On this day a decade ago, Thierry Henry marred his career with an act of deception that is yet to be forgiven by the entire population of Ireland. In extra time of a crucial World Cup play-off match, Henry clearly handled the ball to set up William Gallas for France’s clinching goal which sent them to the finals at the Republic of Ireland’s expense.
On this 10-year anniversary, we look at some of the other notable acts of dishonesty in sport. Beyond taking performance-enhancing drugs there have been some other underhand and often troublingly-premeditated ways of bending the rules, including a story from our very own offices!
Fred Lorz - The Marathon Hitch-Hiker
The Olympics is the pinnacle of any athlete’s career and the thought of getting your hands on a gold medal is often the driving factor behind all of the blood, sweat and tears that go into training. Fred Lorz took things to the next level in St Louis in 1904 when competing in the marathon, the toughest track event at the games. He blitzed the first few miles but began to tire around the nine-mile mark.
To help him on his journey he jumped into a passing car and hitched a ride for 11 miles before the car broke down and he had to run the rest of the race. He won in three hours and 13 minutes, a full 15 minutes ahead of anybody else, and posed for pictures at the finish line before spectators and fellow athletes claimed they saw him waving at them from the car. His medal was withdrawn and instead given to Thomas Hicks, who almost died crossing the finish line after being injected with rat poison several times during the race to stimulate his nervous system.
Rosie Ruiz tried her own shortcut at the 1980 Boston Marathon but instead of hitching a lift, she won the race by hopping on the subway. She was later exposed after recording the third-fastest time ever by a female, 2:31:56. She reached the finish line without a drop of sweat on her and was not featured in any of the images of the race leaders. Busted!
Spain's Paralympic Basketball Team - The Great Pretenders
This is a shocking tale from the Paralympics in 2000, but one that came back to bite Spain as they were severely punished. Spain sent over a team to compete in the sport of intellectually disabled basketball in Sydney yet returned in disgrace after some of the worst cheating we have seen at the games. Their cheating resulted in the entire sport being permanently removed from the games.
So what did they do that was so bad? Well, of the 12-man team, 10 of them were simply pretending to be of a significant disposition to qualify for the event. The only qualification for making it into the Olympics was that your IQ had to be less than 75 and, to be fair, it is easy to get questions wrong if you know the answer.
At one point during the tournament, when they were wiping the floor with China, their coach even reportedly said: “Lads, move down a gear or they’ll figure out you’re not disabled.” They were exposed once watching fans recognised them, with their gold medals being stripped and the head of the Spanish Federation, Fernando Martin Vicente, being found guilty of fraud.
Harlequins - The Bleeding Blaggers
This was one of rugby’s biggest scandals of all time. Back in 2009, Harlequins were taking on Leinster in a remarkably tense Heineken Cup quarter-final, with the Irish side leading by six points to five heading into the final few minutes. Fly-half Nick Evans had suffered a thigh injury in the first half and was substituted but, with five minutes to go, he was allowed to return to the field due to an apparent blood injury to Tom Williams.
This gave Harlequins the advantage of having a recognised kicker back on the field and although Evans missed an important drop-goal which consigned his side to defeat, suspicions had arisen around the blood sub. It transpired that the physio had given Willams a blood capsule to bite into which made it look like an injury to the winger when in fact it was a simple case of underhandedness.
Sylvester Carmouche - The Horse Whisperer
No, this is not Enid Blyton’s latest novel but in fact one of the best cheating stories in the history of the sport. If you exclude drug-taking, cheating in horse racing is almost impossible given that the sport revolves around animals who just want to run. Yet Sylvester Carmouche found a way to do it in the thick fog in 1990 at Delta Downs.
His horse Landing Officer was a 23-1 long shot yet came within a couple of seconds of breaking the course record, seemingly without breaking a sweat. He finished a ridiculous 23 lengths ahead of the pack because he had dropped off the back of the pack then used the fog to cut across the track and rejoin the race at the final turn.
His fresh horse romped to victory, yet Carmouche was caught and sentenced to 30 days in jail.
Boris Onischenko - The Switched-On Swordsman
We’re back at the Olympics, and this time we turn our attention to the modern pentathlon. Boris Onischenko competed at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal and had won silver four years earlier. He was a respected athlete on the circuit.
Yet he wanted to make sure he won gold in ‘76 and did so by wiring his sword to the electronic scoring system so he could change the score at will. He was caught in the act though, and the rules of the sport changed to ban grips that were able to hide wires and switches.