December 22, 2009
2000s: Top 10 Scandals
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The shadowy Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative was providing specially engineered, undetectable performance-enhancing drugs to top athletes in baseball, cycling, football and track and field. After a tip from Trevor Graham, then a top U.S. sprint coach who himself has been connected to BALCO, the feds raided the nondescript storefront in Burlingame, Calif., in September 2003. The ensuing investigations would forever link PEDs and some of the world's most famous athletes, including all-time home run king Barry Bonds and sprinter/jumper Marion Jones (pictured), winner of five medals (three gold) at the 2000 Olympics. For the public, the BALCO scandal revealed the highly organized methods of modern doping.
2 Mitchell Report/MLB's 2003 doping list
The 409-page report that linked nearly 90 players with PED use was supposed to close a sorry chapter. Except Roger Clemens chose to fight back (the investigation into whether he lied to Congress when he denied steroid use is still pending), and federal investigators, as part of a search for records connected to BALCO clients, seized the 2003 drug tests of some 100 players who tested positive for PEDs. (A court later ruled that the government seized the tests improperly.) Sports Illustrated reported that Alex Rodriguez's name was on the list. The New York Times then reported that sluggers David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa were as well. Rodriguez, who had previously denied drug use, lost his image as the clean player who would take back the home run record from the tainted Bonds.
3 Michael Vick's dogfighting ring
The Falcons' QB, the highest-paid and perhaps most exciting player in the NFL, tried to pass the buck to relatives when the trappings of a dogfighting ring were discovered in 2007 on a property he owned in Virginia. But the buck made its way back around to Vick, who in August 2007 pleaded guilty to federal dogfighting conspiracy charges and acknowledged his role in an enterprise that supported illegal gambling and dogfighting and brutally executed K9's that did not perform well in fights. Vick lost his NFL salary and endorsement deals, and served 18 months in prison. He is now a backup QB with the Eagles.
4 Duke lacrosse prosecutorial misconduct
In 2006, when an African-American exotic dancer accused three white Duke lacrosse players of raping her at a party, the bully pulpit was set for anyone who wanted to push a national conversation about race relations, socioeconomic stratification, sexual assault, town-gown relations or uber-macho sports culture. Media bedlam ensued; Duke's season was canceled and the coach forced to resign. The moral high ground crumbled, however, as it became clear that Durham County D.A. Mike Nifong (pictured), in his rush to prosecute, had obscured or ignored potentially exculpatory evidence. In 2007, Nifong became the first sitting D.A. in North Carolina history to be disbarred.
5 NBA referee bets on games
In 2007, veteran referee Tim Donaghy gave a (criminal) face to officiating bias with the public revelation of an FBI investigation into his involvement in betting on games that he worked from 2005 to '07 and feeding inside information to mobsters in exchange for money. Donaghy resigned from the NBA and pleaded guilty to two felony gambling charges. One sports gambling expert's analysis of games that Donaghy officiated from '05 to '07 found statistical evidence that the crooked ref had successfully used his power to regularly influence scores.
6 Tiger's fall from grace
It all started with a 2:30 a.m. accident. Actually, it started a day and a half earlier when the National Enquirer reported that Tiger Woods had an affair. The saga escalated: Woods refused to talk to police, and reports surfaced that his wife, Elin, had chased him out of the house with a golf club, as opposed to having used the club to rescue him from his car. Within two weeks, more than a dozen of Tiger's alleged mistresses had come forward, and the famously closed-off star, whose yacht, Privacy, might as well be named after his Christmas wish, admitted to infidelity. Gillette suspended Tiger ads, and Accenture dropped him altogether. On Dec. 15, reports linked Woods to a Canadian doctor under investigation for improperly dispensing drugs, although Woods has not been implicated in any illicit drug use.
7 Danny Almonte: too big for Little League
The 12-year-old whose 70 mph fastball carried his Bronx team to third place in the 2001 Little League World Series -- and who pitched the Series' first perfect game since 1957 -- seemed too good to be true. Alas, when SI reporters got a look at birth records in the Dominican Republic, where Almonte was born, it became clear that the flamethrower was not 12 but 14, a nascent man among prepubescent boys. The team's coach, Rolando Paulino, and Almonte's father, Felipe, were both banned from Little League for life.
8 Tour de Dopage 2006 and '07
After seven straight Tour wins by Lance Armstrong, American Floyd Landis took up the torch in 2006 with an unbelievable comeback to win his first Tour. Landis was the new beacon for Stateside cycling interest. Trouble was, his comeback was literally unbelievable. Landis (pictured) subsequently tested positive for elevated testosterone. He initially blamed it on a one-night drinking binge during the race, but ultimately was stripped of his title. The '07 Tour gave no reprieve from scandal: Three riders and two entire teams -- among them both the race leader and the prerace favorite -- withdrew after failed and missed drug tests.
9 Baylor basketball murder and cover-up
In June 2003, the body of Baylor forward Patrick Dennehy was found outside Waco, Texas, with gunshot wounds to the head. Carlton Dotson, a former Baylor forward, would eventually plead guilty to the murder. But it was the startling behavior of Baylor coach Dave Bliss that made this a scandal for the ages. In an effort to conceal the fact that he had made tuition payments for Dennehy and another player, Bliss (pictured) coached his squad to tell police that Dennehy was a drug dealer who had paid part of his tuition with drug money. Bliss erred again, though, when he threatened assistant coach Abar Rouse with termination if he did not follow the plan. The threat prompted Rouse to tape-record Bliss telling the team to lie.
10 Patriots' Spygate
The Pats were the team of the decade, with Super Bowl wins in 2001, '03 and '04. Coach Bill Belichick was declared a gridiron genius. Of course, it's easier to appear genius-like when you're stealing the other team's signals. In September 2007, former Belichick protégé and Jets coach Eric Mangini informed the NFL that the Pats had unfairly filmed the Jets' signals during a game. Belichick and the Pats were fined and docked a first-round draft pick. Half a year later, a former Pats video assistant sent the NFL eight tapes of opposing coaches' signals made from 2000 to '02.

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