VISALIA, CA - MAY 20: Fans hold signs in support of Armstrong and accusing Floyd Landis of cheating prior to Stage Five of the 2010 Tour of California from Visalia to Bakersfield on May 20, 2010 in Visalia, California. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
There's an old saying that says, "Cheaters never prosper," and while I'm not sure that's entirely true, I can say that cheaters do make for some very interesting and sometimes funny stories. And let's be honest, who hasn't cheated on occasion whether it was moving you game piece forward, looking on your neighbors paper for answers to a test you couldn't be bothered to study for, or cheating on your taxes? And is cheating on your taxes really wrong?
But while everyone has probably tried to manipulate things to their own favor from time to time, we hate seeing it when it's in sports. Bill Belichick already had an image problem, that's what happens when you always dress like the unabomber, but his image took an even further turn for the worse after spygate. Then there are faking injuries to slow down the game, just look what Aaron Rodgers said, taking performance enhancing substances, and then using a catheter to fill your bladder with someone else's urine when you unexpectedly find your going to be tested for those performance enhancing substances. Hey, I watched the one season of "The Playmakers".
So with the Olympics right around the corner I thought I'd take some time to look at some of the most outrageous attempts at cheating in those sports we only care about once every four years. Well, and some non Olympic sports as well. If you only care about football feel free to stop reading.
Spain's Paralympics Basketball Team
When Eric Cartman of Southpark pretended to suffer from a mental disability so he could dominate the Special Olympics it turns out he wasn't the first one to have that idea. In the 2000 Paralympics Spain crushed all the competition on their way to a gold medal in basketball. It was a heartwarming story of 12 players with mental disabilities suddenly grasping the finer points of the game. Of course that was because 10 of the 12 players really didn't suffer from any disability. What was even worse was that one of the players was actually a reporter who decided to write about the truth once they got home. The team had to return their gold medals and athletes with low IQs are no longer able to participate since it's too easy of a disability to fake. After all, if Johnny Knoxville was able to fake it in "The Ringer", anyone can.
More cheaters after the break...
Hippolyte Aucouturier 1904 Tour de France
Floyd Landis and today's modern day bike cheaters have nothing on Aucouturier. In a time when riders would intentionally throw broken glass on the road, spike water bottles, block the road with trees, and put itching powder down other's riding shorts, Aucouturier topped them all. He tied a string to the fender of a car, tied the other end to a cork, and bit down on it as the car pulled him to the finish. If he couldn't get the yellow jersey, he should at least get something for jaw strength and sheer panache. Aucouturier won but was later disqualified along with the next 3 fastest riders for their own shenanigans making the 5th place finisher, Henri Cornet, the winner. In other words, Cornet most likely also cheated but was a lot more subtle about it.
Dora Ratjen 1936 Female High Jump
Ratjen was a member of Germany's Olympic team at Berlin that was determined to show the world Aryan dominance, but what struck people most about Ratjen was her strangely manly physic. A few years after the Olympics Ratjen was questioned by the conductor while on a train after some passengers complained of a man dressed as a woman. She pleaded that she really was a woman but after an inspection by a doctor it was found out she was really a man. Luckily, no medal needed to be returned since Ratjen finished in 4th place behind three actual women.
Sulvester Carmouche Horse Racing
Before the start of the Delta Downs in 1990 a thick fog blanketed the track. In an attempt to make lemonade out of lemons, Carmouche decided to ride Landing Officer, a 23-1 longshot, off the track after the start of the race where he couldn't be seen, wait around for the riders to make the circut, and pull in front of the charging pack winning by an incredible 24 lengths. His race was so fast he was only 1.2 seconds from setting the course record. After the race other jockeys were questioned and none of them could remember Carmouche actually passing them. This prompted an inspection of his horse which they found relatively clean from the usual mud and pretty well rested. Carmouche was disqualified and banned from horse racing, but in true Floyd Landis like fashion Carmouche denied ever doing anything wrong and simply said he was surprised how fast his horse was running. That's right officer, I wasn't smoking pot I thought it was tobacco. Strangely that excuse never works.
China's Gymnastics Team 2000 Olympics
In most sports that kids participate in being older is an advantage, just look at man-child Danny Almonte in the Little League World Series around 10 years ago. But Gymnastics is not necessarily one of them. A 14-year old weighs less and is more flexible than a 16-year old, and therefore can do things the older gymnast will have a harder time with. After China won the gold in the team competition at the 2008 Olympics reports started to surface that some of their gymnasts were underage, and while nothing conclusive was ever found it was found that at least one gymnast from the 2000 Olympic team was only 14. Athletes need to be at least 16 to compete. Why am I not surprised that in one of the only sports where the women's version is more popular than the men's, it's not bulking up that helps but being smaller.
Maradonna 1986 World Cup
Don't ask me to explain but apparently the rest of the world really, really, really, loves soccer. I know, I don't get it either but to each his own. In soccer there may not be a more infamous goal than Maradonna's "hand of God" goal. In a quarterfinal matchup between Argentina and England Maradonna scored a goal to break a 0-0 tie late in the game on an impossible header. No really, it was an IMPOSSIBLE header because he hit it with his hands which I'm told is a big no-no in soccer for anyone but the guy wearing the funny jersey and padded hands. The goal stood and Maradonna would end up scoring again, this team legally, on way to a 2-1 win. When asked about the goal after the game Maradonna slyly replied it was, "a little with the head of Maradonna, and a little with the hand of God." Considering Maradonna is treated like a God in Argentina, that statement could be construed as true.
Rosie Ruiz Boston Marathon
There are lots of training regiments out there for people who want to be fit enough to run a marathon, but none of them have found a simpler way than the Rosie Ruiz method. In the Rosie Ruiz method you need a pair of running shoes, shorts, a shirt, and a subway token. Then you just line up at the start, run for a little bit, hightail it off the course towards your nearest subway terminal, take it to the stop closest to the finish, then run back onto the curse and try to act like you just ran 26.2 miles. If you really want to go all out you can even splash water under you armpits to look like real sweat stains. Ruiz got all the accolades and the winners laurel but the truth eventually came out two days later. I'm told the first hint the race officials had that something was wrong was when Ruiz came strolling across the finish line wearing flip flops and smoking a pack of Marlboros.
Baseball Double Header
Baseball has a long and glorious history of cheating. There are the 1951 Giants and there extensive sign stealing system, Joe Niekro's emery board and sandpaper, Gaylord Perry's Vaseline ball that would sometimes get so covered in gunk his catchers occasionally had to quickly dispose of them, countless corked bats, the steroid era, and the notorious Black Sox scandal that prompted one young boy to say to Shoeless Joe Jackson, "Say it ain't so Joe." But there are two that stand out for their sheer ingenuity and ability to think outside the box.
The first happened during a double header between the St Louis Browns and Detroit Tigers in 1951. A few days earlier the Browns had signed Eddie Gaedel to a new contract. Needing to get someone on base they sent out Gaedel who was an impressive 3 feet 7 inches tall. It was reported that when he crouched into his batting stance he had a strike zone only 2 inches big and as a joke his number was 1/8. Browns owner Bill Veeck was so afraid Gaedel would try to swing he told him he had taken out a $1 million insurance policy on him and would shoot him if he swung. Gaedel promptly took 4 straight balls, trotted to first base to a standing ovation, and was replaced by a pinch runner. MLB later disallowed the contract and Gaedel never batted again. This angered Veeck so much he requested a ruling on whether Yankees shortstop and reining MVP, Phil Rizzuto, was a short baseball player or a tall midget.
The second happened in the Class-AA Eastern League in 1987. Dave Bresnahan, a catcher for the Williamsport Bills, carved a potato into the shape of a baseball and hid it in his glove. In the 5th inning with a runner on 3rd base, Bresnahan threw his potato wildly to 3rd base tricking the runner to trot home, only to tag him out with the real baseball. Unfortunately for Bresnahan after the potato was found and the trick exposed the runner was called safe and Bresnahan was kicked off the Bills. At least he'll now always be remembered, which wouldn't have happened if he floundered around his whole career in the minors.