The Biggest Scams and Hoaxes in Sports History
Scams involving sports are not new. Scamming and sport is as old as human nature and I am sure combining the two was quick to follow.
As a matter of intention, some scams are better coined a hoax. Both are intended to deceive, but a hoax is done in the name of humor. Some are so odd that the intentions may be blurred even to perpetrators. Let's just call those a "scoax."
This slideshow aims to list and rank the most memorable moments in the world of sports born from the deceitful arts.
No. 15: 'Runaway' Rosie Ruiz
The 1980 Boston Marathon was ripped a new one by the previously unheard of Rosie Ruiz. Rosie came out of nowhere to cross the finish line in a record time of 2:31:56 and without a drop of sweat dripping from her body.
She would have looked like she could run the whole race again, except she didn't look like a marathon runner in the first place. The cellulite on her thighs turned out to be a dead give away.
Rosie really did come out of nowhere. None of the other racers remembered her and Rosie couldn't recall minor details like her split times, sights on the course or large groups of people cheering. Other than that, her plan was foolproof.
In the end, Rosie proved to be better at riding the subway then she was at running marathons. She was quickly stripped of her title. Boston Public Transportation has yet to thank her for the free advertising.
No. 14: Step Aerobics
Step Aerobics took American home fitness by storm in the early '90s. Women burning calories with continuous movement to the beat of music was taken up a notch when some brilliant company introduced an elevated platform that you could stand on. They coined this innovation a "step."
The step was genius. Not only did it give the makers have a gimmick to boost sells in the hyper-competitive world of VCR Aerobics, but they sold the "step." I mean you had to have the step. It was even adjustable.
Where else could people find something elevated to step up and down on and it was clear that aerobics on a flat surface just wasn't going to cut it anymore.
No. 13: 'Sneaky' Sylvester Carmouche
Sylvester Carmouche made the handful of romantic hopefuls playing the longshot ponies at Louisiana's Delta Downs racetrack in December 1990 a very happy group. He led his 25-1 horse to a dominating 24-length first place finish.
It was an outcome that literally nobody saw coming. The track was not visible in the heavy fog that day. Carmouche used the blanket of the fog to utilize one of the tracks shortcuts as he cut out half of the race.
Of course, the cunning shortcut was frowned upon by the racing establishment and the win was disallowed. 'Sneaky' Sylvester received a 10-year ban for his efforts.
No. 12: 1976 East German Women Olympic Swim Team
In 1976, the East German women dominated the Olympics. Watching highlights of their swim meets, you'd think they were practicing by themselves, unless you have the patience to watch for the five extra minutes it takes for the other competitors to come into view.
Turns out, these women were illegally doping. We are not talking about the custom designer performance enhancers of today either. We are talking about good old-fashioned steriods. The kind that Dinosaurs would take that made other dinosaurs say, "Whoa, watch that 'roid rage, T-Rexy. You really gotta lay of the juice buddy."
No. 11: The Classic Money Scammers
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
As we said, sport is big business and the athletes make big bucks. Many athletes are not as skilled at handling their money as they are at making it. This leaves them especially vulnerable to con artists.
People like Mary Wong, David Talbot, Marc Dreier, and the good folks at Triton Financial find ways of convincing or using athletes to make themselves wealthy.
You know the deal: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Superstar athletes live in the world of too good to be true. They have been and likely will always be a target for the big con.
No. 10: Paul 'The Fish Whisperer' Tormanen
Paul Tormanen was turning the world of competitive fishing on it's ear. The gun would go off, boats would go out and two minutes later Tormanen was returning with a load of fish that would make the Deadliest Catch Captains jealous.
The problem was, Tormanen had already caught these fish and stashed them until he could pick them up during the contest. It is a brilliant plan--at least until you get to the part where he expected to not get caught cheating.
No. 9: Tonya Harding
Tonya Harding wasn't convinced she had what it took to beat her main Olympic rival, Nancy Kerrigan. This worried her ex-husband, Jeff Gilooly.
Gilooly then did what any compassionate ex-husband would do: he hired Shane Stant to break Kerrigan's leg. Stant was not especially competent at this task. He only bruised Kerrigan's leg.
Harding was found guilty as a conspirator in covering up the attacks, but was still allowed to compete in the Olympics after she threatened legal action.
Were they really worried that a judge would not find this offense worthy of disqualification from an Olympic team?
No. 8: Sid Finch
Sid Finch is the greatest pitcher that never was--really. It wasn't because of tragedy or injury that Finch did not live up to his promise. It was because Finch never actually existed.
Finch was Sports Illustrated's 1985 April Fool's Day gift to the sporting world. SI left everyone to marinate in the hype of a pitcher that could chuck a ball 168 MPH with pinpoint accuracy before revealing that story was a hoax. Professional hitters laughed the loudest.
This was no doubt a great hoax, but wouldn't it have been more amusing to say he was pinpoint accurate 99 percent of the time and the other one percent, he had absolutely no clue where it is going?
No. 7: Tim Donaghy
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Donaghy is maybe the greatest handicapper of NBA games ever. For two years, the guy couldn't miss a bet. The problem is, he was also an NBA referee.
That is a slight violation of rule 1 - super important .0 in the referee handbook. Donaghy ended up pleading guilty to charges that he gambled on games he reffed and made calls biased calls that affected the point spread. He ended up serving 11-months in prison for his crimes.
No. 6: Danny Almonte
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Danny Almonte had the world gushing over his talent after he pitched a perfect game in the 2001 Little League World Series. Almonte featured a 70-MPH fast ball and a wicked breaking ball.
Almonte, however, only fulfilled the League part of Little League. People became curious about his age when Almonte went to the bars to celebrate his perfect game and, after having too much to drink, he began bragging about seeing the Rolling Stones' first American Concert.
Okay, that last part may not be true, but Almonte was a 14-year-old playing a 12-year-old's game.
No. 5: Dora 'The Man...I Mean Women' Ratjen
Oh those whacky Hitler Youth. One of their more successful capers involved the 1936 Berlin Olympics. They convinced Hermann Ratjen to compete as Dora in the Women's High Jump.
The plan worked. Nobody detected Dora was actually Hermann. Of course, this was becuase nobody cared. Hermann finished fourth in the Women's High Jump. Years later he confessed to his fraud.
No. 4: Spanish Paralympian Basketball Team
Spain won the basketball portion of the 2000 Intellectual Disability Tournament with a dominating performance over the Russian team 87-63.
Only 2 of the 12 players had any kind of disability, however, and the victory was disallowed. That decision may have been made in haste.
Faking a disability in order to enter and then hopefully win a basketball tournament is all the proof I need of a developmental disability.
No. 3: Balance Bracelet
You've probably seen the commercials. People put on a bracelet--the same kind worn by athletes and celebrities alike--then, all of a sudden their arthritis is gone, their balance is better, they can't be knocked over by a cement truck and they can fly.
Does anyone really believe this and what athletes are wearing are they talking about? Probably the just mentioned cheating Spanish Paralympians, but other than that, I haven't seen any.
Surprisingly, studies do not back the claims made by the Power Balance company about their product.
No. 2: Simonya 'Please Don't Be A Hoax' Popova
Not long ago Sports Illustrated released an article on a 17-year-old rising tennis star/sex symbol from Uzbekistan named, Simonya Popova. She was reported to be the future of Women's tennis.
It was not her game that sent these reports viral, however. Conservatively, Simonya was the hottest woman in the history of women. Unfortunately, men everywhere found out that the women filling their imaginations was a computer generated image from someone elses imagination. Women everywhere still found her to be a tramp.
No. 1: The Shake Weight
I am sure you've seen the commercials by now. Women sculpting their upper arms to chiseled perfection by.... Wait, what are those women doing? Oh, that's a piece of exercise equipment in their hand.
Are people actually buying this? Do women really believe they can get sculpted arms with that limited range of motion. If they would just ask a man, or look at him, they'd see that, that particular motion done repetitively does not sculpt arms.