There’s an old adage that cheaters never prosper. This couldn’t be further than the truth. I’ve long-held the belief that cheaters always prosper in the world of sports. In fact, this is a huge week for cheaters. The Olympics are finally here! I love the Olympics and respect the majority of athletes that play it straight. However, there’s a litany of athletes that have been found guilty of doping. Just look at the Russian team. Even on the good ole’ American side, we’ve had our fair share of cheaters. Marion Jones, Justin Gatlin, and Tyson Gay. Additionally, one of America’s greatest cheaters, Alex Rodriguez is retiring on Thursday. This is a guy that twice been convicted of steroids and lied to Katie Couric. That woman is a national treasure!
He’s also a World Series champion and has a net worth of $300 million.
This got me thinking. Who are the best cheaters in sports? I’m talking about the ones that thrived despite blatant evidence of wrongdoing. They may have been punished, but they laughed their way to success and the bank while doing so.
Jonathan Nicola (High School Basketball)
There’s been plenty of times in my life when I watch college basketball and can’t believe that someone who looks like this is younger than me. I chop it up to their pure size, internalize my inferiority, and move on.
Nicola is a Canadian high school basketball player. He’s a Sudanese refugee who relocated to the U.S. in January. He immediately started dominating the center position at his local high school, probably because of his large 6 foot 9 frame and the fact that he is literally 30-years-old.
The best part of this story is Nicola rebutted by claiming he didn’t know his true age. Sure, he eventually got his comeuppance. That doesn’t change the fact that a grown man spent a season dunking on Canadian 16-year-old’s.
Literally all of MLB circa 2001
Last week, I made the unfortunate decision of attending one of my beloved Arizona Diamondbacks games. As I watched them get mercilessly destroyed 13-4 by the Brewers, I couldn’t help but admire Ryan Braun. Despite getting ruthlessly booed by the embittered Dbacks fans, he jacked two three-run homers to lead his team to victory. This is the same guy that lied to everyone only to get caught months later. Still here he is slugging away and making $19 million per year.
I grew up in the peak of the steroid era. At the time, it was glorious to watch these ‘roided out freaks put up video game numbers. There’s too many dopers to count. Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds. It was amazing watching these guys go from normal sized to behemoths in a few short years. It was like watching a Pokémon evolution. Take a look at Mark McGwire’s progression:
Sure, these guys got indicted and might be out of the hall of the fame, but they’re still in the record books and probably on some island sipping Bahama Mama’s.
Then there’s the forgotten juicers. Look at David Ortiz. Big Papi openly admitted to juicing yet faced zero backlash and is still a beloved idol in Boston. I hate to admit it, but there’s strong evidence my childhood hero, Luis Gonzalez, has also been on the juice. Here are the home run totals for his career.
Take a look at 2001. I like to believe that Gonzo hit 29 more home runs in ’01 than in any other year. I really do. But I have my doubts.
Then again, the Dbacks won it all in ’01. Bless that man.
Luis Suárez (Soccer)
Uruguayan soccer player Luis Suárez is a star in his own right. For us Americans, he’s perhaps best known for being the guy that bit an Italian player during the World Cup. He has a laundry list of incidents, including biting three separate players over the course of his career. He’s basically the athlete version of Mini Me. Despite the occasional suspension, he’s still raking in the cash playing for FC Barcelona and has a net worth of $40 million.
Takeru Kobayashi (Competitive Eating)
Before Joey Chestnut terrorized hot dogs around the nation, there was Takeru Kobayashi. Kobayashi was a legend in the world of competitive eating. He has eight Guiness World Records and has tackled such feats as eating 337 buffalo wings in 30 minutes, 93 hamburgers in eight minutes, and 130 tacos in 10 minutes.
With great eating comes great responsibility. He was eventually arrested in 2010 for being in attendance of the Nathan’s Hot Dog contest while being in the middle of contract disputes with Major League Eating (seriously). He was charged with resisting arrest, trespassing, and obstructing government administration. There’s also the questionable regurgitation victories that has become his patented move. Since 2010, he has yet to return to the MLE and has been competing overseas.
Still, he’s legendary enough to have a huge following, pop culture shout outs, and millions in endorsements. Sadly, access to his website is forbidden in the states. But I like to believe he’s still doing stuff like this.
Rosie Ruiz (The Boston Marathon Winner)
Possibly my favorite entry on this list. This one was before my time but was relayed to me by the older generation. Basically, Ruiz ran the Boston Marathon in 2.5 hours flat and won the 1980 competition. She also did all of this despite not being seen by any other competitors and sneaking in by a crowd near the finish line. Basically, she pulled a Stanley in the Office and probably drank wine while everyone else ran the race.
She was eventually stripped of her medal but hey, she was on top for a little while. She also got caught in a coke deal and embezzled funds from her real estate company but has avoided jail time. You’ve got to respect the hustle.
Lance Armstrong (Cycling)
For years, he lied to the world and was treated as a national hero. He dated Sheryl Crowe, got cameo appearances in important films like Dodgeball and You, Me and Dupree, and was a four time ESPY Award winner for Athlete of the Year. Then it all came crashing down when he got on Oprah’s shit list. Still, you’ve got to respect seven championships and $125 million net worth. Perhaps Bill Burr said it best.
The New England Patriots –
Can you think of a team more successful in the last decade and a half? Spygate resulted in them losing some draft picks, but Belichick continues to lead the evil empire to success. They have four super bowl titles! Deflategate turned into a ridiculous barrage of radio commentary and Stephen A. Smith hot takes, but ultimately the Pats have still won their division 13 out of the last 15 years.
As for Tom Brady, RIGBY.