With so much on the line, sometimes the pressure to win can become too much for sports’ stars and all common courtesy goes out the window. Rules are broken, competitors are injured and sportsmanship takes a hard knock. Here are some of the most infamous examples of bad sportsmanship across the sporting disciplines.
1. John McEn’row’
With his wild, frizzy hair, striking headband and the shortest of tennis shorts, John McEnroe took bad sportsmanship to another level when he slammed onto the tennis scene in the 1970s. And his pants weren’t the only short thing to accompany him onto the court. His temper often got the best of him, particularly when the unfortunate umpire made a call against him, and spectators were provided with a timeless ‘John McEnroe’ tirade which involved throwing his wooden tennis racquet, swearing and ungracious gesticulation. His 1981 Wimbledon rant is one of the most memorable of the McEnroe tantrums, where he starts by telling umpire, Edward James, ‘You cannot be serious’. It’s believed a sizeable portion of his $12 million earned during his career was channelled towards fine paying.
2. Tyson gets an earful
After losing in a real upset to Evander Holyfield in the 1996 fight entitled ‘Finally’, Mike Tyson couldn’t wait to sink his teeth into the fellow heavyweight boxer in the 1997 re-match, ‘The Sound and The Fury’. This fight will forever be remembered for Tyson’s particularly unsportsmanlike performance which all started with a headbutt during the second round. Holyfield’s head connected with Tyson’s resulting in a cut above Tyson’s right eye, however the referee ruled it accidental. And so began Round 3, with Tyson, unusually, not wearing a mouthpiece. He was told to retrieve it but, 40 seconds into the round, while clutching Holyfield, Tyson turned his head, bit into his opponent’s ear and removed a chunk of it which he spat on the ground. He grinned maniacally at the crowd and then punched Holyfield in the back. Although referee, Mill Lane wanted to disqualify Tyson, the doctor said Holyfield could continue but, in the final 10 seconds of that same round, Tyson bit Holyfield again and Tyson was disqualified, costing him his boxing licence and forcing him to pay a $3 million fine.
3. Battle of Boet Erasmus
In stark contrast to their peace-loving image, the Canadians entered Boet Erasmus rugby stadium in Port Elizabeth during the final pool game of the 1995 World Cup an unseasonable level of aggression. A power failure which delayed the kick-off seemed to light the fire of both sides and the tension quickly boiled over onto the field. It started with a scuffle between Pieter Hendriks and Winston Stanley which was under control when Canadian fullback, Scott Stewart, entered the fracas with a hit to the back of Hendriks’ head. James Dalton came to his teammate’s aid, further fanning the flames and a massive brawl ensued. Working through the carnage, referee Dave McHugh sent off Dalton, Gareth Rees and Rod Snow. Pieter Hendriks and James Dalton were banned from the rest of the tournament, forcing them to miss the Springboks’ historic World Cup Final win against New Zealand. However, the ban did open the way for Chester Williams, who went on to score a record four tries against the Samoans.
4. Getting red flagged
It was during the 1997 Australian Grand Prix that German F1 legend, Michael Schumacher, potentially showed some seriously poor sportsmanlike behaviour when he put an end to British racer, Damon Hill’s World Championship dreams. For 36 laps the two were neck and neck and then Schumacher lost it on the East Terrace corner, skidding and hitting the wall. Because Damon had dropped back somewhat, he didn’t see Schumacher hit the wall until it showed on his on-board camera, so he decided to take the chance to overtake Schumacher on the inside line. As Schumacher returned to the racing line, he hit Hill’s car just as he was trying to overtake, quickly ending his chances and giving Schumacher the World Championship for the first time. It is still undecided whether the move was deliberate on Schumacher’s part or not.
5. It’s not about the bike
Taking the Tour de France title seven times in a row while doping is bad enough but it was American cyclist, Lance Armstrong’s, arrogance and bullying attitude to any whistle-blowers that really made this unravelling hard to swallow. Armstrong vehemently denied doping allegations for years and, just before it all finally fell apart, he tweeted a picture of himself lounging in his mansion with the seven yellow jerseys on the wall. Even a full-on confession to the beloved Oprah couldn’t save Armstrong from the onslaught. In 2012, the icon who had overcome testicular cancer, was stripped of his seven titles and Olympic bronze medal and banned from competitive cycling.
6. Hand of God
It was a sweltering afternoon on 22 June 1986 in Mexico City as thousands of fans crammed into the stadium to watch Argentina take on England during the Football World Cup. As Argentine legend, Diego Maradona, went in to score a goal, he rose above opponent, Peter Shilton, and palmed the ball into the goals. This unpenalized handball would go on to crush England’s World Cup dreams. In the post-match press conference, Maradona told reporters that he scored that goal ‘a little with the head of Maradona, and a little with the hand of God’, giving rise to the infamous ‘Hand of God’ title.