9 Sports Cheaters Who Said No To Drugs
A lot of people like to talk about how the rampant use of steroids in baseball during the 1990s and early 2000s tarnished records and ruined the sanctity of “America’s pastime.”
But of course, the reality is that baseball players—and all athletes, actually—have been cheating since…um, forever. It’s not like Jose Canseco was the first guy to discover that winning is preferable to losing and realize that there might be a way to get an edge on the competition.
Deep down, I think what really pisses people off about the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs is not so much the fact that athletes cheat. I think it’s more likely that we find this method of cheating particularly disagreeable. A pitcher using a bit of Vaseline on the bill of his cap to enhance his slider? That’s good old-fashioned American ingenuity. But cyclists getting blood transfusions? Baseball players taking roids to get Popeye forearms and smash 500 foot home runs? That’s science fiction, and it’s for nerds.
Today, we’re going to celebrate the guys (and one gal) who cheated the old-fashioned way. None of them got away with it, of course. But at least they said no to drugs.
9. Diego Maradona
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Usually, we think of “cheating” as something clandestinely planned and carried out prior to a competition. We don’t think of it as something someone does on the spur of the moment and in plain sight of the entire world. But Argentina won the World Cup in 1986 thanks in large part to Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal against England in the quarterfinals. And since it is technically against the rules to use your hands in soccer, this would have to be considered cheating, right?
8. Joe Niekro
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Just about every pitcher in the history of baseball has “cheated” at one time or another. So, in one sense, it’s kind of unfair to single out poor Joe Niekro here. In another sense, however, it’s totally fair—because the way he was exposed as a “cheater” is just hilarious.
The guy was pitching a game for the Twins early in the 1987 when the home plate umpire, thinking Niekro’s knuckleball was a little too lively, walked out to the mound and began inspecting the dude’s gear. Of course, Niekro was stomping around and throwing his hands in the air like he was shocked and offended. But when the ump told him to empty his pockets, Niekro tried the old “quickly grab the nail file I have in my back pocket and throw it 10 feet away so the umps don’t see it” trick. It didn’t work.
Niekro claimed that he only used the file on his nails. And it’s true that knuckleballers must meticulously file their nails to grip the ball properly. But the official response of Major League Baseball was, “yeah, right,” and Niekro was suspended for 10 games. (After the incident his brother, Phil Niekro, famously sent Joe a power sander and a 50 foot extension cord as a gift.)
7. David Robertson
After the 14th hole of a qualifying tournament for the 1985 British Open, golfer David Robertson’s playing partners had had enough of the guy’s cheating, so they ratted him out to tournament officials. The guy had been racing to the green ahead of his playing partners, pretending he was marking and picking up his ball, then actually placing his marker much closer to the hole. (You can tell this was the UK and not America because they let this go on for 14 holes without knocking his teeth out.) Robertson was fined the equivalent of $30,000 and banned from pro golf for 30 years.
6. Hippolyte Accouturier
Pro cyclists have been cheating from day one. But whereas today they cheat by hiring highly educated chemists and physicians to give them turbo-charged blood, in the olden days the cheating was more like an episode of the Three Stooges. Their needle-free cheating methods included sneaking into a competitor’s room before a race and putting itching powder in his shorts, or dropping nails or broken glass behind them on the course to give competitors flat tires.
Then there was the case Hippolyte Accouturier in the 1904 Tour de France. He may be the first cyclist to come up with ingenious idea of hitching a ride on one of those newfangled “automatic carriages” people were raving about. Of course, he didn’t just tie a rope on the bumper then attach it to his bike. Instead, he tied a wire to the bumper, and put a big piece of cork on the end of it…which he held onto with his teeth. (I’m sure it must have made perfect sense at the time.)
Apparently, this stupid idea worked fairly well, as Hippo won four stages and finished 2nd overall. Of course, he was disqualified, along with the other guys in the top four, who had also cheated.
5. Boris Onischenko
In Olympic épée fencing, since it can be hard for observers to conclusively judge whether a strike actually has occurred, competitors use electronic weapons that beep when one person makes contact with the other. Pretty smart system, right?
Well, at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, the U.S.S.R.’s Boris Onischenko used a specially modified cheater sword. The handle had a trigger that he could press whenever he thought he came close to striking his opponent. The only problem with his cheater sword plan was that, while he could fool spectators and judges, he couldn’t fool his opponent, England’s Jim Fox, who knew damn well that he hadn’t been struck. He protested to judges, who inspected Onischenko’s weapon and discovered the modification.
You have to think that, if the Cold War had lasted any longer, they would eventually have gotten around to making a movie about this.
4. Panama Lewis
Panama Lewis was a boxing trainer who worked with a number of high-ranking boxers during the 1980s. However, he’s more famous for being a dirty cheating piece of crap than for whatever skill he may have had as a trainer.
In 1983, as Luis Resto’s trainer for a bout against Billy Collins, Jr., Panama Lewis removed padding from Resto’s gloves and dipped the boxer’s taped hands in plaster of Paris. This resulted in Resto giving Collins a beating that would permanently impair his vision and end his boxing career. Three years later, both Lewis and Resto were tried and found guilty of assault, criminals possession of a weapon, and conspiracy. Resto was sentenced to 3 years in prison; Lewis got 6. Sadly, Billy Collins, Jr. died in a car crash in 1984, which most people seem to believe was suicide.
3. Sammy Sosa
Everyone knows Sammy Sosa took steroids to turn into the Dominican Hulk and compete with fellow roidinator Mark McGwire for baseball’s sacred single-season home run record in 1998.
But let’s not forget that Sammy also used a corked bat. Which is freaking hilarious.
In a game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on June 3, 2003, Sosa’s bat was sawed off by a tough pitch. The ump happened to pick up one of the shards, and of course he found it was hallowed out and filled with cork. To be fair, Sosa claimed that he only used it to put on a show during batting practice, and none of his other 76 bats (nor the 5 bats he had in the Hall of Fame) were found to be corked. Then again, cheating is cheating, even if you do it accidentally.
2. Rosie Ruiz
Rosie Ruiz “won” the 1980 Boston Marathon. Problem was, nothing (and I mean nothing) added up, and officials began investigating almost immediately.
First problem: she wasn’t even sweating when she crossed the finish line. Oops.
Second problem: she was suspiciously flabby for a world-class marathoner.
Third problem: she set a record for women at the Boston Marathon, which was the 3rd best time ever for a woman in any marathon and 25 minutes than her own previous best.
Fourth problem: no one saw her running the race, but people did see her jump out of a crowd of spectators a half mile from the finish line.
Fifth problem: when she cheated in the New York marathon the previous fall by taking the subway to the finish line, she made friends with a lady who later reported the incident.
So, in the end, the most amazing part of the Rosie Ruiz story is not the cheating, but the fact that she got away with it for as long as she did. After all, she was initially declared the winner of the 1980 Boston Marathon.
1. Sylvester Carmouche
Jockey Sylvester Carmouche pulled off an amazing upset in December of 1990. Riding a horse that was a 23-1 long shot, he managed to finish an incredible 24 length ahead of the field and miss a Louisiana Delta Downs track record by only 1.2 seconds. So what happened?
Well, it was really foggy that night in Vinton, Louisiana. So foggy, in fact, that visibility was reduced to no more than 10 feet. So Sylvester got this great idea: fall to the back of the pack, cut across the infield when nobody could see him, win the race. Of course, the near-record time tipped people off that somewhat wasn’t right. And when the other jockey’s got together, no one could remember Mr. Carmouche passing them.
So, children, the lesson of this story is: if you’re going to cheat, make it believable.