What would we be without controversies? The sporting history, with its achievements and records, is also cluttered with scandals and controversies! Here, I have listed some of the (in)famous sporting controversies which occurred in the international arena. They are listed in no particular order.
Ideally, sporting events are supposed to be free from the world of politics. But we all know how impossible an aim that is. In 1980, American-led boycott of Summer Olympics in Moscow was done to protest against the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The US was supported by countries like Japan, West Germany, China and Canada. Great Britain, France and Greece showed their support but they had allowed the athletes to participate, while the US strictly forbade its athletes from participating. Needless to say, the non-participation affected many events. And the point was made.
It is just so common for people to lie about their real age to appear younger. Bronx wonderboy Danny Almonte did the same, except for a slightly different reason. It was revealed that the Dominican baseball player had been born in 1987, not 1989, which meant he was actually two years beyond the Little League age limit. The entire team had to suffer as it is reported that all their achievements for that session were considered invalid. Now, Almonte plays at Western Oklahoma State College in Altus and is known to never give interviews since it is too much of a distraction.
“The Sound and the Fury” rematch between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield did live its name. This rematch had been the much-anticipated boxing event, but it had to be stopped after the third round with Tyson being disqualified. Tyson felt it was the only “reasonable reaction” to Holyfield’s unregulated head-butts (and this was supposed to justify him cutting off a bit of Holyfield’s ear). He was disqualified and in the ensuing confusion, a near riot broke out, injuring several people. The savagery involved shook many spectators and Tyson had his license revoked for a year.
In 1987, racist comments caused much furore. In the late-night ABC News program Nightline, Al Campanis had been asked why there were few black managers and few black general managers in the Major League Baseball. Campanis’ reply was that blacks “may not have some of the necessities to be, let’s say, a field manager, or, perhaps, a general manager” for these positions. The anchor gave him enough chances to clarify himself or retract his statement but he stuck to it. Obviously, there was much protest and he had to resign two days later. A year later, Mr. Campanis said he had been “wiped out” when the interview had taken place. Of course, one is not to be blamed for what comes out of their mouth.
My favorite controversy remains that of year 1936. Newspapers reported that 4 Olympic medal winner Jesse Owens had been snubbed by Adolf Hitler because he was black. Apparently Hitler had been quoted as saying that black people should not be allowed to compete because technically they aren’t humans. They are animals.
But interestingly, the controversy doesn’t end here. It seems that Hitler had not congratulated any winners, leave alone a black Jesse Owens. So, the issue of him being snubbed alone was a bit redundant. But wait still, the controversy still doesn’t end. It is now said that the event never happened at all. William J. Baker, Owens’s biographer, says the newspapers made up the whole story. Owens himself originally insisted it wasn’t true. But when he got bored of the issue, he also started saying it was. Clearly, controversy out of nothing at all, isn’t it?
Hang on, there is another event which just wins over all other controversies and that is the Spanish Paralympics one. Generally, people would go to lengths to prove but I guess this team was a class apart. Perfectly normal Spanish basketballers produced fake documents for the 2000 basketball team which falsely claimed that their IQ was below 85. The intellectually able team won gold medals in an event dedicated to intellectually disabled. But once the fraud was discovered, their medals were taken back. I suspect they might have just deserved to be called a little intellectually disabled – this fraud was uncovered by a Spanish journalist, who had only to complete six sit-ups and a blood pressure test to make it to the team.
The most touching, though shocking, event was of Magic Johnson telling the world he has AIDS. In the 1991-92 NBA season, Johnson missed the first three games with an unspecified “stomach ailment”. In November 1991, he defiantly revealed that he had AIDS, though his wife and unborn child were safe. He promised to dedicate his life promoting awareness of HIV and benefits of unprotected sex. His condition was discovered by chance, when he failed HIV test for insurance purposes. Everyone was left in shock and the world mourned for such great a player.
Obviously the list is not exhaustive. Suggestions of more such scandalous events would be welcome.