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There’s simply no news like bad news. Despi te our innate desires for uplifting pieces of news, bad newshappen to get more widespread coverage. The media is prone to selling more bad news than good news, because people are more interested in them. The world of sports itself is not immune to the evil cloud of bad press; and over very many decades, there have been a lot of controversial moments that have turned it upside down and entertained the world in equal measure. Here are some of the most interesting controversies that have dragged the world of sports through the mud.
1. The Bloodgate Scandal
During the quarter final of the 2009 Heineken Cup on April 12, 2009 between English side, Harlequins and Irish side, Leinster, Harlequin’s Tom Williams left the field with what appeared to be a bloody injury. This resulted in a tactical substitution from coach, Dean Richards, bringing in Nick Evans who had earlier left the field due to an injury. Suspicions were raised in some quarters about the convenience of the substitution, and after the incident was promptly probed by the European Rugby Cup (ERC) and the Rugby Football Union (RFU), it was discovered that Williams, with the knowledge of Richards, had faked the injury with a fake blood capsule to make the substitution possible.
It was also discovered that this routine had been done by the club on four separate occasions before. In what was a desperate attempt to cover up the incident, club doctor, Wendy Chapman, cut Williams’ lip to make the injury appear genuine.
Tom Williams was banned from rugby for a year (later reduced to four months on appeal), while Dean Richards was banned for three years. The club’s psychotherapist, Steph Brennan, was also banned for a year, while the club was slapped with a £260,000 fine. Harlequins almost got booted out of the Heineken Cup due to the incident that the media dubbed “Bloodgate”.
2. The 2000 Summer Paralympic Scandal
In what was an already controversy-ravaged event amid numerous doping incidents, the 2000 Summer Paralympic held in Sydney was thrown into further chaos when it came to light that people without disabilities had participated in the games. Carlos Ribagorda, a member of the gold-winning Spanish basketball team at the event, who also happened to be an undercover journalist, blew the lid on how ten of the twelve members of his basketball team were not made to undergo medical tests to establish their disabilities.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) investigated his claims, and it was found out that these members were indeed not subjected to tests that would ensure that their IQ points total were not higher than 70. It was also discovered that the Spanish contingent had fraudulently won five medals in the table tennis, track and field, and swimming events because participants were not disabled; a major criterion for participation in the Paralympics.
When, Ribagorda went further to point accusing fingers at the Spanish Federation of Sportspeople with the Intellectually Disabilities (FEDDI) and said the act was a deliberate move to “win medals and gain more sponsorship”, its president, Fernando Martin Vincente, resigned. The team was officially disqualified and ordered to return the gold medals they’d been awarded.
3. The Pakistan Spot-Fixing Scandal
On November 3, 2011, Pakistani cricket players Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were sentenced by a London court to thirty months, one year, and six months in jail respectively on criminal charges relating to a spot-fixing scandal that started in August, 2010.
Undercover reporters working for News of the World approached and videotaped Mazhar Majeed (also jailed for thirty two months), a sports agent, taking bribe in what was a sting operation. On camera, Majeed promised his supposed bribers that Amir and Asif would run certain plays during certain times in an upcoming match at Lords. His predictions were very accurate and both players, with Butt, who was also implicated in the video, were banned from international cricket by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
Butt was banned for ten years (five years suspended), Asif for seven years (two years suspended) and Amir for five years. The three players maintained their innocence throughout the storm that the controversy stirred up.
4. The Calciopoli Scandal
In May, 2006, Italian football was rooted deep into ugly controversy when it was discovered that a host of clubs including giants Juventus and AC Milan as well as Fiorentina, Lazio and Reggina were involved in a match-rigging plot by trying to influence refereeing selections.
In what was initially an investigation being conducted by the Italian police on Italian football agency, GEA World, transcripts of telephone conversations that uncovered a ring of connection between Italian team managers and referee organisations were discovered. Some of the transcripts suggested that then-Juventus general managers, Luciano Moggi and Antonio Giraudo had telephone conversations with several officials of Italian football, chiefly to influence the appointment of referees for the club’s matches during the 2004/05 season. AC Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio and Reggina were also implicated in the transcripts, and they all faced the wrath of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC).
In what was a difficult moment for Italian football, Juventus, who were the reigning champions at the time of the incident, were stripped of their 2004/05 and 2005/06 Serie A titles, docked thirty league points (later reduced to nine), and relegated to Serie B, the Italian second division. General manager, Luciano Moggi was banned from football for life, while Antonio Giraudo was banned for five years and fined €20,000. The Bianconeri’s relegation caused a chain reaction and led to the mass exit of star players; Fabio Cannavaro, Lilian Thuram and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Lazio were also relegated to the Serie B and docked three points, while AC Milan, Fiorentina and Reginna were docked eight, fifteen and eleven points respectively. Italian referee, Massimo De Santis, was the only convicted referee, and he was sentenced to a one year jail term. President of the Italian Football Federation, Franco Carraro also resigned his position over the incident. It was truly a dark time for Italian football and sports as a whole.
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