There are few people in this world who receive the same stratospheric level of public adulation as that seen by successful sports stars. Sporting greats such as Muhammad Ali, Pele and Babe Ruth, for instance, became household names during their careers, and even many years after their retirements – or death, in Ruth’s case – they’re still revered across the globe.
On the flip side, though, all the extra attention means that athletes who are found to be cheats, frauds, match fixers or felons quickly become infamous villains despised around the planet. Here, then, are 20 of the biggest falls from grace in sporting history.
20. Lance Armstrong
Erstwhile golden boy Lance Armstrong went from beating testicular cancer to a record seven successive Tour De France wins. The Texan was also much admired for setting up the Livestrong cancer foundation and for his firm anti-doping stance. Sadly, in early 2013 Armstrong owned up – to Oprah Winfrey – about being central to what the U.S. anti-doping agency called “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”
19. Michael Vick
Michael Vick’s reputation as an NFL quarterback star was shattered in 2007 when it was discovered that he had been helping to run a shocking six-year national dog-fighting operation. The Virginia-born athlete gave a guilty pledge to the charges of being involved in the fatalities of up to eight dogs and financing “Bad Newz Kennels.” Vick went to prison for a year and a half – but, amazingly, rejoined the NFL in 2009.