Since making a comeback to tennis following the end of her 15-month ban in April, controversy continues to haunt Maria Sharapova at every turn. The one-time Wimbledon golden girl is in danger of being remembered for this sorry chapter, rather than the five Grand Slam titles that have made her a household name. Here, we present a list of five more sporting giants who, despite sweeping all before them, have also hit the headlines under more unenviable circumstances.
The outrageous Ulsterman was perhaps the most exciting player ever to pick up a cue, with two world championships in two different decades to back it up. There was never a dull moment with ‘The Hurricane’, but once snooker became televised on a regular basis and its popularity soared, those moments were rarely dull for all the wrong reasons. Higgins’ demons with drink and drugs were well-documented, but spats with the authorities and the media were becoming more and more frequent. Despite this, his legacy is such that he will always be remembered as the game’s original crowd favourite, something that can never be taken away.
Not only did Tiger Woods rise to stardom in the blink of an eye, but in doing so he also became a hero for many African-Americans, which probably puts him in the running for one of sport’s greatest icons. From the moment he turned professional in 1996, records were shattered and majors won with consummate ease. It seemed he could do no wrong, but in 2009 allegations of infidelity (which he had initially denied) proved well-founded and as a consequence Woods hasn’t landed a major since the U.S. Open in 2008. He therefore remains four behind Jack Nicklaus‘s total of 18, a haul which looked certain to be surpassed once upon a time.
A bit of a harsh inclusion, as this one is purely down to human error. Still, in the interests of variety, and no doubt the odd few thousand Man United fans, Stevie G just had to get a mention. With his status as an Anfield legend assured, the only thing that was missing from the trophy cabinet was a Premier League winners medal, and in 2015 it looked for all the world as if that was going to be remedied. That was, until a slip against Chelsea that allowed Demba Ba a clear run on goal. Brendan Rogers‘ dubious tactics against Crystal Palace probably did more damage eight days later, but it’s this single moment that will be forever etched in the mind.
As with all great jockeys, ‘The Long Fellow’ was fiercely dedicated to his profession – he weighed 30lbs under his natural weight throughout his flat racing career. Despite winning all five of the Classics on multiple occasions, oh and being crowned champion jockey 11 times, perhaps his greatest contribution to the sport is to invent a completely new style, whereby his ‘stood’ rather than sat while riding, something all flat jockeys now do – akin to what Jimi Hendrix did for the guitar. In 1985, he turned his attention to training, but was convicted of tax fraud and spent one year and one day in prison. He was stripped of his OBE but returned to racing, winning the 2,000 Guineas in 1992, before retiring permanently in 1995.
No list of this nature would be complete without a mention of the self-styled ‘Baddest Man on the Planet’. It’s difficult to establish if his infamy can be best attributed to his antics inside or outside the ring, for he cut a menacing figure either way. Up until 1990, his achievements were almost without parallel, having become the youngest-ever heavyweight champion of the world four years earlier. The trappings of this success ultimately proved too much for Tyson to handle and many put his shock defeat at the hands (or gloves) of James ‘Buster’ Douglas down to an abusive lifestyle. A rapid downward spiral followed, but he returned to boxing in 1995, only to bring controversy to a whole new level when he took a fancy to Evander Holyfield‘s right ear in 1997.