The high pressure world of professional sport inevitably means two things: 1. Athletes of the current era must continue to become stronger, fitter and faster in competition to surpass what has been recorded before them, and 2. Drug cheats are going to have to figure out better ways of cheating the system when taking performance enhancing substances. In light of current events surrounding one Lance Armstrong, we’ve been considering the choices that certain pros make in order to win at all costs. Lance certainly isn’t the only athlete to be up to his eyeballs in EPO – likeminded dopers have been tearing up the competition and consequently paying the price for decades. Scroll through the gallery above and corresponding list below to acquaint yourself with ten notorious characters who would have gotten away with it, if it weren’t for those meddling authorities.
10. Floyd Landis
Just another cyclist taking drugs, eh? Winner of the 2006 Tour de France, Floyd Landis was a right boss on the bike. Unfortunately, people started to notice that his testosterone levels were similar to that of a head-on-collision between a male rhinoceros and an entire marine unit. “I didn’t do it!” he proclaimed. “Do what?” everyone answered, with a knowing wink. Landis was stripped of his title and banned from the sport for three years.
09. Andre Agassi
When Andre Agassi first tested positive for methamphetamine in ’97, he claimed it was accidental (“Someone spiked my soda again, awww maaaan”). This exclamation of innocence actually worked as he somehow avoided sanctioning by the ATP. Around the time, the former World No. 1 had dropped to a lowly No. 141 in world rankings although the following year he rose into the Top 10 – making the biggest one-year jump in ATP ranking history. Could it be that he was all fired up on the glass barbecue?? He has admitted all of this, by the way.
08. Alberto Contador
One of only five riders in history to win all three “Grand Tours” of road cycling, the Spanish Contador won the 2007 Tour de France, 2008’s Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana and the 2009 Tour de France. He was basically a badass in lycra until he was stripped of his 2010 Tour de France and 2011 Giro d’Italia titles when he tested positive of the drug clenbuterol in 2010. Are we starting to see a pattern emerge in cycling?
07. East Germany in the 1970s – ’80s.
Very few East German athletes ever failed an official drugs test, which I say is very nearly enough to convict them all. Basically, after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, a whole galaxy of uppers, downers and East Germans came forward to reveal that they’d been fed doses of pills and syringes of unknown substances for years (by their own government, no less) and given the very stern word that it would be in their own best interests to use them. It is estimated up to 9,000 East German athletes were doped under a program that ran from 1972 to 1989. They should have known that in the Cold War on Drugs, there are very few winners.
06. Kostas Kenteris and Ekaterini Thanou
Something smelt slightly fishy when Ekaterini and her training partner Kostas K started smashing the competition like never before in the lead up to the 2004 Athens Olympics. Sure, Ekaterini took out gold at the Sydney Olympics four years earlier and was pegged as a great hope for the nation, but not since the days of their ancient countrymen had Greeks been known for running like this. With one day to go before the opening ceremony the pair failed to turn up to a doping test and the stank reached sardine-like levels. To cut a long and tall story short, Kostas and Ekaterini faked a motorcycle accident to get out of testing. Ouch. Props to them both for pulling out of the event “in the interest of the country” though.
05. The Chinese Swim team
Someone needs to have a long hard chat with the Chinese swim team. These slippery dope merchants have been cheating the field for the past 15 years or so, accused and found guilty of using a plethora of performance enhancing substances. They started it off back in ’94 when eleven swimmers tested positive for dihydrotestosterone at the Asian Games. Fast forward four years to the ’98 world champs and you can add four more positive tests to their tally, not to mention bothersome breaststroker Yuan Yuan busted with vials of human growth hormone in her luggage. Since 1990, more than 40 Chinese swimmers have failed drug tests, while four swimmers were also removed from the team after “suspicious” test results were collected. I’ll refrain from making a joke about the Year of the Snake.
04. Nadzeya Ostapchuck
Big Belarusian shotputter Nadzeya Ostapchuck was busy basking in London Olympic glory before someone noticed that she had tested positive for drugs not once, but twice – before and after – her 21-metre throw. As she should have expected, Nadzeya was stripped of her medal (subsequently awarded to New Zealand’s Valerie Adams) and banned from competition for a year – a lenient penalty, as Nadzeya maintains she was unaware that her coach, Alexander Yefimov, was pouring spoonfuls of metenolone into her food.
03. Marion Jones
US sprinter Marion Jones was fast. Too damn fast. Winning five Olympic medals in Sydney had suspicious naysayers all suspicious of her speed, which amounted to nothing until she finally admitted to being a cheat seven years later. Stripped of all 5 medals, Jones was also sent to the pen for lying to federal agents about her drug-use. She’s since set up a charity that aims to encourage young people to think twice before making difficult decisions.
02. Ben Johnson
Jamaica-born Canadian Ben Johnson had the world singing his praises as one of the greats of the sprinting world for most of his career during the ’80s. He won two Olympic bronze medals in LA and set consecutive world records at the 1987 world champs in athletics and 1988 Olympics where he won gold. What a guy. Too bad his urine samples were found to contain stanozolol in 1988. He was consequently stripped of both world records and his Olympic title.
01. Lance Armstrong.
Seven consecutive Tour de France titles, millions upon millions of dollars acquired, massive sponsorship deals, books proclaiming his strength and innocence… Lance Armstrong was riding a high like no other for years. But that high like no other turned out to be rather similar to those felt by many of today’s top drug cheats; a combination of erythropoietin, human growth hormone and blood doping. Armstrong had the world not only fooled but wrapped around his muscular finger when he came back from cancer to win cycling’s greatest race seven times in a row. In a sport riddled with cheats, Lance argued (to himself) that he was merely trying to compete on a level playing field, but despite his self-justification he may still go down as the sporting world’s most dastardly doped figure ever. Years of not only denial, but incredibly, suing his naysayers for huge amounts of money, may have had such an effect on Lance that he honestly believed he was right all along. His ‘confession’ on Oprah last week confirmed what the public are starting to come to terms with; Lance has conducted his affairs as a liar, bully and cheat for the better part of a decade. He’s the definition of a fallen hero, which is sad, although at least he has begun his road to redemption by finally coming clean. For us though, at least on this list, he’s still number one.