Balls, bribery, bombshells: 5 insane sports scandals

Colleen Drangines, Sports Editor

Sports professionals are frequently viewed as more divine than human, making it all the more difficult for fans when players and coaches of their favorite teams wind up involved in a front-page scandal. Over the decades, these infamous events in the world of athletics have ranged from heartbreaking to bewildering. Here is a breakdown of some of the most scandalous transgressions to plague sports across the globe:

Colts make a sweet escape

When the fight-or-flight response kicks in, the option to run away and start over can be quite appealing. That is exactly the approach taken by Robert Irsay, former owner of the then-Baltimore Colts, in 1984.

When Irsay took command of the Colts in 1972, the team was at the top of its game after bringing home a victory in the 1971 Super Bowl. The change in leadership, however, appears to have triggered a downward spiral. The Colt’s reputation became so negative that Baltimore’s first overall pick in the 1983 draft refused to join the team.

Irsay was also known to have a violent temper, which likely played a role in the unsuccessful negotiations to renovate the city’s stadium in 1984. Once the government got involved, time was up for Irsay and the Colts. The Maryland state legislature gave the city the ability to seize control of the team. Rather than admit defeat, Irsay packed up his team in the middle of the night, fled the east coast and settled in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The hostility over this drastic move can still be felt in Baltimore, where the Ravens refuse to put the name “Colts” on the scoreboard when they face Indianapolis.

Must be something in the water

Thanks to the Oscar-nominated film “Invictus,” many know the inspiring story of how the South African victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup helped unite the nation in the post-apartheid era. There have been claims, however, that a plot against the New Zealand All Blacks played a role in the Springboks’ unlikely victory.

According to similar reports from the All Blacks’ doctor and a bodyguard assigned to the team, 27 of New Zealand’s 35 players became violently sick two days before the tournament’s final event. A private investigation indicated this was the result of poisoning of the team’s water and tea by an unknown hotel employee, frequently referred to as “Suzie.”

While it was believed by both sides that this sabotage was intentional, is is accepted that betting syndicates are likely the cause of the attack, with no connection to South African officials.

Marathons are easier if you don’t run them

When Rosie Ruiz was crowned the women’s champion of the 1980 Boston Marathon with perfect hair, hardly breaking a sweat, spectators were astonished by her ability to complete the monumental challenge so effortlessly. It turns out they were right to be skeptical, as days later that title was stripped.

Ruiz, who had completed only one marathon previously, made several suspicious statements, and witnesses later confirmed seeing her join the race in the final mile. The title was then awarded to the rightful winner, Jacqueline Gareau of Canada, and the event has since stepped up security significantly.

Cricket (player) cannot fly

Cricket captain and South African icon Hansie Cronie’s confession of a match-fixing scandal in 2000 resulted in mixed reactions by fans of the sport. Some fans saw the incident as an act of betrayal, while others maintained that Cronie was a good guy who had simply made a few bad decisions.

When Cronie died unexpectedly in a plane crash a few years later, the debate about the scandal intensified. While Cronie’s unfortunate death was originally written off as a tragic accident, many suspect it was no mistake.

It seemed to be common knowledge that many wanted Cronie dead to hide their involvement in his cheating scam. Despite reports of tampering with airport equipment, no investigation has lead to a conclusive result, and whether the full story will ever be uncovered remains to be seen.

Who dat say they gonna bribe them Saints?

In 2012, an investigation into the New Orleans Saints revealed the team to have been running a bounty scandal for years, including during the team’s victory in the 2010 Super Bowl. Funded primarily by the players themselves, bonuses were given for various tasks, including intentionally hurting opposing players.

Appeals and investigations continued for months, ultimately leading to suspensions of players and coaches, notably head coach Sean Payton for not putting an end to the program. A few years down the line, the team appears to have recovered rather strongly.

Some players, however, suspect that lingering bias against the team for the scandal is the root of missed calls, including the missed call in this year’s NFC Championship that many view as the reason for the Saints’ ultimate loss.

Be sure to comment your favorite scandal and add other notable ones below!

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