global accusations of cheating brought the French judge forward. She confessed to having been pressured to vote for the Russian skaters to gain an advantage for her team’s scores in the ice dance competition. A Russian mobster was arrested for his involvement. The Canadian pair was awarded their rightful medals.
Better Living Through Chemistry
The East German Olympic team made a powerful comeback in the 1970s and ’80s and swept the gold in every event. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, records revealed their unprecedented success was due to banned performance enhancing drugs disguised as vitamins. The side effects destroyed thousands of athletes’ lives. The East German sports boss Manfred Ewald and his medical director were arrested and indicted.
Also in the 1980 Olympics Canada’s golden boy, Ben Johnson, lost the gold medal in the 100 meter sprint by testing positive for performance enhancers. He claimed he had been drugged, although his abnormally large physique told a different story.
Take Out The Competition
It was the 1994 Lillehammer Olympic showdown between U.S. National champion Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. One month before the Olympics Harding conspired with her ex-husband to maim Kerrigan in an assault. Nancy Kerrigan recovered and won the silver medal. Tonya Harding was stripped of her national title and banished from skating. Harding’s ex-husband was imprisoned for two years.
In the 2000 Paralympics, Spain’s mentally challenged basketball team won the gold medal against Russia. The only problem was the team organizers deliberately selected players without handicaps to win the tournament. These players had not been tested before the event. Only two of the twelve players were mentally deficient. This resulted in the loss of their medals and the resignation of at least three of Spain’s top officials.
In a 1980 title bout Panama Lewis, a boxing trainer of questionable character and tactics handed exhausted light-welterweight champion Aaron Pryor an unknown liquid. The “pick-me-up” enabled him to knock out Alexis Arguello. In 1983 Panama removed most of the padding from his fighter’s [Luis Resto] gloves and soaked the wrapping tapes with plaster of paris. Resto proceeded to batter his opponent Billy Collins, Jr. until he lost both his sight and career. Shortly after the fight Collins completed suicide. Both Panama Lewis and Luis Resto were convicted of conspiracy to fix a sporting event. Panama spent a year in prison, was permanently banned from boxing and continues to work overseas.
Tag, You’re It
Last but not least, Rosie Ruiz may be one of the most famous cheaters in sports. It was the 1980 Boston Marathon. Jacqueline Gareau was in hot pursuit of the title. Out of nowhere, Rosie Ruiz sprinted the last half-mile to become the first woman to cross the finish line. She also captured the fastest time ever recorded for a female runner. She looked great at her crowning. No sweat, runner’s “trots”, vomiting, wheezing or thirst. The inquiry revealed she had registered and waited at the half-mile mark to jump out of the crowd.
Regardless of poor sportsmanship, poor judgment or referee oversight, sports should represent all that is pure about athletics and be as conclusive as possible. That runner ran the fastest time. Team A beat team B. These are the principles and foundation we instill in our youths– not, anything goes as long as you win.
First person: sports medicine.
Aaron Kuriloff. 25 Greatest Hoaxes, Cheats And Frauds In Sports. ESPN Olympic Sports. April, 2005.
Images Courtesy of Yahoo!Public Domain
credit/copyright: getty caption: Excuses for cheating.
credit/copyright: Jeanne Baney. caption: More than a million dollar bills have been hung at McGuire’s.