Controversial Athletes

Controversies are and will be everywhere, from the silver screen to politics, from industry to the industrialists. Even the sports world is not out of the box. Many fans believe that their favorite sports star came out of god’s hand with a superior personality and monk-like character.

Luis Suarez reacts after biting Italy's defender Giorgio Chiellini

But, athletes are far from superhuman and are often prone to give in to excess and temptation, just as much as everybody else. From sex scandals to drugs to just outright bad sportsmanship, scandals put the career of any sports star in jeopardy. And here is the list of 10 Most Controversial Athletes of All Time.

10 Most Controversial Athletes of All Time

 

10. Barry Bonds

10 Most Controversial Athletes of All Time
10 Most Controversial Athletes of All Time

Barry Bonds is “the greatest baseball player who ever lived” according to The New York Times. But that title has been tainted by Bonds’ steroid scandals which cast a shadow over his genuine achievements. The New Yorker also described Bonds as defensive and somewhat unapologetic for his perceived misdeeds. He was also accused of lying under oath about his steroid use and sentenced trial from the court. For this incident, he was marked as the biggest villain during “steroid era” of Major League Baseball. He won three National League MVP Awards, eight Golden Glove Awards and 445 career home runs by age 35, while he stole an average of 34 bases per year in his first 13 seasons. But it is tragic that the records set by Bonds will be forever tainted.

9. Dale Earnhardt

10 Most Controversial Athletes of All Time
10 Most Controversial Athletes of All Time

Dale Earnhardt, also known as “The Intimidator” and “The Man in Black” is a famous NASCAR star. The seven-time NASCAR champion won 76 career races, many of them involving a move in which he would use his car to nudge or spin another car out of the way. Earnhardt’s aggressive driving and cruel tactics to bang his opponent’s car polarized millions of race fans in the 1980s and 1990s as NASCAR exploded in popularity. Earnhardt spun out race leader Terry Labonte on the final lap of a race at Bristol Motor Speedway where Labonte smashed into the wall, and Earnhardt won in 1999. But, because of this cruel incident, a shower of debris from 100,000-plus fans was brought at the track. Later, Earnhardt explained he didn’t mean to smash Labonte, but “I just wanted to rattle his cage.” But he remains a beloved figure after his horrible death on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.

8. Michael Vick

10 Most Controversial Athletes of All Time
10 Most Controversial Athletes of All Time

The former Atlanta Falcons quarterback was embroiled in a dogfighting scandal that led to him being sentenced to 23 months in prison because of the cruel and tortuous crimes he committed against the dogs he fought for money. A 19-page indictment alleged that, “He attended fights and paid off bets when his dogs lost. He was also involved in the executions of dogs that did not perform well.” But the way he killed the dogs out of frustration of losing the fight, like drowning, electrocutions, and other types of slow and painful deaths, made Vick’s operation sound more like a horror movie than real life. President Obama himself praised the Eagles for giving Vick a second chance when he was signed to the Philadelphia Eagles as quarterback after serving his term with 21 months in prison and two under house arrest.

7. Hansie Cronje

10 Most Controversial Athletes of All Time
10 Most Controversial Athletes of All Time

The South African cricketer and captain of the South African national cricket team in the 1990s died in a plane crash in 2002. Cronje was voted the 11th greatest South African in 2004. Under his captaincy, South Africa won 27 Tests and lost 11. He was regarded by fellow professionals as the one of most successful cricket captain and one of the finest ambassadors of the game and all this came crashing down on April 7, 2000 when Delhi police revealed they had a recording of a conversation for match fixing between Cronje and Sanjay Chawla. He was sacked as captain on April 11 after confessing to Ali Bacher that he accepted between $10,000 and $15,000 from a London-based bookmaker for result fixing. Later, Cronje released a statement that revealed all his contact with bookmakers revealing the tens of thousands of dollars he had accepted to concede runs, lose wickets and throw matches. On October 11 on the same year, Cronje was banned from playing or coaching cricket for life.

6. Tonya Harding

10 Most Controversial Athletes of All Time
10 Most Controversial Athletes of All Time

 

The Olympic figure skater pleaded guilty of a conspiring charge at the 1994 U.S. Figure-skating Championships, after her ex-husband and bodyguard hired a man to assault her teammate and competitor, Nancy Kerrigan. Harding also arrived late for the competition at the 1992 Olympic Winter Games. In the 1993 Nationals, she had to restart her program after the back of her dress came unhooked. She stopped midway through her free skate and complained to the referee that her skate blade had become loose at the 1993 Skate America. In the same event, she claimed to be suffering from an ovarian cyst. In late 1993, in a regional qualifying competition for the 1994 National Championship, organizers received an anonymous assassination threat against her. Also, the medal ceremony at the 1994 Championships had to be delayed because she could not be found backstage.

5. LeBron James

10 Most Controversial Athletes of All Time
10 Most Controversial Athletes of All Time

 

LeBron James is arguably the most skillful player of all time in the NBA. But when he announced that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in 2010, criticism has been thrown at him. In an amped-up television program titled “The Decision”, he was highly criticized for being incredibly narcissistic and a total waste of time leading up to revealing his decision where James announced that he was “taking his talents” to the Florida team. He started to get even more criticism from his fans when his performance with the Miami Heat got pretty much tanked. James again began playing well, but his high-profile and presumed arrogance had made him an ongoing target for criticism of his attitude and his disoriented playing skills in later days.

4. Mike Tyson

10 Most Controversial Athletes of All Time
10 Most Controversial Athletes of All Time

 

The famous boxer, Mike Tyson, has got more popularity due to his misdeeds rather than his athletic achievements. Tyson was convicted for raping a model who was just 18 year old in 1992. According to VH1, he was originally sentenced to 10 years in prison, although he spent three years in jail. Tyson, again, made huge sensation in media after a boxing match with Evander Holyfield, where he couldn’t handle the shame of losing the match and bit off a one-inch piece of his opponent’s ear in 1997. According to VHI, Tyson was never really able to bounce back from the rape scandal, and ended up filing bankruptcy and struggling with drugs in the years following his incarceration. The controversies got even more attention when, in public, he said, “I want to kill people. I want to rip out their stomachs and eat their children.” He added, “It’s ludicrous these mortals even attempt to enter my realm.”

3. Tiger Woods

10 Most Controversial Athletes of All Time
10 Most Controversial Athletes of All Time

 

Golf legend Tiger Wood was an inspirational character for many of his fans until a disappointing public sex scandal destroyed his marriage, as well as his image in public. After a horrible car crash just outside his home, allegations came pouring in about Woods’ extra-marital affairs. He eventually admitted to cheating on his ex-wife, Elin Nordegren, in 2009. A number of women, including adult film star, Devon James, came forward and claimed to have had a sexual affair with Woods. Devon claimed to have had a threesome with the golf pro and another woman. This scandal got so drastic in media coverage that there was even an entire South Park episode dedicated to parodying these controversies. On November 25, 2009, the National Enquirer published a story claiming that Woods also had an extramarital affair with New York City nightclub manager, Rachel Uchitel.

2. Lance Armstrong

10 Most Controversial Athletes of All Time
10 Most Controversial Athletes of All Time

 

The seven-time Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong, impressed many with his cycling skills. He also inspired many of his followers with his personal story of overcoming testicular cancer and becoming an activist in the fight to find a cure for cancer. Many of his followers and famous personalities wore the yellow Livestrong bracelets that were a symbol of Armstrong’s foundation dedicated for the research of cancer. CNN once described him as “an all-American hero”. But, his supporters got disappointed and outraged by Armstrong’s doping scandal where he admitted that he had used steroids for better performance. Due to this scandal, he was banned from the sport by the International Cycling Union. His Tour de France titles, along with the honour of the head of the Livestrong foundation, was stripped off from him.

1. Luis Suarez

10 Most Controversial Athletes of All Time
10 Most Controversial Athletes of All Time

 

The famous football forward from Uruguay has got huge attention recently when he bit Italy defender, Chiellini, during a WC 2014 match. The first biting incident sentenced him to a 7-match ban where he was caught biting PSV defender Otman Bakkal. Later, he was banned again for 10 matches in Premier League when he was seen biting Chelsea defender, Branislav Ivanovic. Suarez deliberately handballed in World Cup 2010 against Ghana where he got sent off, and Ghana was awarded a penalty. Suarez also handled the ball before scoring against Mansfield where camera shows he kissed his own hand after the goal. He kicked Michael Dawson in EPL game against Tottenham and repeated the same with Scot Parker in Premier League game. He was also reported for pulling Rafael Da Silva’s hair during a match. Luis Suarez was proven guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra in the Premier League game against Manchester United, and banned for 8 matches and was fined £40,000.

Many other athletes were also in the limelight due to controversies, such as O.J. Simpson had the infamous murder trial while he was an athlete or Jack Johnson, the heavyweight boxing champ who was infamous for his racial comments in public. Some hideous controversies like the NBA star Dennis Rodman posed on the cover of a national sports magazine dressed in a negligee are also there in the sports world.

10 Most Controversial Athletes of All Time

1. Luis Suarez
2. Lance Armstrong
3. Tiger Woods
4. Mike Tyson
5. LeBron James
6. Tonya Harding
7. Hansie Cronje
8. Michael Vick
9. Dale Earnhardt
10. Barry Bonds

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