17 Most Talked-About Corruption Scandals in Sports History

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The biggest scandals in sports history have focused on athletes cheating to make extra cash, or on league officials and arbiters such as umpires and referees – nearly always with financial gain as a motive. After they were caught, athletes have sometimes faced enormous fines and even lifetime bans from their sport, while league officials have been charged with criminal behavior. (These are the athletes most often sidelined by suspensions.)

24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of some of the most talked-about corruption scandals in sports, drawing on sports sites such as Sports Illustrated, NFL.com, and ESPN, as well as general media outlets including the Daily Mail, ABC News, and Forbes. The list is by no means comprehensive, but was assembled based on the impact each scandal had on an individual or a particular sport. (In sports and otherwise, these were the 24 biggest scandals last year.)

The most frequent corrupt behaviors in sports on our list are bribery, match-fixing, betting, and point-shaving. Bribery has occurred in international events such as the Olympic Games and soccer’s World Cup tournament, as well as in college basketball and football. 

Potential host nations offered inducements to officials of the Olympic Games committee and FIFA, the international soccer federation, to cajole them into selecting their country for their epic events. 

Match-fixing has soiled sports such as soccer, cricket, Major League Baseball – even snooker. A match-fixing scandal in cricket tainted the reputation of South African star Hansie Cronje. The worst scandal in the history of baseball occurred in 1919-1920 when the heavily favored Chicago White Sox threw the 1919 World Series.

Pete Rose, baseball’s all-time hits leader, was banned for life from the game because he bet on his team, the Cincinnati Reds. Tim Donaghy, a former referee in the National Basketball Association, was snagged by the FBI for wagering on basketball games and manipulating their outcomes.

College basketball has had many instances of point-shaving schemes, including one involving the basketball squads of City College of New York and six other schools in 1951, and more recently, the Boston College team in the late 1970s.

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