When it comes to the world of sports, everyone is looking to gain a competitive advantage. Usually, it’s just a little thing here and there, like when Jason Kidd “accidentally” spilled water on the basketball court because he didn’t have any timeouts left, or a pitcher putting a little pine tar on the ball to ‘grip” it better.
Of course, some people take these lies and cheats to the extreme, and at the end of the day we’re left with the realization that a lot of our heroes are really kind of jerks. Here are ten hilarious and ridiculous sports cheats that went way over the top.
10. Boris Onischenko
You may not have heard of Boris Onischenko, but as you can probably guess from his name he was a Soviet athlete competing in the Olympics in 1976 in the sport of fencing. And just like the clichéd Russian villain who shares his first name, he was a nefarious schemer, though in this case he wasn’t trying to keel moose and squirrel, but instead win himself a gold medal. He had won the silver at the 1972 Olympics, but that clearly wasn’t good enough, leading to him launching a plan worthy of the most over-the-top cartoon villains.
His fellow fencers couldn’t help but notice that whenever they faced Boris, he would be credited with points despite seemingly never actually making contact. Was he just that quick with his foil? Of course not. Instead, he had rigged the scoring machine with a sort of electronic trigger. Whenever he decided he wanted to score a point, he’d simply hit the trigger and be credited with a point despite coming nowhere near actually touching his opponent. Eventually people caught on and he was disqualified, and people could get back to trusting the USSR like they always had before this embarrassing incident.
9. David Robertson
The game of golf, above just about every other sport in the world, has a certain sense of honor and a gentleman’s code of ethics. You keep your own score, you penalize yourself, and you do so while willingly wearing just the ugliest pants imaginable. So what David Robertson did during the Open Championship was obviously frowned upon. What did he do? Well, basically the same thing any of us duffers do when we’re on the link: he continued to give himself favorable lies when no one was looking.
During the qualifying round of the 1985 Open, the Scottish golfer employed what amounts to little more than the old “foot wedge” to give himself a better chance. What would happen is that he would hit an approach shot onto the green, and then just about sprint up there before his playing partner or anyone else had a chance to arrive on the scene and see where his shot had settled. He would pretend to mark his ball so that he could clean it, but he never actually marked it at all. Instead, he simply picked up the ball, acted like he was cleaning it, and then place it closer to the pin before anyone realized what was happening. He tried this move five times before someone finally discovered the blatant cheating (on the 14th hole) and disqualified him.
8. Danny Almonte
Back in 2001, America got swept up by a youth baseball sensation named Danny Almonte. He was a pitcher for a team from New York, and was virtually unhittable. In fact, he actually threw a perfect game during the Little League World Series. He became the talk of every sports page and highlight show across the country, a bona fide superstar for that magical summer.
And then, it was discovered that maybe he and his family hadn’t been entirely truthful about a thing or two — specifically, his age. See, there’s a reason Almonte was able to so thoroughly dominate his competition: he was actually 14 years old, a full two years older than any other player competing at the Little League World Series. Suddenly people looked at him from an entirely new perspective. This was no longer a promising young talent with Major League Baseball stardom written all over him. His fastball wasn’t quite as impressive with the revelation that he was more physically mature than the average 12-year-old, and he was followed by a cloud of shame for the next decade. The closest he’s ever come to pitching professionally was a brief stint in an Independent League in the Midwest, where his numbers proved that he was never really as good as his little scam made it seem.
Oh, and just because it’s always fun to add a little more weird to things like this, when he was a senior in high school he got married to a 30-year-old woman. If it ever comes out that she was actually 20, then the two are officially made for each other.
7. Diego Maradona
Diego Maradona is one of the most famous soccer players in the history of the game, and he enjoyed a tremendous playing career as arguably the best player to ever come out of Argentina. Later, he saw some success as a coach, including guiding the Argentinian national club in the World Cup.
However, what he is almost certainly the most famous for is an act that he claims was divine intervention and has become simply known as “The Hand of God.” The incident took place in the 1986 World Cup, when Maradona helped Argentina defeat England 2-1. The victory both eliminated England from the World Cup and kept Argentina alive, and they would eventually go on to capture the crown. The only problem was how Maradona blatantly used his fist to knock the ball out of the air just as it looked like the England goalkeeper was about to come away with it. Maradona would score on the play after what should have gotten him carded and probably sent off.
After the game, Maradona denied touching the ball with his hand – which, if you’re keeping score at home, is a major no-no for soccer players – instead claiming that it had been the “hand of God” that led to the goal.
6. Sylvester Carmouche
It seems like it would be awfully difficult to cheat in a horse race, considering the horsies don’t actually know what “cheating” means. But Sylvester Carmouche pulled it off, at least until people realized how odd it was for a horse to make up so much ground without anyone, including the other jockeys, even noticing him. It’s amazing what a bit of fog can do, however, to enable a horse to go from first to last and suddenly win by 24 lengths.
This hilariously short-sided solution by Carmouche happened a little over 20 years ago at a track in Louisiana, in front of only a smattering of fans and amidst a thick fog that covered most of the track and the infield. Riding a 23-to-1 longshot, suspicion was immediately aroused when it was pointed out that his horse had no mud spatters and was breathing easily, rather than the usual panting of a horse that, you know, just ran an entire freaking race. What is believed to have happened is that after the start of the race, Carmouche took his horse through the middle of the infield, waited for a few moments, and then popped out on the other side, racing to victory. Carmouche continued to deny cheating despite all evidence to the contrary, and earned the nickname “Phantom Rider”. Which, let’s be honest, makes the whole thing totally worth it because that’s one hell of a sweet nickname.
5. Fred Lorz
While it’s probably farfetched, it would be nice to imagine that Sylvester Carmouche was just a really big fan of Fred Lorz, because Lorz is perhaps the most classic example of just cutting out the middle of a race and popping up at the end to claim victory. The Olympic marathon runner, in a move straight out of a slapstick comedy, nearly pulled off a fraud that kind of makes us applaud him for his sheer audacity.
The race in question was the marathon at the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis. Lorz was a bricklayer by day and not a particularly experienced long-distance runner, having earned a spot in the Olympics in a five-mile race. Yeah, Olympic qualifying standards were a little more loose back then. Lorz decided to more easily bring home the gold when he hopped in a car at the nine-mile mark and just rode for the next 11 miles. He didn’t even attempt to be discreet, instead waving to his fellow runners as he passed.
Despite finishing first, Lorz didn’t actually get the gold once it was pointed out that he had hitched a ride. It didn’t seem to faze him, though, as he shrugged it off and said that he only did the whole thing as a joke.
4. Donald Crowhurst
You know what one of the easiest ways to accomplish something is? Just lie about it and hope no one ever finds out. At least that’s what Donald Crowhurst was hoping would happen when he attempted to compete in an around-the-world yacht race in a subpar boat. Upon realizing that continuing in the race would lead to almost certain drowning, he set up shop in South America and started radioing in updated positions that put him in the lead, despite not only being far behind the rest of the pack, but also, you know, not actually racing.
Ultimately, Crowhurst found himself faced with a no-win situation: either own up to being a big fat liar with a crappy boat, or disappear for as long as possible and hope people would forget about him. He chose the latter. After three months had passed, he radioed in that he was too far behind another sailor named Nigel Tetley, and was about to just give up and go home when he learned that Tetley’s boat had sunk, meaning that Crowhurst was about to be the victor. Horrified by the fact that his competitor’s boat had sunk and the realization that his fraudulence would soon be discovered, Crowhurst put a final cap in the tragic story when he threw himself overboard, his boat found 12 days after he had killed himself.
3. Ali Dia
Imagine being plucked off of the street to become an overnight sporting hero. Ali Dia made this fantasy a reality, when the amateur soccer player conned his way onto a professional English soccer club, sight unseen. By the way, when we call him an amateur, it’s pretty much an insult to amateur soccer players everywhere. When he took the field for the first and only time, what resulted was comically poor play that made the folks in charge of his Southampton side rethink their decision to take him on literally out of the blue.
So how does some average guy who has as about as much business on the pitch as just about any of us wind up with a professional contract? Easy: he lied about who he was. He and a friend concocted a scheme in which his buddy would phone up the folks at Southampton claiming to be famed soccer star George Weah, saying that he had a cousin named Ali Dia who was on the cusp of becoming a star in his own right. And the brilliant folks in the front office at Southampton bought the lie and offered Dia a contract solely on the word of some random guy they talked to on the phone.
Dia was released shortly after his one 20-minute appearance, in which it became abundantly apparent that not only was he not the dynamic player he claimed to be, but a six-year-old probably could have played circles around him.
2. Dora Ratjen
And speaking of athletes who aren’t exactly who they claim to be, here’s an Olympian named Dora Ratjen. Dora was a high jumper who competed for Team Germany in the 1936 Olympic games — despite only finishing fourth, two years later she set a new women’s world record in the high jump. As it turns out, that record would not stand for some pretty dramatic reasons. Was this woman, Dora Ratjen, juicing before anyone really knew what that was? Did she wear spring loaded shoes out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon that vaulted her higher than normal?
Nope. As it turns out, Dora Ratjen was hiding something else. Literally, as it turns out, since “she” competed with “her” distinctively male genitals strapped back like Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs. Dora Ratjen, as it happens, was really Horst Ratjen, meaning this was a real-life Juwanna Mann situation. Though maybe if the screenwriter had based his story on Dora’s and not whatever he actually concocted, he wouldn’t have crapped out one the worst movies ever made.
So why did Horst compete as Dora? It had nothing to do with his gender identity. Rather, according to the man himself, he was forced into it by the Nazis, who weren’t confident in their female athletes’ abilities. Ratjen claims that they did not want embarrassment, so they recruited a guy and had him compete as a woman. Just another stupid Nazi idea, among many others.
1. The Spanish “Paralympic” Team
To top it all off, here’s the very definition of “low”. During the 2000 Paralympic Games, Spain took a page from The Ringer and sent entire teams of people who were not actually handicapped to compete. Most notable was the “intellectual disabled” men’s basketball team that won the gold with a team full of people who had absolutely zero disabilities, and instead thought it would be a good idea to pick on the mentally handicapped.
One member of the team came forward later and said that he and his teammates had no disabilities, and the same was true for numerous members of the Spanish Paralympic team. It’s not a coincidence that, after the fallout of this scandal, intellectual disabled basketball was eliminated from the Paralympics.
Years later, South Park filmed an episode where Cartman acted like a Special Olympian so he could win $1,000. When you inspire the actions of one of the biggest assholes in all of cartoon-dom, you know you failed at basic humanity.