Everyone loves a good celebrity scandal, but almost as popular are the controversies surrounding professional athletes. Fans often project certain images onto their favorite players as wholesome, hard-working images of hero athletes enjoying the culmination of a lifetime of hard work when they reach the pros. That may be true for some, but athletes are far from superhuman, and they are prone to give in to excess and temptation just as much — if not more so — than everybody else. From sex scandals to drugs to simple poor sportsmanship, following are 10 of the most controversial professional athletes of all time. Because of the nature of this list, these athletes are not ranked in a specific order.
1. Lance Armstrong
It’s hard to say if anyone on this list has a more gut-wrenching controversy than Lance Armstrong. The seven-time Tour de France winner impressed many with his cycling prowess and inspired even more with his personal story of overcoming testicular cancer, becoming an activist in the fight to find a cure for the disease. There was a time when it seemed everyone was wearing the yellow Livestrong bracelets, which were a hallmark of Armstrong’s foundation and a crusade against the disease. He was, as CNN described him, “an all-American hero.”
But then came the doping scandal. The public was disappointed and outraged by Armstrong’s admission that he had used steroids — something he swore he’d never done time and time again — and he was banned from the sport by the International Cycling Union, stripped of his Tour de France titles, forced to step down from the head of the Livestrong foundation, and lost countless endorsements.