A Brief History of Sports Scandals

A Brief History of Sports Scandals

Jacob Durbin

The world of sports is constantly changing; but one thing has stood through the test of time:
cheating. There have been many high-profile scandals in sports in recent years, the latest
involving the Houston Astros stealing signs using advanced technology, giving them a
competitive advantage in the 2017 World Series. From PED use to abuse of technology to
tampering with equipment, these are the most prolific cheating incidents and scandals in


1990s Steroid Scandal:

Perhaps the most well-known cheating
epidemic in modern sports history, it
seemed that everyone in the baseball world
was affected by the widespread abuse of
PEDs in the 1990s MLB. Spearheaded by
powerhouse hitters like Mark McGwire,
Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds, rampant
steroid use ran through the league. Most of
the league’s premier stars used PEDs just of
stay competitive, as most of the league’s
best were using them. The worst part? It was easily avoidable. Steroids never turned a prospect
into an MVP, it only turned perennial All-Stars and future HOF candidates into players forever
tainted by an asterisk by their name. Nobody suffered stiffer consequences than Barry Bonds, a
player who was already great without steroids, who because of his drug abuse will likely cost
him a spot in the Hall of Fame. It has effectively tarnished his spot as the HR leader along with
his reputation as a whole.



Perhaps no dynasty has been more
consistent and prolific than the New
England Patriots in the last 20 years, led by
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. However,
with this success comes speculation. There
was bound to be some controversy when a
team wins as much as the Pats do. This
finally came after the 2014 AFC
Championship game. The Patriots cruised
to a blowout win against the Indianapolis

Colts, but something was discovered afterwards: many of the footballs used in the game had
been mysteriously deflated. It then was speculated that the Patriots had tampered with game
balls in order to gain a competitive edge. Although many saw this as a stretch, the NFL came to
the conclusion that something suspicious had definitely occurred. The Pats would ultimately
defeat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl that season, but an investigation was launched and a 5-
game suspension was eventually handed down to QB Tom Brady, who was believed to be the
ringleader of the scandal. This incident is certainly much more mysterious than others, and we
may never truly know if and who tampered with any game equipment.


Tim Donaghy NBA Betting Scandal:

There has always been
speculation and accusations of
games being foxed by referees in
most sports, and the NBA is
certainly no exception. But, the
NBA might be the only
professional league where a
proven violation occurred. In
2005, reports began surfacing
that NBA referee Tim Donaghy;
an official that worked nearly 800 combined regular season and playoff contests; had bet on
NBA games while he was working them. Harsh allegations, but with credible proof. Evidence
from an FBI investigation proved that Donaghy had made calls in game that directly influenced
the point spread. He would eventually plead guilty to federal charges and serve 15 months in
prison. This blatant incident of tampering and fixation of games would leave a sour taste in the
mouths of all NBA fans, players, and journalists alike, and wouldn’t do any favors in improving
the league’s reputation. It would also pose questions to how many referees across all pro sports
could be committing similar acts as Donaghy, they just have not been caught yet; a scary
thought indeed.


Houston Astros Sign-Stealing Scandal:

The most recent sports-related scandal, the
Houston Astros were accused of using unfair
methods to steal pitching signs during and after
their 2017 World Series title run. Former Astros
pitcher Mike Fiers claims that the team used loud
sounds including banging a garbage, whistled
repeatedly, and used a video feed from centerfield

to see the signs and anticipate pitches. Astros manager A.J.Hinch has denied the claims, calling
the accusations “ridiculous”. Although multiple videos appear to show suspicious behavior from
the team’s dugout, no concrete evidence had been revealed to prove the claims; that was until
an email was leaked that clearly showed an Astros executive inquiring with scouts on advice on
the best ways to steal signs during a game, and was suggesting the idea of using a video camera
to do so. After the latest developments, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said that he will
utilize the full extent of his power to punish the Astros accordingly. Most speculate that
Houston will likely have multiple draft picks revoked, ban GM Jeff Lunhow and Hinch from
baseball for life, and could even enforce a postseason ban if more evidence comes to light. The
MLB is currently investigating, and only time will tell what consequences the Astros will suffer if
they are in fact guilty.