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Top 10 Worst Cheaters in Sports

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Cheaters never win, and winners never cheat... Unless, you're these athletes. Sometimes cheating pays off – BIG. But karma often comes back to bite frauds right where it hurts: just look at athletes like Lance Armstrong, Tonya Harding, Ben Johnson and Pete Rose – their names are now synonymous with cheating and the worst aspects of competition. Marking the anniversary of the day Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson was served a lifetime ban from athletics (which was later overturned) due to his use of banned substances on March 5th, 1993, counts down our picks for the top 10 worst cheaters in sports.

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Top 10 Worst Cheaters in Sports

Cheaters never win, and winners never cheat… Unless, you’re these athletes. Welcome to, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 worst sports cheaters.

#10 – 1976 East German Women’s Olympic Swim Team: It’s Time to Pump You Up

Fact: Ladies aren’t supposed to look like this. But a lot of German athletes in the ‘70s did. Why? For the East German Women’s Olympic swim team, it was the vitamins team doctors fed them. Well, they were told they were vitamins – they were actually steroids. The East Germans won lotsa gold in ‘76 – which they kept – but they also suffered terrible side effects later in life.

#9 – Ben Johnson: Can’t Run from the Law

A Canadian beat Carl Lewis in the ’88 Olympics 100-m sprint? In world record time? Sounds fishy – and, sure enough, it was: that bubble burst when Johnson tested positive for a banned steroid, lost his gold, and was barred from competition. He made a comeback in ’91, but tested positive again and was banned for life. He was reinstated in ’99 and – you guessed it – he failed again.

#8 – Rosie Ruiz: A Lie of Marathon Proportions

Unknown runner Rosie Ruiz won 1980’s Boston Marathon in record time – literally without breaking a sweat. Only, she couldn’t recite race details, and no one remembered seeing her running. That’s because she didn’t: she jumped into the race right before the finish. Turns out she’d done the same in the New York City Marathon to qualify for Boston, too – except there she took the subway.

#7 – Tim Donaghy: Who Refs the Refs?

You’d think reffing the “Malice in the Palace” game would be enough. But no, Tim Donaghy had to make his mark elsewhere, so he hooked up with the mob and bet on NBA games he officiated. This continued for years, until 2007 when he was investigated by the FBI, caught and sentenced to 15 months in jail. Think of that the next time a ref makes a bad call.

#6 – Pete Rose: You Bet Your Life

You can get away with a lot in the MLB. The one thing they pretty consistently outlaw? Gambling. But Pete Rose was one of the greatest hitters of all time, so he took that with a grain of salt and bet on baseball for much of his career – even while managing the Cincinnati Reds. For his trouble, he was served a lifetime ban in 1989 that he’s still fighting.

#5 – 1919 Chicago White Sox: The Black Sox

It’s not all about the money: sometimes it’s also revenge. Intense hatred for White Sox owner Charles Comiskey motivated eight players to throw the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds – despite Chicago being heavily favored. The Eight Men Out were banned for life, which is why “Shoeless” Joe Jackson remains ineligible for the Hall of Fame – though his involvement is still disputed. “Say it ain’t so, Joe.”

#4 – Half of the MLB: Juiced Up

They don’t call it baseball’s steroid era for nothin’. Whether the motivation was longevity, notoriety or money, Major League Baseball’s reputation took a hit by the confirmation of steroid use by big names like Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and Mark McGwire. The kiss of death was Congress getting in on the action in 2005, and calling the home run kings’ records into question – asterisks or not.

#3 – Spanish Paralympians: Never Go Full… Well, You Know

Here’s a very delicate subject: at the 2000 Paralympic Games, the Spanish basketball team won gold. Great. Except: 10 of 12 team members had no intellectual disabilities at all – they were never even tested. Luckily, a Spanish journalist infiltrated the team and exposed the whole story. Not only did this result in a temporary ban on all learning disabled people at the Games, it also gave Johnny Knoxville a movie idea.

#2 – Tonya Harding: Totally Whack

By 1994, Harding’s best figure skating days were over, and only drastic measures would see her win against ladies like Nancy Kerrigan. What drastic measures? Harding’s entourage hired a guy to break Kerrigan’s legs. But, she was only bruised in the attack, so she won silver at the ’94 Olympics. Harding finished eighth, was eventually banned by the U.S. Figure Skating Association, and was relegated to reality TV.

#1 – Lance Armstrong: There’s No Hope in Dope

Taking the stop spot on our list is the man who gives new meaning to the word “dope.” The only cyclist most people have heard of, Armstrong won seven Tours de France, and overcame cancer to become a hero. That’s what made the revelations of his performance-enhancing drug use so heartbreaking. He denied it for months, but finally admitted his mistakes in an emotional Oprah interview.

Do you agree with our list? Who do you think are the biggest sports cheats in history? For more top 10s about your favorite scandals, be sure to subscribe to

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