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Top 10 Shocking Doping Scandals in Sports

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Spencer Sher

These athletes wanted to take their game to the next level – even if that meant cheating. WatchMojo counts down the Top 10 Doping Scandals in Sports.


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Top 10 Doping Scandals in Sports

These athletes wanted to take their game to the next level – even if that meant cheating. Welcome to, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Doping Scandals in Sports.

For this list, we’ll only be looking at athletes who admitted to using – or were proven to have used – performance-enhancing drugs at some point in their careers. So athletes such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who were accused of steroid use but never found guilty, will not be included.

#10: Jose Canseco

While Canseco is also remembered for his colorful personality and the time his head was used as a launching pad for a Carlos Martinez home run, the former MLB slugger’s name has since become synonymous with something much more sinister: steroids. Canseco released a tell-all book in 2005 called “Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big”, in which he named a number of current and former baseball players, himself included, that had used steroids during their careers. Canseco was one of the first players to openly discuss his struggles with steroid use, and his book is now seen as the catalyst for the major steroid scandal that later rocked the baseball world.

#9: Justin Gatlin

As you’ll see later, many track and field athletes have turned to performance-enhancing drugs at some point in their careers. Gatlin is just one in a long line of track stars to have tested positive for a banned substance. The American sprinter would be banned for two years in 2001 after testing positive for amphetamines, reduced to one year after an appeal. Gatlin found himself in hot water again in 2006 when he tested positive for testosterone, leading to an eight-year ban – though it would also be appealed and reduced to four years. Gatlin has fared quite nicely since his return to sprinting, however, winning medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.

#8: Marion Jones

Few stories at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia were greater than that of Marion Jones. The American track and field star took home three gold medals and two bronze, cementing her as one of the most accomplished female athletes of all time. However, C.J. Hunter, a fellow Olympian and Jones’ ex-husband admitted that he’d seen his then-wife injecting herself with steroids prior to competing in the Sydney Games. Jones initially denied the allegations, even testifying that she was completely innocent. However, in 2007 she finally admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs, and was stripped of her medals and given a six-month jail sentence.

#7: Mark McGwire

1998 was an incredible year for baseball. Two heavyweights – Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa – captured the world’s attention as they both attempted to break Roger Maris’ long-standing single season home run record of 61. McGuire would ultimately win the race with a total of 70 homers. However, all of his records would be forever tainted after admitting in 2010 that he used P.E.Ds throughout his career. The slugger had previously been accused of using steroids by former teammate Jose Canseco in his 2005 tell-all book.

#6: Ben Johnson

Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson was poised to take home the gold at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. He was coming off a record-setting performance at the 1987 World Championships in Athletics, and had won two bronze medals at the previous Olympic Games. So nobody was surprised when he won the 100-meter dash with a ridiculous time of 9.79 seconds. There was only one problem: Johnson had been doping. Just days after his win, it was revealed that Johnson had tested positive for steroids. Johnson was quickly stripped of his medal and relegated to the infamous ring of famous sports cheaters.

#5: Maria Sharapova

The tennis world was turned upside down in 2016 when one of its biggest stars admitted to failing a drug test at the Australian Open. Sharapova had long been considered one of the greatest active female tennis players, with a seriously impressive trophy case to back it up. However, the former world number one suffered a fall from grace when she revealed she had taken meldonium prior to the 2016 tournament. Following this, the International Tennis Federation suspended Sharapova for two years, though it would eventually be reduced to 15 months.

#4: Brock Lesnar

One of a select few who have been able to achieve success in the worlds of professional wrestling and mixed martial arts, Lesnar has been a staple in both since the early 2000s. However, in 2016, just days after defeating Mark Hunt at UFC 200, Lesnar failed two separate drug tests, having tested positive for the banned substance clomiphene. In the wake of these discoveries, Lesnar was stripped of his victory and handed a one-year suspension by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, as well as a $250,000 fine. You know what they say, don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.

#3: Russian State-Sponsored Doping

As we’ve seen so far, doping scandals are usually sport-specific and tied to a particular athlete. However, there are exceptions ­– the most notable of which was brought to the world’s attention in 2015, when the World Anti-Doping Agency released an inflammatory report accusing Russia of participating in state-sponsored doping. Not one athlete, or coach, or team, but the entire country. Between 2011 and 2015, more than 1,000 Russian athletes from various sports were found to have taken performance-enhancing drugs. As a result, 167 athletes were banned from competing in the 2016 Summer Olympics, while the entire Russian Paralympic team was refused entry. Now that’s sending a message.

#2: Alex Rodriguez

Throughout the 2000s, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a baseball superstar bigger than Alex Rodriguez. He won three American League MVP trophies playing for the Rangers and Yankees, and a World Series championship in 2009. However, like many of his contemporaries, Rodriguez was harboring a secret, and one that would permanently taint his image. In 2009, the shortstop admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. But that was only the beginning of A-Rod’s doping saga. In 2013, it was discovered that Rodriguez had ties to Biogenesis of America, a health clinic that provided him with human growth hormones. For this, he received a 211-game suspension and a permanent asterisk beside his name.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

Floyd Landis

Ricky Williams

Shawne Merriman

#1: Lance Armstrong

Once upon a time, Lance Armstrong was the envy of the sports world. He was a champion, winning the Tour de France seven times in a row; a survivor, battling back from a near-fatal testicular cancer diagnosis in 1996; and a PR dream, with sponsors begging him to endorse their brands. Fast-forward to today, and the name Lance Armstrong is synonymous with one thing: doping. The infamous former cyclist had long been accused of taking steroids; with doping allegations stretching all the way back to his first Tour de France victory in 1999. However, it wasn’t until a 2013 interview that Armstrong finally admitted his guilt. Disgraced, Armstrong was stripped of his titles and slapped with a lifetime ban.

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