Sporting Greats Who Fell from Grace
There’s nothing more thrilling and uplifting than watching a sporting great at the peak of his or her powers. Think of Muhammed Ali bobbing and weaving on the ropes in the Rumble in the Jungle before taking George Foreman out. The image of Usain Bolt gliding effortlessly past the best 100-meter runners in the world like they were in quicksand. Powerful Serena Williams whooping the ass of every other female tennis player on the planet.
Nothing beats it, but the reverse is true of a once sporting great who falls off their pedestal and reveals him or herself to be either human or a victim of the dark side.
Here are five of the best/worst who have soared the heights and plummeted the depths.
The Northern Irishman was widely acknowledged as the most naturally gifted footballer of his generation. His career peaked in the late 60s, when he was part of a Manchester United team that won the European Cup.
George was blessed with the good looks of a pop star and a love of the good life. Sadly, he never kicked on in the way someone of his talent should have and struggled with alcohol and controversy. He died in 2005 aged just 59.
In his prime Tyson was the self-proclaimed ‘baddest man on the planet’. He bossed and terrorised boxing’s heavyweight division and lived up to his self-billing. “Iron Mike” was bad, but he was also awesome… and unbeatable.
It’s been said that he earned a billion dollars and spent a billion dollars, but his feats are sometimes overshadowed by his grislier actions. There were the allegations made against him by Desiree Washington, which lead to a three-year prison sentence. This coupled with biting off part of Evander Holyfield’s ear in the centre ring did nothing for his public image.
Drug addiction also played a big part in the downfall, but nowadays Tyson is sober and still with us!
Armstrong’s story was a fairy-tale. The cancer survivor who went on to become the greatest cyclist the world has ever seen. Seven back-to-back wins between 1999 and 2005 in the Tour de France made him one of the best “feel good” stories in sports history. He was the greatest… but only because he was cheating.
Bit by bit it unravelled, and after denying a series of doping allegations it all came out in 2012. He was not only part of a doping programme, he was its ringleader!
He’s done a lot of squirming since, but once a cheat, always a cheat.
Probably the greatest and certainly the most public fall from grace of the lot. From all-American NFL hero to convicted felon, with a quashed murder conviction thrown in for good measure.
He’s most infamous for his trial for the murder in 1994 of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Despite being acquitted in one of the most famous trials in US history, controversy and suspicion followed him wherever he went.
Then in 2008, in an unrelated incident, he was found guilty of robbery and kidnapping. This time ‘Juice’ was sentenced to 33 years in prison. He was released in October 2017.