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Top 10 Shocking Sports Bans

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Spencer Sher

Don't do the crime if you can't do the time. WatchMojo counts down the Top 10 Sports Bans.


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Top 10 Sports Bans

Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. Welcome to, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Sports Bans.

For this list, we’ll only be looking at players who were outright banned, so athletes such as Luis Suárez and Maria Sharapova – who received lengthy suspensions but were ultimately allowed to return to their sport – won’t be considered. However, we will be including athletes who received lifetime bans only to have them lifted at a later date.

#10: Marion Jones
Track & Field

In the late ‘90s and early 2000s, Marion Jones was the name in women’s athletics. The American sprinter was all-world, winning gold in the 100-meter dash at World Championships in 1997 and 1999 before taking home five medals – including three golds – at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. However, in 2007, the truth behind her incredible success finally emerged. After a lengthy investigation into her past, it was revealed Jones had taken steroids before, during and after the 2000 Olympics, and that she’d lied about her steroid use while under oath. She was subsequently stripped of her Olympic medals and banned from competing in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, China.

#9: Donald Sterling

The only non-athlete to make our list, former NBA owner Donald Sterling rocked the sports world in 2014 when a recording surfaced of him making racist remarks to his then-mistress Maria Vanessa Perez. The tapes featured an irate Sterling chastising Perez for posing for pictures with black men and for bringing them to his games. The NBA, a predominantly black league, was having none of it. Just four days after TMZ made the recordings public, NBA commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million. Ah, sweet justice.

#8: "Shoeless" Joe Jackson

Though widely regarded as one of the greatest players in baseball history, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson was one of eight men banned by the MLB for life in 1921 for his involvement in the 1919 Black Sox Scandal. As an act of revenge against their notoriously tightfisted owner, members of the Chicago White Sox, in collaboration with a gambling syndicate, threw the 1919 World Series. “Shoeless” Joe was easily the most famous of the bunch, and his overall involvement in the fix has been the subject of much debate over the past century. Jackson claimed to have been innocent – and his stats back up his story, having led the series in batting average and scoring the only home run.

#7: Jim Thorpe
Multiple Sports

Jim Thorpe is one of the greatest athletes in sports history. At the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, he won gold in both the decathlon and pentathlon, two notoriously rigorous events. But that was just the beginning. Thorpe would go on to play professional baseball, football and basketball, and was named to the NFL 1920s All-Decade Team. However, in 1913 it was discovered that Thorpe had played semi-professional baseball prior to competing in the 1912 Olympics. This was a big no-no, as the Olympics were strictly for amateurs at that time. He was banned from competition and stripped of his medals. However, they would eventually be restored in 1983, 30 years after his passing.

#6: Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer to ever live and one of the most influential people of the 20th century, never shied away from a fight. However, his biggest fight came not in the ring, but in the courtroom. The year was 1966, the height of the Vietnam War. Ali, who had registered for conscription in 1962, had recently been made eligible for the draft. Ali considered himself a conscientious objector to the war, but the U.S. government wasn’t buying it. He was convicted of draft evasion, stripped of his heavyweight title and had his boxing license suspended. While his court case was ultimately overturned and his boxing license reinstated, the prime of his career was nevertheless cut in half.

#5: Ben Johnson
Track & Field

Ben Johnson went from being the fastest man on the planet to one of the world’s most infamous cheaters in a matter of days. Just three days after winning gold in the 100-meter dash at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Johnson’s urine tested positive for the banned substance stanozolol. He was subsequently disqualified from the race and stripped of his medal. However, Johnson only received a lengthy suspension for his actions. His lifetime ban wouldn’t occur until 1993, when he tested positive yet again for steroids while competing in France.

#4: Mickey Mantle

Widely considered to be one of, if not the greatest, center fielder in MLB history, Mickey Mantle is as synonymous with the game as the baseball glove itself. However, his association with the game was not without controversy. In 1983, 15 years after he’d retired, Mantle accepted a job at the Claridge Resort and Casino in Atlantic City. MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn felt Mantle was violating the league’s policy regarding current and former players associating with gambling, and placed him on the permanently ineligible list. The ban didn’t last long, with Kuhn’s successor Peter Ueberroth reinstating Mantle just two years later. It ain’t baseball without The Mick.

#3: Tonya Harding
Figure Skating

Former American figure skater Tonya Harding was all set to compete for a medal at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. There was just one problem: teammate Nancy Kerrigan. What happened next was one of the most infamous and vicious displays of premeditated violence in sports history. Under orders from Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, Shane Stant attacked Kerrigan after a practice in Detroit. The attack left Kerrigan unable to compete in the upcoming 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, an event Harding ultimately won. Stant, Gillooly and two other men served time for the attack, but Harding got away relatively scot-free… at least, until the United States Figure Skating Association conducted their investigation and banned her for life.

#2: Lance Armstrong

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Once regarded as one of the most inspirational and talented athletes on the planet, Lance Armstrong’s name is now synonymous with cheating. Armstrong won the Tour de France seven consecutive times, but was accused of doping for much of his career. The allegations came to a head in 2012, when he was banned for life by the United States Anti-Doping Agency. While he had long denied using performance-enhancing drugs, Armstrong eventually admitted in a 2013 interview with Oprah Winfrey that he’d used steroids and other banned substances for the majority of his career.

Before we unveil our top pick, here's an honorable mention:

Roy Tarpley

#1: Pete Rose

Pete Rose’s banishment from baseball is without a doubt the most infamous in the history of professional sports. After a highly decorated career as a player and manager, one that saw him win three World Series titles and set the record for most career hits, Rose willingly accepted a place on the MLB’s permanently ineligible list. He did so in the wake of allegations that he’d bet on baseball while playing for and managing the Cincinnati Reds. Rose, who remains banned from entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame, has unsuccessfully applied for reinstatement numerous times. Though he’s admitted to betting in favor of the Reds, Rose denies having ever bet against them… as if that’s any consolation.

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