The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports

Sport is an arena in which athletes go toe-to-toe with one another in a bid to see who is the best in their respective sports. Doing so requires skill, hard work, and discipline. On top of all that, athletes are expected to exhibit sportsmanship and heed the rules.

Giving yourself an unfair advantage by utilizing drugs is certainly not sportsmanlike and goes against all anti-doping rules. In addition to that, the second an athlete is found to be doping, the world’s appreciation of their ‘natural’ skills goes out the door. In this article, we’re going to tell you about 37 controversial cases of doping in sports

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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Maria Sharapova 

Maria Sharapova became one of the most celebrated Russian tennis players after she entered the professional arena in 2001. She won numerous tournaments including Wimbledon, the US Open, the Australian Open, and the French Open. 

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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However, her integrity came into question in March 2016 because of her use of meldonium, a drug used to regulate metabolism to protect heart tissue. Some side effects include increased endurance, rehabilitation, activation of central nervous system functions, and decreased stress.

It is worth noting that meldonium was not included in the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) list of prohibited substances until two months prior to this scandal, in January 2016.

Roy Jones Jr. 

Roy Jones Jr. became a legend in the boxing world when he won the 1986 Moscow Goodwill Games and 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. He has an impressive record of 66 wins and only 9 losses throughout his decades-long career. 

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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However, he tested positive for anabolic steroids before his title fight against Richard Hall in Indianapolis in 2000. In fact, both of them tested positive for the WADA-banned substance. 

Surprisingly, Jacob Hall, the Indiana Boxing Commissioner at that time, said that there were no legal grounds for suspension as Jones’ levels were “acceptable.”

Anderson Silva 

Anderson Silva is known for his impressive streak when he defended his MMA title a whopping 10 times. Because of his skill in the arena, he is considered one of the greatest fighters of all time. He even continued fighting after a devastating loss to Chris Weidman in which he broke his leg.

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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Nevertheless, he did not achieve this title without a snag because he has tested positive for steroids. He was suspended for such violations twice. 

Silva defended himself, saying that the positive test was a result of contaminated supplements he had been consuming. It is important to note that the UFC warns against supplements because of the possibilities of cross-contamination. 

Ryan Braun 

Ryan Braun is a Major League Baseball (MLB) star and ranks in the top ten list of players with the most home-runs. He also snagged the MVP award back in 2011. 

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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That same year, Braun tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), specifically for substances that increased testosterone levels. 

What’s worse is that he was also connected to the Biogenesis doping scandal, which revealed that many baseball players were using PEDs supplied by the rejuvenation clinic. Braun was found to have a supplier-client relationship with the clinic. 

Alex Rodriguez

Even before the Biogenesis scandal took over baseball in 2013, Alex Rodriguez was suspended for using PEDs back in 2009.

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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The Biogenesis scandal opened a can of worms in the MLB. Baseball superstars like Braun and Rodriguez were connected to the rejuvenation clinic, shattering his seemingly squeaky-clean record.

This case got him suspended for 162 games, which led him to completely miss the 2014 season. He was able to gather some sympathy when he came back in 2015, but unfortunately, he failed to shake off the PED-related aspects of his reputation. 

Tyson Gay 

Tyson Gay is a celebrated sprinter in the Olympics, even achieving the title of the Second Fastest Man Alive, along with Yohan Blake with a time of 9.69 seconds. That’s just behind the fastest man alive, Usain Bolt who has a record of 9.58 seconds. 

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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His reputation and his accolades were taken away when he was discovered to be using a WADA-prohibited substance. As a result, his silver medals were taken back, and he was suspended for two years. 

He came back after the suspension to compete in the Prefontaine Classic event, which he won. However, like other athletes involved in doping in sports, Gay’s reputation never recovered. 

Ben Johnson 

Ben Johnson and superstar runner Carl Lewis were rivals for a long time until Johnson seemingly settled the score and defeated Lewis at the 1988 Summer Olympics. Johnson recorded a time of 9.79 seconds in the 100-meter dash event.

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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His celebration was cut short when he was stripped of his gold medal, along with other two gold medals, after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. 

Jose Canseco 

With all the baseball players involved in the Biogenesis doping controversy, it is no wonder that another MLB player joins this list. Jose Canseco is known for his home runs and titles, which made him a celebrated athlete when he retired in 2001.

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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However, he published a book in 2005 revealing that he consumed performance-enhancing drugs during his career as a baseball player. Moreover, he revealed that around 85% of the players used such substances at one point. 

This is a huge revelation given that issues about PEDs were starting to come out, exposing well-known athletes for such malpractice

Michelle Smith 

Michelle Smith became a notable Olympian within a span of three years when she rapidly rose from being an unknown swimmer up to the number one spot. She won a tremendous number of medals during her Olympic stint, making her a remarkable athlete in the eyes of many.

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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Her career abruptly ended when she was found to have tampered with her urine sample by mixing alcohol into the liquid. She was only banned for four years, but she never recovered, especially after she was revealed to have also used androstenedione, which is also a banned substance.

It is important to note that she was allowed to keep her medals as no evidence of doping was found during any Olympic competitions in which she participated.

Marion Jones 

Marion Jones’ doping scandal was a shock to sports fans. After being celebrated as a sprinter, it was revealed that she had been doping since high school, which was likely what made her such an excellent track and field runner.

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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She denied such claims for years, allowing her to earn gold and bronze medals. However, Victor Conte, founder of Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) revealed that Jones received PEDs from him.

The revelation led to Jones returning her Olympic medals. All her titles were also taken away because of the scandal.

Diego Maradona 

Diego Maradona is hailed as one of the best football players of his time. He was known for his unbelievable goals on the field.

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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Unfortunately, he had a cocaine addiction, which is a banned substance in sports. This substance is considered a stimulant that affects performance. Because of this, he failed drug test after drug test. 

Unlike other athletes whose support tanked because of doping scandals, Maradona’s fanbase remained strong throughout the years. Though he has since passed away, he is still hailed not only as an excellent football player but also as an activist and philanthropist. 

Lance Armstrong 

Perhaps one of the biggest single scandals in sports doping history involves Lance Armstrong. When people talk about doping, they immediately think of Armstrong. He is a noted cyclist who won the Tour De France seven times.

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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His success was made more remarkable by his successful battle with testicular cancer. However, he fell from grace when the truth was revealed after years of denying the claims. It was discovered that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his competitions. 

His admittance was broadcast around the world during an interview with Oprah Winfrey in which he said that he felt ashamed of his actions. Consequentially, he was stripped of his awards and titles and lost millions in endorsement deals. 

Russian Teams and Athletes

While Armstrong may be the most well-known case of doping in the world of sports, the hottest and one of the most recent scandals involves Russian teams and athletes. WADA discovered that Moscow had tampered with laboratory results which it submitted earlier in 2019.

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
Image Source: The Moscow Times

This resulted in all Russian athletes and teams being banned from sporting events for four years. This is not the first time that Russia has been banned from sports as the nation’s athletics federation has been suspended since 2015 for mass doping. 

The good news is the WADA said that some Russian athletes can still join international competitions as long as they do not have any history of doping. Many Russian athletes have said they are optimistic about joining upcoming events such as the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. 

Dee Gordon

Dee Gordon is regarded as one of the leading players of the world of baseball, especially after his back-to-back breakthrough performances in 2015. However, around the same time, the star player was penalized for violation of the MLB’s drug policy

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Clearly, the indulgence of a leading icon in the use of performance-enhancing drugs points at the wider abuse of drugs and malpractices in the sport. 

Rafael Palmeiro

Rafael Palmeiro is another shining star of the sport of baseball who was found to be using PEDs. The accusation was first made in the 2005 book written by José Canseco. However, at that point, Rafael debunked all accusations and said that he had never used steroids. 

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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Later, he tested positive for an anabolic steroid and was suspended. According to Rafael, he had taken the drug unknowingly

Whatever the truth may be, the use of PEDs has surely tainted Rafael Palmeiro’s glittering baseball career and reputation as one of the only five baseball players in history to have had 500 home runs and 3000 hits. 

Shane Warne

All hell broke loose for the fans of cricket when on the eve of a 2003 World Cup match between Australia and Pakistan, the Australian Cricket Board called a press conference and revealed that their player Shane Warne had tested positive for Moduretic. 

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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The drug is used to mask the use of steroids by diluting them into the urine. As a consequence of failing the drug test, Warne was sent back home immediately and was not allowed to play further in the tournament. 

Andreea Raducan

The 2000 Sydney Olympics saw Romanian gymnast Andreea Raducan emerging as the gold medalist in the all-around gymnastics competition. However, the 16-year-old rising star was disqualified and stripped of her medal after she was found guilty of doping. 

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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Raducan tested positive for the drug pseudoephedrine, which was banned by the International Olympic Committee. She was administered the medicine by a team doctor, who was later banned from the next two Olympic games.

Luiza Galiulina

Luiza Galiulina, an Uzbek gymnast was suspended provisionally from participating in the 2012 London Olympics when she tested positive for the banned drug Furosemide

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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Luiza said that she was given a medication for her heart, and denied having taken the banned drug knowingly. 

She had to miss her competition due to the provisional ban and was later suspended for a period of two years when her backup sample also tested positive.

Rashid Ramzi

Rashid Ramzi represented the nation of Bahrain and rose to glory after back-to-back wins in the 800 meter and 1500 meter races at the World Championships in 2005. 

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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The star athlete also won Olympic gold in 2008 in Beijing, which was the first-ever for his country. 

However, all this glory came crashing down when he was tested positive for CERA, a banned drug used as a blood booster. As a punishment, Ramzi was stripped of his medal.

Paul Edwards

Paul Michael Edwards is a decorated shotput player and two-time Olympian who played for both England and Wales. Edwards’s career went on a downward spiral when he tested positive in two back-to-back doping tests in 1994.

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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Traces of banned substances like anabolic steroids and raised testosterone levels were detected in his samples. 

While initially he was banned for a period of four years, he again failed doping tests while still under the ban, and was eventually banned from the sport for life.

Ross Rebagliati

After having won a gold medal in the 1998 Winter Olympics, ace Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati tested positive for marijuana.

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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What followed was unusual. His medal was taken back despite the fact that at that time, marijuana was not on the list of the substances banned by the International Olympic Council. 

Interestingly, after a subsequent appeal, Rebagiliati was allowed to keep his medal. Marijuana was then added to the list of banned substances after those games ended. 

Manny Ramirez

Manny Ramirez, a hitter that many baseball fans would swear on, is also not untouched by the allegations of doping. The star player received a significant 50-game ban in 2009 for having violated the game’s drug policy. 

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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After having made a comeback, in 2011, Ramirez was found to be violating the policy again and was handed a 100-game ban. However, this time, he declared his retirement from the game. 

Nicklas Backstrom 

A dramatic turn of events unfolded when Nicklas Backstrom, the Swedish hockey star, was suspended just hours before the gold-medal game at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Backstrom had tested positive for pseudoephedrine

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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Later, the investigation showed that there were no malicious intentions behind the consumption of the drug, and it was taken as a medication on the advice of the team doctor. In fact, the use of the medication was disclosed in the related paperwork as well. 

Eventually, Backstrom was awarded the silver medal that his team had won in the match he was suspended from.

Gábor Dobos

Gábor Dobos is one of the most accomplished Hungarian sprinters, who was caught doping in the year 2000.

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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Later on, in 2006, he was suspended from the European Championships when he failed an in-competition doping test

The same year, after an extensive B-sample analysis of his samples, his career came to an abrupt end as he was handed over a lifetime ban from the sport. 

Justin Gatlin

Gatlin has been dogged by performance-enhancing issues throughout his career, including in 2001 when he was banned for two years for testing positive for amphetamines. After appealing, Gatlin’s ban was dropped to one year, and soon after that, he reached the highest stage in his sport: the top of the podium at the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics.

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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Gatlin won three medals at the 2004 Olympic Games, including gold in the 100-meter dash after putting up a 9.85-second run. However, Gatlin was banned again in 2006 after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. 

This ban was for eight years after his cooperation with federal authorities helped him avoid a lifetime ban from the International Association of Athletics Federations.

Barry Bonds

It wouldn’t be wrong to tag Barry Bonds as arguably one of the most controversial players in baseball history. The well-known baseball legend has always found himself in the middle of controversies, including the one involving doping charges. 

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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Bonds has had one of the most glorious baseball careers of all time. However, his career is tainted with unproven allegations of having used performance-enhancing drugs, often used to discredit his career and achievements on the field. 

Shoaib Akhtar

Shoaib Akhtar is a well-known former fast baller from Asia, who played for the national cricket team of Pakistan. In 2006, Akhtar was found guilty of consuming banned drugs by a three-member Tribunal of Pakistan Cricket Board. 

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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Akhtar had been using a banned steroid called nandrolone, which is known to help in recovery from injuries, increases muscle size, and provides exponential strength and aggression during the play. 

Corina Dumbrăvean

Corina Dumbrăvean is a former middle-distance runner who represented Romania at several international championships. In 2007, she was handed a two-year ban after having been found guilty of doping

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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Interestingly, she refused to submit her samples for testing after her ban ended. Consequently, Corina Dumbrăvean was banned for life from the sport. 

Roger Clemens

Roger Clemens was at the height of his career and one of the leading pitchers in baseball just when accusations of doping were directed towards him. Jose Canseco’s 2005 book Juiced, leveled direct allegations of Roger Clemens using amphetamine and anabolic steroids. 

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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In fact, Roger’s name also came up in the 2007 Mitchell Report. Despite all these allegations, he consistently denied having indulged in doping, and the accusations could never be proved.

Mark McGwire

Once again, it was the accusations and revelations made in Jose Canseco’s tell-all that brought the glorious career of Mark McGwire under a microscope. An otherwise marvelous career trajectory actually had a lot of drug abuse in the backdrop. 

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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After continued denials, McGwire eventually admitted to the use of both steroids and PEDs, and also publically regretted that he ever got involved in doping. 

Bonnie L. Dasse

Bonnie L. Dasse was a two-time Olympian representing the US in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics in the women’s shotput event. 

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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During her participation in the 1992 games, she tested positive for clenbuterol, which was banned by the International Olympic Council. 

Floyd Landis

Floyd Landis is a major culprit of doping in the sport of cycling, apart from Lance Armstrong, about whom everyone knows. The flags were first raised in 2006 when Landis’s phenomenal comeback in Tour de France was held under suspicion. 

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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His blood tests showed extraordinary levels of testosterone. Later, Floyd Landis was suspended from the sport.

Alberto Contador

Alberto was the winner of the 2010 Tour de France. After the win, an investigation was instituted against him for the alleged use of banned drugs during the tour. 

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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After a two-year-long investigation, charges against him were found to be true and he was declared guilty of doping. 

Contador had used a drug called clenbuterol, known for its fat-burning and muscle-building properties.

Johann Muhlegg

Johann Muhlegg skied for Spain in the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. He went on to win a gold medal in both the 30 km and 50 km races. 

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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However, in the middle of the ongoing games, he tested positive for having consumer darbepoetin, a drug that is used to boost the production of red blood cells in the body. 

As a result, he was disqualified from the 30 km race and his gold medal was declared null and void. 

Regina Jacobs

Regina Jacobs, the former American sprinter had had an enormously decorated career before it came to a tainted end. 

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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The ace runner was on her way to win the national championship for the 5th time in a row when she found herself in the middle of the BALCO scandal and had to face a ban.

Alvin Harrison

Alvin Harrison and Calvin Harrison – the twin brothers – made a unique record at the 2000 Olympics to be the first-ever twins to compete and win gold medals together in a relay race. 

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
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However, in 2008, the entire US team which participated in the 2000 Sydney Olympics was disqualified after one of its members Antonio Pettigrew admitted to using PEDs.

In fact, Alvin also had tested positive for having used banned drugs. The duo was handed a four-year suspension by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. 

Crystal Cox

It was in 2012 when extensive intake of banned drugs by Olympic gold medalist Crystal Cox came to the limelight. Cox admitted that she had been using anabolic steroids during the period 2001 to 2004. 

The 37 Most Controversial Cases of Doping in Sports
Image Source: Entertainment Weekly

As a consequence of this admission, she was stripped of all her results for this period and was administered an additional ban of four years.

Conclusion

Integrity is a huge part of sportsmanship and the spirit of sport, so it is no wonder that taking performance-enhancing drugs is considered a huge violation. These controversial cases are a good lesson for future athletes who might be tempted to dope. They are sure to teach some lessons for future athletes.