Sometimes we serve to be the architects of our downfall…

Whilst it’s hardly fun having a fall from grace yourself, it’s been a long-standing past-time to revel in downfalls of sports stars, the more famous the better.

Whenever a sports star makes a gaff, or somehow jeopardises their career we are all given a opportunity to take a peek into their lives and wonder openly at how it could have all gone so wrong for them. When famous sportspeople make a public mistake we can see them as human, just like us, but we also have to wince at the considerable losses that they’ve incurred. To achieve so much and then to blow it all so publicly is a secret fear that we all share. There are some falls from grace so turbulent that not even an expert marketing company could recover their reputation, these are the people that we will focus on here:

Lance Armstrong

There is perhaps no other sportsman that has been so publicly vilified than Big Tex himself. Once considered to be one of the greatest cyclists of all time, not to mention an inspiration for cancer sufferers the world over, Armstrong was found to have been using performance enhancing drugs and to have been ‘the ringleader of the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that the sport has ever seen’. Armstrong elected to not contest that accusations and he was summarily stripped of his sporting achievements from 1998 onwards. Despite this huge fall from grace, he hasn’t exactly avoided the public eye, see his recent video with Architects Digest:

Shoeless Joe Jackson

Baseball might not be a sport that us Brits are particularly fond of, but it’s certainly home to a number of shocking controversies. In 1920, eight team mates from the Chicago White Sox conspired to throw the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. Such a large-scale case of match-fixing had not been seen until that day, however the most egregious part of this case was the involvement of the Chicago White Sox then star player, Shoeless Joe Jackson. Despite being one of the White Sox greatest ever players, Shoeless Joe remains a name associated with great shame for all Sox fans.

Tonya Harding

The 1994 Olympic Games were amongst the most hotly discussed in historic, thanks in large part to the headline grabbing exploits of Tonya Harding, an American figureskater. Her main rival at the time was Nancy Kerrigan, who was viciously attacked with a police baton by a man under the direction of Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly. Although she initially denied any knowledge of being involved in the plans to maim her rival, Tonya was prosecuted for hindering the prosecution and banned for life from the US Figure Skating Association.

Oscar Pistorius
There are many who have forgotten the name Pistorius, understandable considering the protracted nature of his case. The man once known as ‘Blade Runner’ won numerous medals during his time in the spotlight but it wasn’t until he was arrested and charged with the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp that he achieved true international notoriety. Since being prosecuted Pistorius has been released on house arrest, only to be re-imprisoned. He won’t be able to appeal for parole again until 2023.

The world of a professional sportsman is a heady place.

Consider this scenario: you’ve just turned 20 and you’ve been signed by a Premier League Football team, from next week you’re going to be paid £4,000 every Monday morning.

The most money you’ve ever had in your life will be piped into your bank account on a weekly basis and you’ve got no real expenses to spend it on. Obviously, the sensible option is to put away the majority of it and leave a few hundred quid aside for your weekly expenses, but you’re young and dumb – that’s not going to happen. 2 years later you’re struggling to stay in the starting lineup and you’ve spent a lot of money.

Luckily, you’re kind of famous by this point and there are dozens of companies lining up to use your image to sell their products. Who cares if you’ve never run your own BBQ business, people will trust you when you say it’s a great business opportunity. Even though, when it comes down to it, you should be considering your future career and the legacy that you want to be leaving; the promise of an easy buck is just too hard to resist.

It happens to the best of them, even when they’ve got a few more years on the clock, here are a few of the most questionable ones:

Warne Gains Hair, But Loses Respect

When Shane Warne, legendary Australian spin-bowler, retired from Test Cricket in 2007, he was clearly a little worried about a couple of things. One of them was most likely the bald patch on his pate that had been slowly growing for the last 10 years or so, with aerial cameras used in Cricket coverage hardly helping him hide his shame. The second might have been how he was going to keep bringing in money to support his Shane Warne Foundation, a charitable organisation aimed at helping disadvantaged children in Australia.

Thankfully, help came to him in the form of one company and several advertising opportunities. For the last 10 years, Warne has been a brand ambassador for Advanced Hair Studio. With TV spots often being shown in and around cricket coverage that he is featuring in. Although the Cricketing community has taken many chances to ridicule him, Warne has continued to sponsor the company who also have a raft of other Cricketing celebrities on their pay roll.

Yorkshire’s Own Race for Royalties

The Brownlee brothers first made headlines back in the London 2012 Olympics, when they both took homes medals in the Triathlon event, flying the flag for both their country as well as their home county of West Yorkshire. Since then, both brothers have continued to achieve bringing home gold, silver and bronze medals, running alone and as a team. Frequently referred to in the news as ‘local boys who’ve done good’, these young athletes are often caught on-camera performing altruistic acts, proving to the world time and time again what nice blokes they are.

Still – it doesn’t matter how pious you might appear, the promise of a little bit of extra cash is often too good to resist, especially when it comes from a brand that is close to every Yorkshire man’s heart. When Yorkshire Tea reached out to the Brownlee brothers, to see if they were interested in lending their faces to a TV advert campaign in March of this year, the resounding ‘yes’ was probably followed by a resounding ‘how much?’.

The Lightning Bolt’s Fast Millions

When it comes to international athletic superstars, they don’t get much bigger than Usain Bolt. The ‘Lightning Bolt’, as he is often referred to, is the fastest man in the world, holder of multiple World Records and a very – very – rich man. After announcing that he would retire from athletics after the 2017 World Championships, there’s much speculation as to what Bolt will do, a retired man at the age of 31. Bolt is no stranger to advertising and sponsorship deals, after winning the 200m World Championships title in 2002 he was offered his first sponsorship deal from Puma. Since then he’s collaborated with major brands such as Visa and has even starred in his own mobile game.

Despite the amount of spare time that he’s going to have on his hands from August onwards, chances are he’ll be continuing his string of television adverts with Virgin Media and other such companies, regardless of the questionable use of the brand that he has worked so hard to build up. If he’s hoping to maintain the $32.5m salary that he’s earned in recent years, he’s going to have to do a lot more than just TV adverts!

Cricket is a sport that is defined by principles of ‘fair play’.

However, there are always a few players who get consumed by the prospect of winning and will resort to ‘bending’ certain rules, as long as it means clinching victory from the opponent…

The 1932 English Tourists Hit the Bodyline

Cast your mind back to the year 1932. You’re still a sports fan because, let’s face it, nothing ever changes, but you can’t watch it on television because that doesn’t exist yet. You also can’t listen to it on the internet because, guess what? That doesn’t exist yet either. No – the only way you can find out about your lads fighting the good fight in Australia, is through the newspapers and the radio – and they’re never going to tell you the bad stuff, because it’s the 30s and mainstream media sources are a little biased.

It took us a few decades to own up to the rather poor behaviour of our touring side, during the ’32-’33 Ashes Test Series and it’s still something that we return to time and time again, when we consider what is and isn’t ‘Cricket’. So, why did the touring side from England feel the need to repeatedly fire balls in at pace down the leg side? Put simply: they thought they needed to. At the time a certain Don Bradman was just coming in to his prime, a prodigious talent that proved to unsettle England’s Test dominance for the next two decades. Although the ‘Leg-Theory‘ tactics of then England Captain, Douglas Jardine, might have worked, this was soon written over in the Laws of Cricket.

Dennis Lillee ‘kicks’ Miandad

There are certain moments in sporting history that are likely to never be forgotten. Whilst it may be preferable to forget some of the less magnanimous acts that have coloured cricketing history, it’s perhaps a good idea to keep them in mind – just to put any current controversies into perspective. Whereas today’s Test Captains often come under fire for the most minor of offences, it’s important to remember that there was a time when two high profile international players were close to a full-on fight.

The video footage above might well be enough to convince you of what happened on that faithful day and it’s unlikely that you’ll get a straight answer out of either Pakistan Captain, Javed Miandad or bowler Dennis Lillee. The on-pitch scuffle commanded the TV and Radio waves for a night as tabloid newspapers attempted to search for the cleverest puns. Whilst there was no official comeuppance for either players’ aggressive actions at an International level, Lillee was fined A$200 for his actions by the Australian Cricket Board, a number that caused controversy in and of itself. The act is still seen as ‘one of the most undignified incidents in Test history.’

The Chappell Brothers Show Their Colours

You can either toss it up to simply being a ‘bad year’ for Australian Cricket or perhaps question the whole generation of players of that era, but the Lillee and Miandad incident was not the first major sportsmanship issue to arise that year. In February of that year, the Captain of the one-day side made a rather questionable decision at the end of a match, one which was, fortunately for him, overshadowed by Lillee and Miandad’s row in November.

The under-arm bowl is now considered to be an illegal ball from the bowler, however back in 1981, it was merely frowned upon as being against the spirit of fair play. At the end of a gruelling one-day match, Australian Captain, Greg Chappell, directed his younger brother to bowl the last ball under-arm in order to prevent the Kiwi striker from hitting a 6 to draw the game level. His actions have been questioned to this day, with the Captain claiming heat exhaustion and stress as reasons for his behaviour.

Wimbledon has finally arrived and for us Brits this means a few things.

Tennis fans in a 9-5 will be anxiously checking the scores in a minimised window in their bottom screen, praying that they won’t be missing the match of the century.

Younger Murray fans will be racing home after school to watch as much of the action as possible. Stay at home parents will be forgetting about all the little jobs that they really needed to get done; ironing will be skipped until the kids look more crumpled than one of our old five pound notes and that broken Belling oven door will stay broken, or at least until the tournament winds down. Dinners will reduce in complexity and soon the family will just be ordering fried chicken, just like they’ve seen on TV.

With World Number One, Andy Murray, returning to defend his title once more; millions will be tuning in to watch the coverage. On the first day of the tournament proper, we’ve been looking back over the expansive 140-year history of the competition and weighing up the top three Sinners and Saints that have graced the green grass of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

First up – let’s take a look at the good guys of the tennis world that have lit up the court with their admirable actions:

Noble Novak concedes point to Stepanek

The former World Number One returns to Wimbledon this year; he’s won the competition three times before and is no doubt hoping to reclaim the title from Murray, who most recently snatched it from him in 2016. Novak has earned himself a reputation for being a fiery opponent who still manages to walk off the court with a smile on his face, regardless of the outcome. Back in 2014, he would go on to reclaim his Wimbledon title as well as the number one seed, but not before performing a memorable act of sportsmanship in the second round.

Tied at 5-5, Radek Stepanek was having a hard time in the fourth set as Djokovic led 2-1. A ball smashed from Stepanek was called out just after Djokovic returned the ball into the net, much to the Czech player’s disbelief. A review confirmed Stepanek’s objection but the umpire insisted that the point be replayed, as Djokovic’s play might have been distracted by the umpire’s shout. Calling to the umpire, Novak immediately conceded the crucial point to his opponent, stating that he had no hope of playing it. Although the Serb went on to win the game, match and tournament; the moment is still remembered as one of his best.

Murray wins over Britain with losing speech

The hopes of the country were resting on one man’s shoulder in the Summer of 2012, when Andy Murray took to centre court for the Men’s Singles Finals, the first time a British man had done so since 1938. He’d battled ard for years, training under his Mother for most of that time, with the goal of reaching the final of England’s oldest competition. His opponent couldn’t have been tougher: 5-time champion Roger Federer.

After taking the first set, Murray was summarily beaten by the Swiss legend leaving the Brit physically and emotionally battered. Although Andy had the support of the Centre Court crowd in London, he’d yet to truly win over the rest of the country – until that moment. His speech, choked with tears and clearly grateful for the support, went viral and soon became Britain’s favourite sporting son. When he finally won the competition the following year, his relief and joy was felt all over the the country.

The Williams Sisters battle for a Finals place

Back in 2000, the Williams sisters were on the rise. The semi-final of the 2000 edition of Wimbledon saw these two ascendant players pitted against each other, in what proved to be a thrilling match that their coach Father could not bear to watch. Whilst their Dad had to excuse himself from the court, Venus, aged 20, went on to beat her younger sister, Serena, in an emotionally charged match that had the entire crowd on their feet.

The Williams have always been known for their passion and energy whilst on the court, it’s often commented that their performances are even more driven when they are pitted against each other. Commiserating her sister after beating her in straight sets, it was clear for all to see that match had meant a lot to both players, their handshake turned into a tête-à-tête that lasted for a few minutes, a heady moment that exemplified the respect and love that the sisters have for each other. Although Venus would go on to win the tournament, Serena would only have to wait 2 more years to claim victory on the hallowed courts of Wimbledon.

We’re all prone to bouts of anger from time to time and sportsmen are no exception to this.

It doesn’t matter what sport you play, tensions are always bound to rise when you play at a high level.

Where some players can leave the field of play with a smile on their face, regardless of the outcome, others struggle to contain their…passion.

Whether they’re winning or losing, there have been a few moments throughout sporting history when certain players have revealed their inner demons. Although these players might prefer to forget these little storm-in-a-teacup moments, the internet has immortalised them forever – let’s hope they can look back and laugh at them now…

McBrat Strops in Stockholm

There was a time when American pro tennis player John McEnroe was known as ‘SuperBrat’. First bursting on to the scene in 1977, McEnroe won the mixed doubles with Mary Carillo at the French Open at the tender age of 18. That same year he qualified at Wimbledon and made it through to the Semi-Finals, eventually losing to Jimmy Connors. It was only after turning pro, a couple of years later, that McEnroe started to gain his reputation for being somewhat outspoken on the tennis court.

In 1984 ‘McBrat’ was captured at the very peak of his playing (and yelling) abilities, as the umpire got the rough end of a tirade that lasted for longer than anyone would have expected. Video replays later proved him to be correct in his assertion, but not so righteous in his reaction:


Messi’s Boot Throwing Tantrum

Even the best players in the world suffer from the odd case of bad luck. Messi has earned himself the title of one of the best footballer’s to have graced the pitch but he’s also known to be a little dramatic when it comes to the treatment of referees. The five-time winner of the Ballon d’Or has been a prolific goal scorer for his club since he started playing professionally in 2005. However, despite scoring over 500 goals for his club, he’s still prone to the occasional lapse in judgement.

Last year, whilst battling against Spanish competitors Sevilla, Messi was penalised for time-wasting after his boot was ripped apart by a passing opponent. Instead of taking the referee’s decision on the chin, the Argentinian international lost his temper and threw the offending shoe off the pitch. This outburst led to him being given a yellow-card which, no doubt, did little to improve his mood. Thankfully, Messi buys his footwear in wholesale, so there was a fresh pair on hand for him to continue the match.


Stuart ‘Psycho’ Pearce’s Penalty Passion

Affectionately known as ‘Psycho’ by Nottingham Forest supporters, and eventually the rest of the country; Pierce’s reputation as an unrelenting football player followed him throughout his playing career and well into his later life as a manager. Pearce’s position as a defender ensured that he was constantly challenging the opposition and his aggressive style of play was always noted by his fellow players. Fellow England team mate, Matthew Le Tissier, described Pearce as his ‘scariest opponent’.

Pearce may well have had the reputation of being an aggressive player, but his fouling record wasn’t necessarily worse than any other player of the time. Despite not having played professionally since 2002, he is still revered as one of the fiercest players of the sport; this celebration after his successful penalty at Euro ’96 is a good example of why he was loved so much by fans:

Enduring moments in sporting history that epitomised fair play

Thanks to the nature of the 24-hour news channel, we’re constantly blasted with the very worst that professional sportspeople can do.

You’ve got constant corruption in the world of football, ongoing drug allegations in athletics and even match fixing in cricket – a sport that used to be synonymous with the very word of sportsmanship.

If you’re feeling a little bit overwhelmed by the constant cheating and cries of foul play, then take a look at these great examples of where fair play and sportsmanship ruled the day:

Bell’s Bizarre Runout – Trentbridge, Nottinghamshire

In 2011, Ian Bell was arguably at the height of his powers. In the midst of a heated battle between India and England, a bizarre run-out threatened to throw a successful home side out of the running of the competition and tip the balance of the entire test series. Just before tea, on the third day, Bell was in command on an unbeaten 137, whilst his partner Eoin Morgan was just getting going. After Morgan smashed a ball that looked to be a four, the batsmen started to take off their gear and head inside. Lazily throwing the ball back in, an Indian fielder knocked the bails off the stumps and the umpires, looking rather perplexed, asked for a review.

The Third Umpire gave Bell out, who looked just as confused as everyone else on the pitch. During the break then captain Andy Strauss approached the opposition’s changing room to discuss the possibility of overturning the decision. MS Dhoni, showing great humility, agreed and after the break Bell returned to the crease with Morgan, much to the appreciation of the English crowd. Bell went on to score 159, only 22 more runs, but the gesture has not been forgotten.

Sweetsers Lock In – Muirfield, Scotland

Jesse Sweetser was one of golf’s greatest amateur players. Born in 1902, he was recognised with the Bob Jones Award in 1986 (just three years before his death) for a career that was epitomised by endless deeds of good sportsmanship. A stockbroker by trade, Sweetser became the first American-born player to win the British Amateur in 1926, but the road to his victory wasn’t a straight forward one.  His tournament winning game was almost forfeited when his Scottish opponent missed his tee time.

The officials residing over the tournament wanted to give the match to Sweetser, but Jesse didn’t feel comfortable travelling across the Atlantic to simply claim a tournament win by default. To avoid being awarded the win, he locked himself in his changing room and patiently waited for his opponent, whose car had broken down. When A. F. Simpson finally arrived on a bicycle, with his clubs strapped to his back, Sweetser emerged from his locker room and the game got under way. This story of good sportsmanship is even more incredible when you consider that the amateur golfer wasn’t in the best health at the time. What he assumed was a flu would later be diagnosed as tuberculosis, but he didn’t let this stop him from claiming the biggest win of his career.

Roddick’s Sacrificial Line-Call – Rome, Italy

In the early noughties, Andy Roddick was one of the biggest names in international tennis. Renowned for having an intense competitive streak, in addition to a flamboyant sense of humour, Roddick found himself in the form of his life after winning the US Open in 2003. By 2005, he was still in good shape and looking to regain the top spot after slipping down to No. 2. Always threatening on clay, the 2005 Rome Masters tournament was a perfect opportunity for him to do just that, however a superlative act of sportsmanship ended up halting his progress.

In his third round match, on the cusp of beating Spaniard, Fernando Verdasco, Roddick challenged a line call that would turn the tide of the match against him and result in his exit from the competition. At match point, an exacerbated Verdasco’s second serve was called out, however Roddick felt that this was the wrong call. Where most professional players would see this as a turn of bad luck for the opposition, the world number two pointed out the clear mark that that the ball had made within the court and the match continued. Verdasco then went on to pull the match back and knock Roddick out. Fernando later thanked his opponent and declared him to be a great sportsman.

America: The Land of the Free and Generous

In today’s day and age, sportsmen and women get paid a lot of money.

If you’re a player of an individual sport, such as golf or tennis, then you can take home huge amounts of money, sometimes just for showing up. Take Wimbledon, for example, which is just firing up over here in the UK. For just getting through the first round of the Singles competition you can take home £35,000. Slog it through 3 rounds and your prize money rises to £90,000. The cash prizes rise exponentially from there on and we’re not even taking into account the massive sponsorship deals that these players can receive as well!

So with all this money flowing through the coffers of professional sportspeople, we thought we’d take a look into who’s considered the most generous of them all. Our Yank correspondent, Marvin, decided to take this one and (surprise, surprise) it looks like they’re all American…

David Robinson

There are many reasons why David Robinson (or ‘The Admiral’, as he’s affectionately known by us Americans) is widely considered to be an American hero. A 10-time NBA All-Star and two time Champion, this Florida born ball-player may have earned the respect of his countrymen through his sterling defence work for the San Antonio Spurs, but it’s his charitable work that he will be most fondly remembered for.

Founding the Carver Academy in 2001, Robinson has donated an unprecedented $11 million to this public charter school, ensuring that thousands of children have been given the kind of start in life that they could have only dreamed of. With an emphasis on providing children with the tools needed to succeed in life, The Admiral has no doubt changed the lives of countless kids who might not have been given a chance otherwise.

Steve Stricker

Although he might not have won a major tournament in his 27-year long career, Mr. September has another feather in his cap which isn’t always talked about. Despite being an extremely busy golf player (racking up 22 professional wins, including 12 victories on the PGA Tour) Steve dedicates a great deal of his time to his very own charity, the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation.

Working to support dozens of charitable causes, educational incentives and other such organisations, the Stricker Foundation is in the business of realising American’s dreams, a notable goal that they’re constantly working towards. Donating over $1 million in it’s first year alone to a number of good causes, it seems like there’s no stopping Steve when it comes to helping out others.

Andy Roddick

Similarly to Stricker, A-Rod might not be considered as one of the most successful players of his sport, but he’s still managed to make a difference when it comes to the lives of thousands of people. The once world number one only won a single Grand Slam title, taking the US Open in 2003 and rising to the top spot in one day. Whilst he remains to be the most successful North American player of the game in the last few decades, his charity work has begun to eclipse his playing career.

After founding the Andy Roddick Foundation in 2000, Andy retired from professional sport and now dedicates all his time to his charity, based in Austin, TX. Focusing on providing children with the opportunity to discover what they love to do, the Foundation provides high quality after-school and summer programs for children of all ages, with the aim of inspiring them to grow into happy, successful individuals.