Scandalous Sports

How have sports’ biggest cheaters been caught for their mischievous tactics?

People love sports. Athletes dedicate their entire lives to their craft. So why are sports scandals as common as they appear to be? Whether it’s conspiring with outsiders or lying to referees, cheating has and will continue to be relevant to the world of sports.

Cheating Astros: As of late, the most notable cheating scandal belongs to the Houston Astros. In 2019, the team was caught for electronic sign stealing after winning the World Series two years prior. The scandal was masterminded by Alex Cora, who was the bench coach for Houston at the time. Throughout the 2017 season, pitching signs of the opposing team were relayed from the Astros’ center-field camera to their dugout. Pitching signs are used between the catcher and pitcher to communicate what pitch will be thrown. When the other team knows what pitch will be thrown, it deranges any advantage the pitcher has over the hitter which can drastically affect the outcomes of games. Two years later, championship-team member Mike Fiers acted as a whistleblower and revealed their cheating tactics. As a result, head coach A.J. Hinch and General Manager Jeff Luhnow were fired. The reputation of the 2017 Astros is anything but good, and players still face consequences of the scandal to this day. The question has even been raised: Should their championship title be revoked?

Deflategate: When the name Tom Brady is heard, people think of the greatest football player of all time. What is sometimes forgotten is that he ordered the deflation of footballs that were used when his team, the New England Patriots, beat the Indianapolis Colts in the 2014 AFC Championship Game. Brady was suspended for four games at the beginning of the 2016 season, and ever since then fans have been skeptical of his tactics.Once labeled a cheater, he may never be able to shake the title.

The Hand of God: “The Hand of God” refers to a hand-ball goal scored by Diego Maradona during the quarter of the 1986 FIFA World Cup. The referees did not have a clear view of the play in order to see that Maradona used his hand to score, which is deemed illegal. Without replay technology available at the time, the goal stood to give Argentina a 1-0 lead. They then went on to win that game 2-1. This remains to be the most controversial football play of all time. 

Black Socks: The infamous ‘Black Sox’ scandal is truly one-of-a-kind. Allegedly, members of the 1919 White Sox conspired with gamblers to throw the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds in return for bribe money. Meaning: they purposely lost games to get paid. This all ties back to betting odds which were initially in favor of the White Sox. Putting money on the underdogs, the Reds, meant gamblers would win more money if the White Sox lost. So, they paid them off. Suspicions were raised when pitchers were hitting batters and walks were given out like candy– things that you wouldn’t normally see in such high-stakes games. After evidence surfaced, eight members of the scandalous White Sox team were labeled the ‘Black Sox’ and indicted on nine counts of conspiracy. They had even confessed! Mysteriously, all paper records of their confessions vanished over the course of their trial and they were found not guilty. Although legally vindicated, the eight players were banned from Major League Baseball. To this day, the ‘Black Sox” scandal remains debatably the most notorious in baseball’s history. 

Baseball’s Steroid Era: Performance-enhancing drugs are not uncommon in many sports, but one sport particularly tends to get caught for them. Throughout the 1980s to the early 2000s, numerous professional baseball players were using performance-enhancers– this time period is known as “the steroids era”. During this time period there was a noticeable increase in the amount of home-runs hit, which initially raised suspicion. The most notable names linked to these drugs, called PEDs, include Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGwire, Manny Ramirez, Rafael Palmeiro, and Garry Sheffield. Steroids have been banned in the MLB since 1991, and mandatory testing was implemented in 2003. Although steroids have not been discarded in the MLB completely, it’s safe to say that testing and rules are exponentially more effective today than they were 20 years ago.