5 Audacious Sports Cheats (And How They Got Caught)
Tonight, OWN network will air the first portion of a two-part interview—conducted by Oprah Winfrey—with Lance Armstrong in which he reportedly admits that he cheated in order to win the Tour de France seven consecutive times. But Lance is far from the only person to take cheating to new levels.
1. Rosie Ruiz
In 1980, the running world was shocked when a complete unknown won the Boston Marathon. Ruiz appeared to have run the course in 2:31:56, the fastest time for a female runner in that marathon, and one of the fastest female marathon times ever. It would have been one for the record books if Ruiz hadn’t joined the race a mere half a mile from the finish line.
How She Got Caught
If you’re going to try and convince the world that you are a record breaking runner, it would help to look the part. While Ruiz wasn’t fat, she certainly wasn’t in marathon runner shape, with one onlooker describing her legs as “flabby.” It was also noted as odd that she was barely sweating and didn’t seem the slightest bit tired. When a reporter asked her about this anomaly, she said that she had “woken up with a lot of energy” that morning. The officials were suspicious enough to look into it and found that no one remembered seeing her at any stage of the race. A few days later, her win was disqualified. But the organizers had learned their lesson, and now all marathons have safeguards in place to make sure everyone runs the entire course.
2. Fika and Sergio Motsoeneng
In 1999, brothers Fika and Sergio decided to enter the 56 mile Comrades race in South Africa … as one contestant. While they weren’t twins, they did look an awful lot alike. Fika started the race while his brother hid in a portable toilet miles away. They switched places and Sergio ran the middle section of the race while Fika rested and then took over on the last leg. Despite their ingenious plan, they still only came in ninth place.
How They Got Caught
The brothers seemingly thought of everything. When switching places they also switched running shoes and the microchip that recorded where they were at all times. But both of them were wearing the same watch so they didn’t think to switch them—and one of the brothers was a leftie. When pictures of the brothers at various stages of the race were published in a newspaper, an eagle-eyed viewer noticed the watches on different wrists. When questioned, the brothers admitted they had cheated.
3. Donald Crowhurst
In 1968, The Times, a London-based newspaper, decided to sponsor a boat race unlike any seen before. They offered a huge prize to the first person who could sail around the world all by themselves without stopping. There were only a handful of people remotely qualified to enter such a demanding race, and Donald Crowhurst was not one of them. That didn’t stop him though, and he set off hoping for glory. The sailors were supposed to travel from England down the coast of Africa, through the Southern and then Pacific Ocean, and finish by coming across the Atlantic back up to England. But by the time he hit Africa, Donald realized he was never going to make it. Instead of heading for Asia he turned the other direction and went towards Brazil. His plan was to just hang out there for months, radio back false positions, and wait for the other contestants to start crossing the Atlantic. Then, he'd head toward the finish line. He would doctor his journals to make it look like he had gone around the world with them and no one would be the wiser.
How He Got Caught
It turns out that drifting in an ocean, alone, for months, along with the guilt that you know you are cheating, will make you go a bit crazy. Donald’s journal entries got more and more bizarre. He started to write rambling poems about the human condition and his terrible situation. Finally, he jumped overboard and drowned. His boat was found drifting a few days later and the world learned about the cheating attempt that had driven him mad.
4. The Spanish Paralympic Basketball Team
In order to win the gold medal at the Sydney Paralympic Games in 2000, the Spanish stooped to new lows. It’s hard to fake a serious physical disability, but the Paralympics also has a “intellectual disability” category—and the Spanish coaches handpicked perfectly unimpaired amateur basketball players and claimed they had IQs of under 75. The team wasn’t questioned during the games, although they almost drew attention to themselves by playing too well compared to their opponents.
How They Got Caught
Once the team won the gold, pictures of the players were all over Spanish newspapers. Friends and family members of the cheaters recognized them and contacted authorities about the fact that many of the people on the supposedly intellectually disabled team had college degrees. In the end, ten of the 12 players were banned from the sport.
5. David Robertson
Golf is a gentleman’s game, unless that gentleman is David Robertson. In a qualifying round for the 1985 British Open, Robertson seemed to be getting some shockingly good lies on every green. His ball always seemed to end up very close to the hole and he was beating his more famous opponents because of it.
How He Got Caught
It’s not easy to cheat at golf, and Robertson hadn’t found a particularly sneaky way. Instead he would hit the ball and then run ahead of the other players to the green where he would pick up the ball and move it closer to the hole, in some cases by as much as 20 feet. After 14 holes, his opponents finally called over the officials to complain about his odd behavior and seemingly impossibly good lies. Robertson was disqualified, fined thousands of pounds, and banned from golf for 20 years.