While we’re sure that the British female sporting prodigies we’ve picked out in our latest news story will go on to have the careers they so richly deserve, for some sporting stars, the dream turned sour in a big way.
While their athletic prowess has never been in doubt and was rightly revered during their sporting careers, these are the top stars who suffered the most spectacular falls from grace.
1. Oscar Pistorius – a true pioneer in sport in every sense, South African Paralympian Pistorius can be credited with bringing paralympic sport far more fully into the mainstream consciousness. Having won gold medals in the Paralympics, Pistorius won a place on his national Olympics squad – the first ever athlete with artificial legs to ever do so. This cemented his place in sports history but it all came crashing down when he was arrested for the murder of his girlfriend. He claimed it was an accident and that he’d shot what he thought had been an intruder but was convicted and imprisoned.
2. Lance Armstrong – Another who cemented his place in the annals of sports history, the American former cyclist was worshipped after winning seven consecutive Tour de France titles between 1999 and 2005. Sadly, he is now almost as famous, if not more so, for his admission to taking performance-enhancing drugs, which resulted in him being stripped of his seven Tour de France crowns in disgrace.
3. Mike Tyson – let’s be fair, Tyson may be considered one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time (he is one of only a small handful of men to regain a heavyweight world title after losing it) but his career was peppered with controversy of one sort or another. Known variously as Iron Mike and The Baddest Man on the Planet thanks to his brutal, ferocious fighting style, Tyson famously bit a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s ear off during one 1997 bout. But it was his 1992 conviction and six-year imprisonment for rape that seals his place in this dubious list of the fallen.
4. Ben Johnson – The architect of the biggest drug scandal to ever hit the Olympics, Canadian sprinter Johnson was, for three days in 1988, the fastest man on the planet. In the culmination of his long-standing rivalry with Carl Lewis, at the 100m final at the Seoul Olympics, Johnson won the race spectacularly and set a new world record of 9.79s in the process. Three days later, it all came crashing down after a drug test revealed performance-enhancing drugs in Johnson’s system and he admitted he’d been taking drugs since 1981. After serving his suspension, Johnson attempted a comeback in 1993 but was found to be doping once again – doh! – and was banned for life.
5. Tonya Harding – the former American figure skater ruined her own future in the sport after being implicated in the assault of rival skater, Nancy Kerrigan in 1994. Like the others in this list, Harding was undoubtedly very talented – in 1991, she became the first woman to land a triple axel in competition. But, at the Olympic trials in 1994, her ex-husband and sometime manager Jeff Gillooly hired a hitman to attack Kerrigan, taking her out of contention for that year’s Winter Olympics in Norway. Harding ultimately pleaded guilty to hindering the investigation into the attack and was handed a lifetime competition ban.
6. Chris Benoit – the Canadian professional wrestler’s career stats are seriously impressive; during his career, he held a total of 22 championships, including WCW and WWE world heavyweight titles and is one of only four men to hold both the WCW and WWE Triple Crown Championships. He had a reputation for doing all his own stunts which, likely, contributed to his tragic demise. Depression and chronic brain traumas as a result of the many injuries he sustained during his career are thought to have led to the dreadful events of 2007 when, over three days, Benoit is believed to have killed his wife and son before committing suicide.
7. OJ Simpson – One of the most famous men on the planet – thought not all for the right things – ‘The Juice’ was a standout American Football player, winning the prized Heisman Trophy in 1968 at the end of his college career before a storied and hugely successful career in the NFL during which he won many awards. However, despite being inducted into the NFL’s Hall of Fame in 1985, away from his sporting career, Simpson’s life has been anything but straightforward. He is now probably most famous for being tried for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman. He was acquitted after a lengthy and internationally publicised trial but his more dubious ‘achievements’ didn’t stop there. In 2008, Simpson was convicted for armed robbery and kidnapping and sentenced to 33 years in prison, with a minimum of nine years without parole. Only this week (December 14, 2021) Simpson was granted early release from his parole and is once again free.