The 50 Biggest Lies in Sports
If there's anything we've learned from dedicating our hearts and souls to athletics, it's that men of sport aren't always men of their word. And despite their celebrity status, many of them seem to get away with their tall tales. For a while that is...
Lying is a vicious cycle, one that only gets worse with every denial. It begins with a subtle fabrication and ends with a tainted reputation. But in the scrutinized world of sports, some icons just can't face the truth.
History has seen some of the most vigorous and dedicated liars come through the ranks and make history with their ridiculous fables—and their obviously false denials.
Let's take a look at the 50 biggest lies in sports.
Watch the stretched noses.
50. Tim Johnson Motivates His Pack
Leading his Blue Jays to their first winning season since their '93 World Series run (second consecutive title) cemented rookie head coach Tim Johnson as a respected leader.
But to motivate his team, Johnson allegedly told his players stories about combat in Vietnam and his personal experience. The only problem was that there was no experience. Johnson actually spent six years with the Marine Corps, never seeing action.
After apologizing for his tall tales, the former Blue Jay also wanted to clear up another controversy. He wasn't an All-American high school basketball player who had an opportunity to attend UCLA either.
49. Eric Gordon Is Scared of Commitment
The No. 1 basketball recruit in the class of 2007 had committed to Illinois, but like many before him, Eric Gordon changed his mind.
Joining newly hired Kelvin Sampson in Indiana seemed more enticing to the 6'3" guard with a sky-high ceiling. But Illini coach Bruce Weber wasn't as pleased as his promising recruit.
If you have a kid [orally] committed, then for that eight or nine months you don't recruit anyone else. So you lose all that time recruiting other kids, because you have one committed. Ask 98 percent of the coaches, and they'll tell you that they stop calling kids once they [orally commit]. We do. Most do it.
48. Chad Ochocinco Gets Stranded
Zero receptions and zero yards against the Island-esque corner in the regular-season finale. Two receptions for 38 yards in the Bengals' playoff loss to the Jets.
And two years later, we've yet to see the man of his word follow through with that necessary change. We've had enough Ochocinco talk for one lifetime—let's revisit Mr. Johnson.
47. Jeff Kent Flips the Wrist
When slugging second baseman Jeff Kent showed up to spring training in '02 with a broken wrist, Giants brass was naturally concerned.
But concern would quickly turn to frustration after it became clear Kent had falsely claimed the break resulted from a slip while washing his pickup truck.
In reality, wheelies and other dangerous stunts on a motorcycle were the actual cause...a direct violation of his contract.
46. Urban Meyer's Circle of Trust
Like Robert DeNiro in Meet the Parents, this story involves a circle of trust. Not surprisingly, it was reported that former Florida/current Ohio State coach Urban Meyer gave "preferential treatment" to his star players.
Complementing Meyer's fierce denials are two articles. Pat Dooley's '09 column in the Gainesville Sun and Austin Murphy's piece in Sports Illustrated both beg us to question the so-called "circle of trust."
It seems only a matter of time before Meyer loses control of his Buckeyes.
45. Chael Sonnen's Chatty Nature
And in case that clear contrast in statements isn't enough to prove Chael Sonnen's ridiculousness, perhaps his fruitless trash talk will.
"You tell Anderson Silva I'm coming over and I'm kicking down his backdoor and patting his little lady on the [rear] and I'm telling her to make me a steak, medium-rare just how I like it," he said (via ESPN).
Result: TKO at 1:55 of the second round, Anderson Silva victory.
44. George Steinbrenner's Elevator Experience
One of the most beloved fairy tales shadowing George Steinbrenner's Yankees career involves two supposedly drunken Los Angeles fans who were ready to toss fisticuffs with the Pinstripes owner following New York's World Series loss to the Dodgers in 1981.
Word has it that two inebriated gentlemen got into the elevator, recognized Steinbrenner, called New Yorkers "animals" and the Yankees "chokers" and knocked Steinbrenner on the head with a bottle. The boss then supposedly punched them both down.
But no witnesses, no criminal reports, no lawsuits. Let's be real, he'd never actually ruin that immaculate manicure.
43. Bobby Petrino Ditches His Morals
While his relationship with 25-year-old former volleyball player and recent football hire Jessica Dorrell was far beyond inappropriate, it was Bobby Petrino's deceitful handling of the situation that got him canned in the end.
The most notorious incident was a motorcycle accident in which the 51-year-old Petrino claimed to have been riding alone. But that may have been lie No. 1.
Dorrell allegedly receiving $20,000 in cash from her coach/boss/lover was seemingly the last straw.
And dare we touch on his cowardly sprint from Atlanta?
42. Matt Hasselbeck's Attempted Guarantee
"We want the ball, and we're going to score." (Via USA Today)
Jan. 4, 2004, NFC Wild Card playoff, Packers vs. Seahawks, overtime. It was a moment Matt Hasselbeck was ready to grab by the horns.
And he was right, as his fluttering chuck was returned for a touchdown by Green Bay corner Al Harris.
41. Bud Selig's Financial Brilliance
After announcing in 2002 that baseball saw $232 million in operating losses the previous year and that 21 of the 30 teams were losing money, commissioner Bud Selig watched Forbes quickly shut his statements down.
"A few teams are struggling," said a Forbes editor. "But baseball as an industry is in strong financial shape."
A profit of $75 million to be exact.
40. Skip Bayless' Basketball Career
Painful to watch, even more painful to hear Jalen Rose ramble.
However, never have we seen Skip Bayless get shut down so hard. In the end, we can't blame Bayless for allegedly fabricating his youth basketball career, considering he's up against superstars of the world every aching moment that ESPN First Take is being filmed.
Next debate question...
39. Al Martin Remembers the Gridiron
After comparing a collision with Mariners shortstop Carlos Guillen to tackling former Michigan running back Leroy Hoard in 1986, it was clear Al Martin was a closet crazy—if only because he never played at USC and the Trojans didn't even meet the Wolverines in '86.
To coat his magnificent story, the dishonest left fielder was also married to two women at once.
38. Nick Saban's Misguided Approach
"I'm not going to be the Alabama coach." (Via ESPN)
And you can bet he became their leader following two years with the Miami Dolphins, only days later.
37. Bobby Valentine Is the Master of Disguise
"I absolutely was never in the dugout." (Via Associated Press)
But one Super Mario Brother certainly was after Valentine was ejected for arguing a catcher's interference call in the 12th inning of a '99 Mets game. The question remains, which one?
A two-game suspended one.
36. Mike Tyson's Hunger Problems
"I want to eat his children."
Too bad Lennox Lewis didn't have any children.
35. Sammy Sosa's Corked Bat
"If I would have known, I wouldn't have picked it up. I would have come back and gotten another." (Via the Havre Daily News)
Most of us would like to believe that most of Slammin' Sammy's 609 career bombs were the result of pure athletic ability.
But considering Sosa was 1-10 with eight strikeouts before cork was found in his bat, we're forced to raise our eyebrows in epic fashion.
Fun Fact: Sosa can, in fact, speak English, despite insinuating to Congress that he couldn't in light of steroid accusations.
34. Miguel Tejada's Birth Certificate
It wouldn't be the first and it certainly wouldn't be the last time an athlete deceived the world in regards to his age. But for some reason, this shortstop's denial was a bit more aggravating than most.
The interview reeks of awkwardness. Entrapment at its finest.
33. Michael Vick's Life of Lies
One memorable quote can truly sum up this talented quarterback's fast fall from franchise man to dog-fighting criminal.
"I was thinking, 'Hey, man, look, I'm Mike Vick,'" he said in an NFL Network interview, via USA Today. "What's the worst thing that's going to happen to me?'"
A 23-month sentence and bankruptcy would result from his initial denial.
32. Floyd Landis Gets Stained
Performance-enhancing denial is far from rare in sports, but in cycling it's taken on a whole new meaning.
After proof surfaced that 2006 Tour de France winner Floyd Landis did indeed take banned substances, he decided to go on the offensive.
According to Landis' emails to cycling officials, many in the sport have been following a similar trail, including seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.
But it's difficult to take Landis at his word after four years of pure denial. (He was eventually stripped of his title.)
31. Jim Tressel Stays Quiet
Once known for his vibrant sweater vests, Jim Tressel now remains most associated with deceit and disgrace.
The same legendary coach who wrote "The Winners Manual For The Game of Life," Tressel allegedly knew about his star players selling memorabilia in a local tattoo parlor.
But in the end, it may have been President Gordon Gee who offered the greatest comment of all.
Regarding Tressel's potential termination, Gee stated: "No, are you kidding?...I'm just hoping the coach doesn't dismiss me." (Via ESPN)
30. David Wells' Drunken Stupor
From half-drunk to hungover to...well, untrustworthy. If there's a legacy that David Wells seems eager to leave on the mound, it's one of hypocrisy and party-hardy-ing.
Hard to look at the former Yankee southpaw's legendary '98 perfect game as perfect when he first tainted it by admitting his inebriation and then backpedaling on his comments.
Boomer should've just taken the Dock Ellis route.
29. Rosie Ruiz Skips to the Finish
The 1980 Boston Marathon saw the most rested winner in history take the title...except she didn't.
While her time was the third fastest ever run by a woman, 26-year-old New Yorker Rosie Ruiz was questioned by many. Most didn't even remember seeing her in the race.
Over 26 miles, observers at different checkpoints claimed to have never seen her. A disturbing finish.
28. The 1919 World Series
It was a series that become associated with the notorious Black Sox Scandal. Eight poorly paid ballplayers, assured $80,000 by gamblers, allegedly tossed the integrity of baseball and their World Series into the laps of the Cincinnati Reds.
Led by Shoeless Joe Jackson, this crew will forever be remembered for their despicable cover-up.
27. Diego Maradona's Lucky Hand
After scoring a controversial goal that knocked England out of the World Cup in 1986, Argentine legend Diego Maradona had this to say in the postgame conference regarding the goal: "...a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God." (Via ABC News)
Twenty-two years later, and he was ready to finally apologize for the strange circumstances. In the end, the only truth was that a bit of hand may have been involved.
26. Bill Belichick's Spygate Treatment
One statement via The Boston Globe essentially sums up the Patriots' Spygate scandal, or rather settles it for those who believe Bill Belichick truly misunderstood the rulebook:
During at least one game, the January 27, 2002 AFC Championship game, [former Patriots video assistant Matt Walsh] was specifically instructed not to wear anything displaying a Patriots logo. Walsh indicated he turned the Patriots sweatshirt he was wearing at the time inside-out. Walsh was also given a generic credential instead of one that identified him as team personnel.
Commissioner Roger Goodell should be ashamed of his constantly inconsistent handling of the case.
25. The Curious Case of Heinrich Ratjen
Dora Ratjen is remembered as a German competitor who finished fourth in the women's high jump at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Heinrich Ratjen is the man underneath it all. This was not one of those ambiguous chromosome issues; this was a man groomed as a woman.
But Ratjen can't be blamed for this, as "Dora had never been told he was a man," wrote Stefan Barg for Spiegel Online. Call it strange breeding by confused parents.
24. Wilt Chamberlain's Sex Life
Having had relations with 20,000 women may sound routine for a King of the Hardwood, but let's take a step back and truly equate that number.
"Yes, that's correct, twenty thousand different ladies," Wilt Chamberlain wrote in his 1991 biography. "At my age, that equals out to having sex with 1.2 women a day, every day since I was fifteen years old."
But it was his later comments that led us to believe his sexual statistics were somewhat exaggerated. "You do some things for effect, you understand?" (via Sports Illustrated)
23. Rich Rodriguez's Change of Heart
One year after vehemently stating he would never leave alma mater West Virginia, head coach Rich Rodriguez made the move to Michigan.
Apparently the powerhouse Wolverines were just too enticing for the former Mountaineer icon.
Call it breaking a promise if you will, but R-Rod actively deceived his beloved fanbase.
22. Todd Graham's Journeyman Career
After being named Conference USA Coach of the Year, Todd Graham was offered a contract extension by Rice in January of '07...before running for Tulsa days later.
But the chaos wouldn't end there, as Graham would leave for Pittsburgh only four years later. To conclude a disappointing 6-6 season with the Panthers, Graham resigned and left for Arizona State.
The terms "liar," "fraud" and "empty promises" were forever marked next to the notorious head coach following his classless departures. Where's the loyalty anymore?
21. Ben Johnson's Track and Field Fall
"Even if this is the last dying breath of my body in the world. Yes, I was set up." (Via Foxsports.com)
Perhaps we'll agree to disagree in this case. Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, who was stripped of the 1988 Olympic 100-meter gold medal after testing positive to stanozolol, still won't go down without a fight.
On the other hand, just because everybody is doing it doesn't make it right. Allow Johnson to elaborate. "You're only a cheater if everyone's not doing it (and) there's a level playing field." Interesting theory.
20. Alex Rodriguez Comes Clean
And then in 2009, two years after his notorious denial, A-Rod spilled the truth.
Due to an "enormous amount of pressure" and a fat contract, Rodriguez had no choice...right?
What a poor millionaire.
19. Ali Dia Scams the World
Somehow getting a "bogus football agent" to pose as former FIFA World Player of the Year George Weah and recommend him to Southampton manager Graeme Souness, earns Ali Dia quite the round of applause.
But it was all downhill from there once he stepped on the field.
"He ran around the pitch like Bambi on ice; it was very embarrassing to watch," retired English footballer Matt Le Tissiser told the Telegraph.
18. Roger Clemens Eludes Brian McNamee
Apparently the jury didn't believe the Rocket's trainer enough to put away the pitching legend for up to 30 years in prison.
Brian McNamee claimed to have injected his client with human growth hormones and steroids, but became "too tainted a witness" in the end (via the New York Times).
One of these two buddies is lying, and it seems only Andy Pettitte has the real answer.
17. Rafael Palmeiro Points the Finger
Even now knowing that he did indeed inject himself with performance-enhancing drugs, we're still almost convinced by Rafael Palmeiro's finger-wagging confidence on camera.
Perhaps a Ron Burgundy-esque question mark could've improved this former slugger's presentation.
Only five months later, Palmy would become the most renowned player to be suspended 10 days for steroid use.
16. Peter Ueberroth Doesn't Believe in Teamwork
"You can't get 26 owners to agree on anything." (Via the Los Angeles Times)
Time magazine's Man of the Year in 1984, Peter Ueberroth was revered for successfully leading the first privately financed Olympic Games, which brought in over $250 million.
Unfortunately, when he was hired shortly after to become the commissioner of baseball, his reputation would take a serious hit. Collusion (in this sense a secret agreement by all the owners to eliminate competition and therefore drop free-agent prices) was something all the owners could agree on.
And despite Ueberroth's skepticism, the owners were collectively found guilty.
15. Kevin Hart's Dreamy Path
After staging a fake news conference to announce he was attending California, Kevin Hart saw his town of Fernley, Nevada undoubtedly light up with joy.
Little did they know that it was all a hoax, a junior-year lie that continued through Hart's senior season. A borderline prospect, the 6'4" offensive lineman was recruited by several schools until poor grades eliminated any potential signings.
He's now ready to actually attend a D-II school, Missouri Western State.
14. Jose Canseco Messes with Mark Mcgwire
A World Series sweep in 1989 fully tainted by two individuals with a mutual disdain for each other...it seems.
Whether or not Jose Canseco injected Mark McGwire in bathroom stalls, as he claims in his 2005 book Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits, and How Basbeball Got Big, is irrelevant. The real problem here is that two brilliant careers are completely tarnished because of substance abuse.
As if this is a new phenomenon.
13. Bill Clements Cleans Up Shop
After the chairman of SMU's Board of Governors told investigators in the mid-'80s that SMU was indeed cleaning up their tainted system of paying players illegally, he was surprised to find out that investigators took him "at face value." (Via the New York Times)
Cleaning up, in Clements' words at least, meant continuing to pay players and subtly flushing out the filth of the system. And he couldn't believe that NCAA investigators didn't reorganize his words in an effort to understand this (slight sarcasm).
"We will not tolerate any misbehavior whatsoever in the future." Lie, part two.
12. Barry Bonds Denies the Help
Thirty days of house arrest seemed like a generous sentence for a ballplayer who lied to a grand jury during a 2003 federal investigation into steroid use by MLB players.
Although, 762 home runs will certainly give any stealthy slugger a helping hand. A warm thought for good old Barry.
11. Avery Brundage Turns His Back on the World
"Politics must not be brought into sports. I have not heard of anything to indicate discrimination of any race or religion." (via The Jewish Magazine)
President of the American Olympic Committee, Avery Brundage seemed quite misguided as to what exactly was occurring at the '36 Berlin Games.
Meanwhile, the Nazis were evidently organizing concentration camps and quickly taking over the world.
But if his support of Nazi Germany wasn't already clear, Brundage dropped Jews Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller from the meter relay team to seemingly satisfy Adolf Hitler.
10. "It's Not About the Money"
Sports will always be a business, especially for the endless list of players who have uttered this ridiculous statement.
It's always about the money.
9. Tiger Woods' Secret Life
Once an altruistic hero to many and an icon to all, Tiger Woods soon became a despised adulterer...or rather, a liar.
A golfing legend, Woods found his secret life crumble before his eyes and taint his sport, his fans and his family. Despite a struggle-ridden period of time, the Green Jacket great now finds himself paving a path to redemption.
8. The Colts Bolt Town
Sneaking his Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis in the middle of a cold night in '84 will forever shadow the late Robert Irsay's strange career as owner.
It was Irsay's comments four years earlier regarding the new facility that truly had the Colts fanbase fuming following this unexpected move.
"[This is] a symbol of our dedication to bring winning football back to our fans. We want our team to match the standards set by this building," he said (via the New York Times).
What an eloquent finish.
7. Danny Almonte's Actual Age
Long before leading his Bronx club to a third-place finish in the 2001 Little League World Series, Danny Almonte was seen as a bit too advanced for his "age."
The supposed 12-year-old, imposing on the mound, turned out to be exactly what many suspected.
Fourteen years old.
ESPN's Jim Caple referred to Danny's father, Felipe Almonte, as the "worst stereotype of the Little League parent sprung to life."
6. Brett Favre's Loyalty
"Play somewhere else? It will never happen. This is where my family is. This is where my heart is. This is where I belong." (via the Star Tribune)
From beloved future Hall of Famer to despised journeyman with a flair for the dramatic, Brett Favre's late-career tumble was surely despicable. The timeline of ridiculous lies has been sad, unfortunate and, mostly, obnoxious.
Unfortunately, Favre's rocket arm and fierce competitiveness may be clouded (at this point) by his lack of consistency on the podium with a mic in his hands. Not exactly a cheesehead-esque exit for the eventual Jet and Viking.
His word wasn't quite as strong as oak.
5. Marion Jones' Substance Abuse
"I have let my country down, and I have let myself down." (Via NBC Sports)
At least now she knows how to tell the truth.
Her seven-year-late admission regarding substance abuse not only tainted Marion Jones' Olympic legacy, but led her to prison for six months.
Jones also lost the five medals (three gold, two silver) that she won at the 2000 Australia Summer games.
Kids take note...when in doubt, spill the truth.
4. Tanguy Ngombo Becomes a Minnesota Mistake
The Wolves thought they were drafting a 21-year-old gem in the second round of the '11 draft; an athletic 6'6" forward from the Qatar League. But apparently a lack of basic research by general manager David Kahn led to a hefty mistake.
Instead of a blossoming youngster, it appears Tanguy Ngombo is a 26-year-old veteran of a lower-level league in the Middle East. Perhaps a simple Google search could have stopped the madness.
Another savvy selection by Minnesota.
3. George Steinbrenner Keeps His Distance
"We plan absentee ownership, as far as running the Yankees is concerned. We're not going to pretend we're something we aren't. I'll stick to building ships." (Via the Los Angeles Times)
On the day he bought the Pinstripes, ship-building extraordinaire George Steinbrenner uttered this promising statement. And during his reign, the boss earned two suspensions, hired and fired 14 different managers (Billy Martin five times) and tossed his money around like hot potatoes.
And then he adjusted his comment years later:
"To get where I wanted to go, I wasn't going to stay hands-off."
Sounds strangely familiar, doesn't it?
2. George O'Leary Falsifies His Credentials
If lying about your resume were this simple, the job hunt would be a lot easier. But college football coach George O'Leary learned the hard way that the universe tends to unfold as it should.
Five days after being introduced as Notre Dame's new head coach in 2001, it was discovered that O'Leary's intriguing credentials were far more than hyperbolic additions.
A master's degree from NYU and three varsity letters playing fullback at the University of New Hampshire, not quite. But his explanation seemed a bit more truthful (via Sportsillustraded.com).
In seeking employment I prepared a resume that contained inaccuracies regarding my completion of course work for a master's degree and also my level of participation in football at my alma mater. These misstatements were never stricken from my resume or biographical sketch in later years.
1. Pete Rose's Addiction
For nearly 15 years, Charlie Hustle denied betting on baseball amid pure accusations that he did in fact tarnish the integrity of the game.
Finally, in '04 Pete Rose released his autobiography, My Prison Without Bars, in which he admitted to gambling on baseball.
Commissioner Bud Selig even reportedly considered lifting Rose's lifetime suspension from baseball in 2009...and then didn't. A sad ending to perhaps the greatest hitting career in history.