The Oxford English Dictionary defines cheating as “acting dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage”. The Paddy Power Dictionary definition, on the other hand, is a teensy bit more to the point: “being a professional sh*thouse”.
As England face Australian cricket cheats Steve Smith and David Warner for the first time since their dirty sandpaper tricks, this art of acting dishonesty is back in the spotlight. Indeed, we’re marking the occasion by donating £10,000 to Workaid each time the duo are ‘caught out’.
Both players received bans and financial punishment for their dastardly actions in 2018, but were ultimately back playing the sport they love a year later. That’s hardly sending a strong, discouraging message to others considering doing the same, is it?
But, they’re by no means the first sportsmen who more or less got away with their crimes in the heat of competition. History has given us plenty. So, in no particular order of b**tardry, let’s see who else managed to survive despite bending the rules well beyond breaking point…
1. Diego Maradona’s Hand of God
We’re all in agreement that there is no finer candidate to kickstart a list of successful sporting cheats than Diego Maradona, right?
Over 30 years on, there’s not much else we can add to this iconic example of dishonesty – other than the fact his sniffing out of this chance en route to winning the World Cup has to be one of the greatest cheating-to-success ratios ever.
2. Lance Armstrong’s drug shame
“If you’re trying to hide something, you wouldn’t keep getting away with it for 10 years. Nobody is that clever.”
So said Armstrong in 2011, just months before long-standing doping allegations were finally proven against the seven-time Tour de France winning cyclist. The United States Anti-Doping Agency proceeded to strip him of over a decade’s worth of achievements, citing him as the ringleader of “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”
You may think this excludes him from the “getting away with it” list, but consider this – he’s still making millions of dollars from investments he made at the height of his phony success. We’re sure he’s still crying into his Yellow Jerseys… not.
3. Thierry Henry’s handball vs Ireland
Even to this day, Paddy can’t talk about this moment without filling up the office swear jar in a flash.
Somewhere in an alternate universe, Henry played by the rules and Ireland went on to qualify for the 2010 World Cup before going on to win the entire bloody thing in the sporting story of the century. In reality, however, the striker handballed it, France progressed, and he didn’t get a single shred of punishment for it.
4. Dwain Chambers’ ban
The British sprinter had it all in his younger days: athleticism, talent, pace and performance-enhancing drug THG. Unfortunately for him, his use of the latter saw him stripped of his titles and receive a lifetime ban from competing in the Olympics.
Now, that’s a strong message to send… until you remember the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned the ruling, paving the way for Chambers to compete in his home 2012 London Olympics as a reward for his previous indiscretions. How is that fair?
5. Phil Mickelson’s moving ball
The five-time major winner dragged golf into disrepute when he flagrantly knocked his moving ball in order to stop it rolling off the green at the 2018 US Open. He said he was “embarrassed and disappointed” about the incident – which saw him incur just a two-shot penalty – but really he must have found it hilarious that he somehow avoided disqualification.
Shamelessly Mickelson swung on, eventually finishing the tournament joint 48th, much to the unhappiness of his fellow pros. Even former coach Butch Harmon stared disconcertingly straight down the camera lens as he always does and said Lefty should’ve been removed from the competition.
6. Tom Brady’s Deflategate
Back in early 2015, one of the biggest names in NFL history became one of the sport’s biggest cheats – simply by releasing some air out of a football.
During the AFC Championship victory over the Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady allegedly ordered the deliberate deflating of balls to help suit his game and give them a crucial advantage. It worked, and the Pats went on to become Superbowl champions that season – with none other than Brady himself being named MVP.
It wasn’t until the 2016 regular season when he was finally punished for his spiteful actions, and even then he received just a measly four-game ban. Since then, Brady’s gone on to become the most successful player in NFL history, albeit one with little moral code.
7. John Candy’s character in Cool Runnings
Technically speaking this is a fictional film, but given it is loosely based on real events – and the fact we’ve watched it so many times, we consider it a documentary – so we’re including it.
Which means we finally get to ask the question: how the f*ck was two-time bobsled Winter Olympic gold medallist Irving Blitzer allowed to return to manage the Jamaican team? Why didn’t the governing body step in and make an example of him to stop the risk of him influencing a new generation with his cheating ways?
It’s simply not good enough.
8. Charles Ingram on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
To many people – usually the ones too crap at sport to take part in real meaningful competition – quizzes are themselves a form of sport. Well, that’s what *cough* we tell people and we’re *cough* sticking to it.
So let’s rewind to *cough* 2001 and Major Ingram conning his way to Chris Tarrant’s top prize with the aid of a *cough* spluttering accomplice in the audience. Granted, the producers caught on and refused to, er, cough up the money, but Ingram avoided jail and gained national fame for his exploits.
He’s still waiting for that advertising deal with Strepsils, mind.