Stardom in the sporting world can bring a lot of perks and attention with youngsters idolising these gods and goddesses from afar. So, when one of these super-human beings commits a mistake, they tend to fall hard, with the whole world watching. Here are some sporting heroes that went bad.
1. Oscar Pistorius
A tragedy that grabbed international attention for so many reasons. Four-time South African Paralympian champion, Oscar Pistorius aka The Blade Runner made Olympic history when he competed in the 400m London Olympics – the first ever amputee sprinter to compete in the Olympics. He just had so much going for him. Overcoming adversity and peaking as a world icon in 2012, it all went to dust the following year when, on Valentine’s Day morning, he shot and killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. What followed was massive media attention on the once-golden-boy now fallen hero, with the murder trial filmed from its start on 3 March 2014. Pistorius was eventually found guilty of culpable homicide and spent 10 months in prison, then remanded to house arrest. However, in December 2015, it was ruled that Pistorius was guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to six years in prison.
2. Hansie Cronje
Internationally-renowned for his cricketing prowess, Hansie Cronje will, unfortunately, forever be remembered for his match-fixing debacle that cost him his career and his good name. Possibly even his life. Cronje made his Test debut for South Africa playing against the West Indies in 1991 and his ODI debut against Australia at the 1992 World Cup. At just 24 years old he was named the youngest-ever captain of the South African team. Under his guidance, South Africa went on to win 27 Tests, losing only 11. In ODI cricket, his team won 99 of 138 matches with Cronje earning the record for both matches captained and won under his watch. It all unravelled in 2000 when the Indian police levelled allegations of match-fixing against Cronje and he appeared before Justice EL King at the Commission of Enquiry where the truth came out. Cronje was guilty of match-fixing and received a life ban on the game. Tragedy continued when, two years later, Cronje and two pilots were killed in a plane crash in the Outeniqua Mountains. There have been speculations made by many, including former South African cricket captain, Clive Rice, that both Cronje and Pakistan cricket coach, Bob Woolmer, were actually murdered.
3. OJ Simpson
The phrase ‘crime of the century’ immediately brings to mind the infamous trial of former NFL-player, OJ Simpson, who was charged with murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman, in 1994. Simpson enjoyed a record-breaking career in football, followed by a moderately successful post-football career as a broadcaster and actor. His 1995 trial ended in a controversial ‘not-guilty’ ruling, partly because of the bungling of evidence. Many were even more convinced of his guilt after his book, entitled If I Did It was set to come out, documenting how he went to his ex-wife’s house with a knife and woke after he blacked out to find two bodies. The book deal fell through and Goldman’s family won the book rights which they published as If I Did It: Confessions of a Killer. Goldman’s father also brought a civil case against Simpson, holding him liable and he was charged $33m to be paid to the family, essentially bankrupting Simpson. Justice was further served in 2008 after a bizarre armed robbery in Las Vegas. Two men were planning to sell Simpson’s sports’ memorabilia and, instead of meeting with a buyer, Simpson and a gang of men arrived, one of whom was armed. They stormed out of the room with the memorabilia. Simpson was arrested and charged with 12 counts of armed robbery, convicted and sentenced to 33 years in prison. He finally found himself behind bars.
4. Lance Armstrong
A cancer survivor turned seven-time champion of the gruelling Tour de France, fought off allegations of doping throughout his career. His book, Not About the Bike, tells the inspirational tale of hard work and raw talent that got him to that podium yet in 2012, the allegations finally caught up with Armstrong. The US Anti-Doping Agency’s 202-page report placed Armstrong at the centre of an elaborate doping programme which he participated in throughout his career with former teammates admitting to doping and ways of beating drug-testing. The International Cycling Union stripped him of his Tour de France titles and banned him professional cycling for life. He was also forced to return is Olympic bronze medal.
5. Tiger Woods
Starting his pro-golfing career in 1997, Tiger Woods became the youngest man, and first African American, to win the US Masters at the age of 21. He went on to win another 13 Majors and was named PGA Player of the Year an incredible 10 times the next 12 years. But his personal life was in a turmoil and the media attention it garnered badly affected Woods whose golfing career never seemed to fully recover. In 2009, it emerged that Woods had had an affair with nightclub manager, Rachel Uchitel. Although both denied this, the media smelt a story. On 27 November at 2.30am, Woods collided with a fire hydrant outside his home with reports emerging that his wife, Elin Nordegren, had broken the back window with a golf club to get at him. Despite his silence, Woods dropped out of all remaining 2009 tournaments and by December, the truth exploded that Woods had dalliances with more than a dozen other women. He offered his wife a renegotiation of their prenuptial agreement to convince her to stay but, in 2010, the pair divorced. In 2009, Tiger won six tournaments and he wouldn’t win again until March of 2012. He was back in form in 2012 and 2013, winning eight times and finishing in the top 10 of half his events, but injuries the following two years prevented him from winning again.
6. Aaron Smith
More recently, and arguably on a much smaller scale, New Zealand scrumhalf, Aaron Smith, also got a taste of some negative publicity for his sexual inappropriacy. In 2016, Smith was caught on camera, entering a disabled public toilet cubicle with a female ‘friend’. He was found guilty of breaching the New Zealand Rugby team standards by a panel of his peers and suspended for a match. The incident didn’t win him any fans back home with a nation disappointed in his behaviour towards his partner, as well as the couple who shared the video footage. In a tearful statement following the event, Smith admitted: “I’ve made a huge mistake‚ a huge error in judgment. I’d firstly like to say a huge sorry to my partner Teagan‚ her family‚ and to my family‚” Smith said‚ while fighting back tears. “I’m also sorry to my team-mates‚ NZRU and the New Zealand fans. My behaviour was unacceptable and if you could respect me and my partner in this situation. I’m just trying to get home to deal with this. Thank you.”
7. James O’Connor and Ali Williams
Earlier this year, a night of partying ended spectacularly badly for New Zealand rugby player, Ali Williams, and Australian player, James O’Connor, with both spending 40 hours in a jail cell after being bust with cocaine in Paris. The two were allegedly caught by undercover policemen when they attempted to by 2.4 grams of cocaine from dealers at 3am outside the L’Arc nightclub. O’Connor was waiting on the street while Williams negotiated in the car, handing over about 200 euros in cash. Returning to the nightclub, officers swooped on the pair, both of whom were intoxicated and placed in ‘sobering’ cells. The two faced suspension from their respective clubs and disciplinary action from the French rugby governing body, the LNR.