8 Athletes Exiled from Their Sport
Donald Sterling appears to be a fixture in the news for the foreseeable future.
A side effect of his high-profile lifetime ban from the NBA has called into question the morality of some of the league's other owners. But we're not here to kick around rumors. Instead, let's look back at some of the more incredulous scandals in sports history.
The number of players exiled from their professional sport or league is quite large, but some went down in bigger balls of flame than others. There are those who let their inner-competitiveness become inner-demons. Others were simply overwhelmed and overcome by their circumstances. Some were even innocent.
Every one of these anecdotes (plus the honorable mentions) is tragic in it's own right and deserves to be revisited now and again.
Presented in a completely arbitrary order, eight exiled athletes.
A-Rod earned an honorable mention status for getting as close to banned as any athlete who was allowed to return to their sport. He's also inherited the reputation of most hated player in baseball from A.J. Pierzynski
Bud Selig originally slapped the three-time AL MVP with a 211-game suspension in August 2013 for using and lying about Biogenesis' performance-enhancing drugs. Another baker's dozen of major leaguers received 50-game bans in the scandal's fallout. Arbitrator Frederic Horowitz reduced Rodriguez's ban to the entire 2014 regular season (162 games) and playoffs.
As a result of MLB's longest drug-related suspension, A-Rod lost his entire $25 million salary. Though some think that at 39 years of age upon returning to the field, and with a significant injury history, Rodriguez has played his last MLB game. He is still owed $61 million by the Yankees over three years and could get that money even if he retires.
The Donald 2.0 doesn't get his own slide on a technicality. The title says "athletes," and Donald Sterling looks like he hasn't gotten any exercise since before the NBA-ABA merger.
No explanation needed here. If you are clueless as to who Sterling is and/or why he's here, there's nothing I can do for you.
Connie Hawkins is an interesting case in that he appears to be the only innocent person featured in this slideshow who actually got reinstated and went on to have (a semblance of) a career.
A freshman at the University of Iowa, Hawkins was implicated in a gambling and point-shaving scheme from his days as a preps legend back in New York City. According to his biography on NBA.com, Hawkins "was not arrested, indicted or even directly implicated. But it was suggested that he had introduced other players to a man convicted of fixing games. The principals in the scandal claimed that Hawkins had no knowledge of any fixed games."
Still, Hawkins was kicked off his college team before ever playing a game and denied asylum by the NBA. Hawkins spent his better years touring with the Harlem Globetrotters and then tearing it up in the ABA. A series of events led NBA Commissioner J. Walter Kennedy to lift the ban in 1969, when Hawkins was already 29.
Despite playing seven solid seasons, Hawkins was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992 as a gesture to acknowledge the unjust treatment that cost him nine years of an NBA career.
8. "Shoeless" Joe Jackson
This should really be the entire 1919 World Series-fixing "Black Sox" team. To single out one player, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson was the face of the scandal.
Two years removed from a championship, Jackson and seven other members of the White Sox allegedly agreed to throw the Series to the Cincinnati Reds for $20,000. The story goes Jackson and the others only received $5,000, the deal leaked to the public and the league investigated all eight players.
Jackson admitted his guilt in testimony. After serious questions arose surrounding the evidence against him, a Chicago jury acquitted Jackson and his teammates. Major League Baseball's first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, still banned them all for life, arguing that they detracted from the league's already suspect image.
The whole "Say it ain't so, Joe" courthouse scene is a myth. Nevertheless, the player Babe Ruth once claimed to emulate spent 20 years bouncing around semi-professional teams before opening a series of small businesses.
Revered long after his death, Jackson's life inspired the novels on which Field of Dreams and The Natural are based. He has museums, parks and statues in his name around the country.
7. Roy Tarpley
The NBA couldn't avoid the rock 'n' roll era of the 1980s. Eight different players got the boot for multiple substance abuse violations in that wondrous decade, though half were later reinstated.
Roy Tarpley entered the league with the Dallas Mavericks in 1986, earning NBA All-Rookie Team honors after being named the Big Ten Conference Player of the Year as a senior at Michigan. The momentum continued the following year. The 6'11" power forward won Sixth Man of the Year by averaging 13.5 points and 11.8 rebounds per game.
Unfortunately, Tarpley got busted for a DWI and resisting arrest six games into the 1989-90 season. Strike one drew a suspension. Strike two came with his second DWI in 1991. Tarpley went for the Triple Crown a few months later, and the NBA sent him packing after his third violation.
After a spell traveling from the CBA to the USBL and Greece, Tarpley applied for and was granted reinstatement to the league in 1994, technically making him the fifth to be allowed back into the league. He signed a six-year, $20-million contract. But the troubled big man went double-dipping, receiving a second ban in December 1995 after failing a drug test and violating terms of a court-imposed personal after-care program.
Tarpley bounced around Greece and Cyprus for a number of years, returning to the U.S. bankrupt in 2000. His second attempt at reinstatement to the NBA in 2003 failed, but Tarpley sued the league for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act because of his alcoholism and settled out of court in 2009.
6. Tonya Harding
Tonya Harding's story gets a high mark in the psycho-competitive column.
She was the first woman to execute a triple axle in competition, yet still feared Nancy Kerrigan during the 1994 Norway Olympic trials. She allegedly signed off on a plan for her husband to hire someone to "remove" Kerrigan from the event. Jeff Gillooly paid $4,000 and Kerrigan got whacked in the knee.
She missed the U.S. Figure Skating Championships but was selected to the team anyways. Harding finished a lackluster eighth while her victim took the silver medal. She failed to confess her role in the "hit" but was connected in the investigation. The U.S. Figure Skating Association took all of her titles and banned her from future sanctioned competition.
Harding went on to have an illustrious celebrity boxing career despite getting three years probation, a fine and community service.
5. Stanley Wilson
Stanley Wilson was the 1980s Lamar Odom of the NFL. A ninth-round draft choice of the Cincinnati Bengals in 1983, he had a significant cocaine addiction for which the league sat him out in 1985 and 1987.
Wilson went through the 1988 season with two strikes. Led by MVP Boomer Esiason and Ickey Woods of "Ickey Shuffle" fame, the Bengals reached Super Bowl XXIII along with Bill Walsh's San Francisco 49ers.
This is where the narrative gets interesting. On the eve of the Super Bowl, running back coach Jim Anderson found Wilson doing cocaine in his hotel bathroom while supposedly retrieving his playbook during a meeting. Buffalo left him off the roster and lost what ended up being Walsh's swan song as 49ers coach. Strike three; the NFL was done with him.
4. Pete Rose
"Charlie Hustle" is one of the most infamously decorated athletes to have received lifetime banishment from his league.
A 17-time All-Star (at five positions), three-time World Series Champ and MVP winner, Pete Rose was accused in 1989 of betting on his Cincinnati Reds during the 1985 and 1986 seasons. He wouldn't publicly admit to the allegations until 2004.
MLB's all-time hits leader, Rose lived up to the "degenerate gambler" profile on the field as well. He derailed Ray Fosse's career by crashing into the catcher in the 12th inning of the 1970 All-Star Game. Three years later, his hard slide into second while breaking up a double play led to a bench-clearing brawl. And as the Reds' manager, Rose earned a 30-game suspension for pushing an umpire while arguing a call during the 1988 season.
Despite his numerous accomplishments and records, Rose remains ineligible for induction into the Hall of Fame. It was rumored that Bud Selig was considering the longstanding reinstatement application in both 2003 and 2009, but the Commissioner shot those whispers down immediately both times.
The closest Rose has gotten to the game since his punishment was being named to the MLB All-Century Team in 1999 and attending the 25th anniversary celebration of his 4,192nd hit at Great American Ball Park.
Rose will be back in a dugout this month, managing one game for the independent league Bridgeport Bluefish on June 16. But that appears to be as close as he'll get to being a part of MLB while he's alive.
3. Art Schlichter
Art Schlichter falls somewhere in between lesser and completely unknown cases of an athlete getting banned for life. But his story is a doozy. He also might be one of the most unknown busts in NFL history.
Drafted fourth overall out of Ohio State by the Baltimore Colts in 1982, Schlichter entered the league in the midst of a strike. Said strike led Schlichter to gamble away his signing bonus midseason. He also lost the Colts' starting quarterback job that year.
But that was only the beginning. The former Buckeye standout got in so deep with bookies that he had to go to the FBI. The confession landed him an indefinite suspension from the NFL. He was reinstated by 1984 but oddly admitted to gambling on other sports during his suspension and was out of the league by the 1985 season.
Schlichter's final chance only lasted one 1987 preseason game in Buffalo. Things got chaotic to the point that he was arrested and convicted of participating in a multi-million dollar gambling operation. By 2006 he had served 10 years in prison for over 20 felonies. He was sentenced to 10 more years in 2011 for another seven-figure scam—this one was of the ticket variety.
A true cautionary tale of addiction.
2. Marion Jones
Marion Jones went from the top of the track world to the bottom of the real one. She captivated billions of people by winning three gold and two bronze medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, a feat never before accomplished by a female track and field athlete.
But then-husband C.J. Hunter tested positive for an anabolic steroid in the middle of the Games, thrusting her into the BALCO investigation. She eventually tested positive for PEDs in 2006, unraveling years of lies told under oath. Jones admitted that she lied about taking steroids before the Sydney Olympics and was immediately stripped of those medals. Two of those were relay events and the IOC determined her relay teammates had to surrender their hardware as well.
Jones was barred from the 2008 Beijing Olympics and retired from the sport. She ran into significant financial trouble from the fallout and got caught up in a check-counterfeiting scheme with ex-boyfriend Tim Montgomery.
As a result of the on- and off-track legal problems, Jones received a six-month prison sentence, though the maximum penalty was five years. Jones made a brief cameo in the WNBA, playing 47 games for the Tulsa Shock in 2010-11.
1. Lance Armstrong
There's no bigger high-profile, polarizing cheater in sports than Lance Armstrong.
On the one hand, Lance won seven straight Tour de France races from 1999 to 2005 after beating testicular cancer that had spread to his brain, lungs and abdomen.
Then again, he engaged in "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen," according to the United States Anti-Doping Agency's 2012 report.
Armstrong founded the LiveStrong Foundation, which has raised hundreds of millions of dollars through the sale of its iconic yellow wristbands.
He also was exposed as an uber-competitive monster who forced teammates to take PEDs with him and defrauded the government by accepting money from the U.S Postal Service.
After duping the world into anointing him a hero, Lance was stripped of his Tour de France titles and is said to have lost $75 million in sponsorships the day after he came clean. He wasn't just banned from professional cycling, but literally “any activity or competition organized by any signatory to the (USADA’s) code or any member of any signatory," per the USADA.
Armstrong topped Forbes' list of most dislike athletes in America, and will probably stay there for a while.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!