For as long as there have been sports, there have been shady athletes who will stop at nothing to gain an unfair competitive advantage. We call these people cheaters (unless they're never caught, in which case we just call them great). But then there are the ones who cheat with such audacity and creativity that you kind of want to just give them the victory for their effort.
Winning a Marathon by Hitching a Ride
It's a pretty safe bet that if the person who crosses the finish line first during a marathon doesn't look like a marathon runner, that person probably cheated. Marathon running isn't like baseball; you can't be successful at it and be fat at the same time. With that in mind, just imagine the crowd's surprise when the winner of the 1904 Olympic Marathon also happened to be a professional bricklayer who hadn't done any running in months. That man was Fred Lorz.
And that thing he's holding is an early 20th century Porta-John.
Lorz likely started the race with honest intentions, considering the fact that he ran the first nine miles clean, leaving him exhausted to the point of near collapse. So, naturally, his manager pulled up alongside the defeated runner and asked him if he needed a ride. He probably meant a ride to the hospital, but to Lorz, it meant he now had a real shot at winning the race.
Because cars in 1904 were about as reliable as AT&T reception in big cities, the pair only made it 11 miles before the car broke down. But that was all the rest Lorz needed. He hopped out of the car and ran the last few miles of the race, winning easily. To his credit, moments later, his conscience got the best of him and Lorz admitted that his win may have been aided by the use of automotive technology. He was banned for a year and apparently used the time off to actually get in shape, because he won the Boston Marathon the very next year.
You can see how overcome with joy he is in this photo.
But 75 years later, another suspect winner won the Boston Marathon, and she wasn't nearly as conflicted about claiming victory. The winner in the women's group of the 1980 Boston Marathon was Rosie Ruiz, fresh off her New York City Marathon 11th place women's finish only six months before. After onlookers at the finish line noticed that Ruiz wasn't even sweating despite looking way too flabby to run 26 miles without dying, they questioned whether her winning (and record-breaking) run might have been the result of cheating.
Race officials in Boston and New York checked up on Ruiz, and what they found was hilarious. For starters, the other runners didn't even remember seeing her come up from behind, or even in the race at all, until the last few miles. Oh, and there were also several eyewitnesses who noticed Ruiz boarding the New York subway at a point near the race, in full track gear, and getting off at another point further down the line.
"Why yes, my sweat does smell remarkably like watered-down Powerade. It's ... a glandular thing."
For some reason, race officials viewed riding the subway for a majority of the race to be an unfair competitive advantage and stripped Ruiz of her medals.
A Baseball Player Crawls Through a Ventilation Shaft to Retrieve a Doctored Bat
For baseball players looking to get a steroidlike power boost without the raisin-sized shriveled testicles that normally come with it, the only way to go is to use a corked bat. Basically, players drill a hole in the barrel of their bat, fill it with cork and then seal the top. The cork is sometimes replaced with little bits and pieces of super bounce ball, which should give you some idea of what kind of effect a corked bat has on a baseball.
Normally, the only way a player gets caught using a corked bat is when the bat inevitably shatters and the evidence reveals itself to everyone on the field (as famously happened to disgraced former home run machine Sammy Sosa). For the Cleveland Indians' Albert Belle, though, it wasn't a broken bat that sealed his fate during a game against the Chicago White Sox in 1994. White Sox manager Gene Lamont, who is apparently equipped with X-ray vision, somehow just figured out that Belle was using a corked bat and asked the umpires to examine it.
"Can we get a hacksaw or something? My fingernail isn't doing it."
Because the only real alternative was to just smash the bat against the hardest available surface until it shattered, the umpires locked the bat in their office with plans to examine it after the game. Knowing that Lamont was right about the bat and fearful of having their star player suspended, the Cleveland Indians quickly hatched one of the most absurd plans in sports cheating history. Indians manager Mike Hargrove called up one of his relief pitchers, Jason Grimsley, and sent him on a mission to get the bat back. And to do this, he had to crawl through the stadium's ventilation system to get to the umpires' office.
After shifting a few ceiling tiles around, Grimsley was able to get into the bat's prison to liberate it. He replaced the illicit bat with an undoctored one belonging to one of his teammates, Paul Sorrento. The problem with that plan is that it required someone to completely ignore or be totally unaware of the fact that said teammate's name was engraved on the bat.
"Wait, this can't be Albert Belle's bat because this bat doesn't smell like a volatile piece of shit."
Grimsley made his way back to the bullpen and probably figured he had pulled off the perfect crime. He had not. During the sixth inning, a janitor noticed a broken ceiling tile and assorted ceiling debris on the floor of the umpires' office. Needless to say, the Indians had some questions to answer.
They pleaded ignorance when asked why Albert Belle's name had taken on such a radical new spelling on the bat. So, figuring that law enforcement agents have nothing better to do on the South Side of Chicago, the umps eventually contacted Chicago police and FBI agents. Fingerprints were taken and things were investigated and, finally, Albert Belle was charged and suspended.
Future bats were cut after the games and presented to reporters to show their legitimacy. No, that's not a joke.
Painting a Race Horse to Drive Up the Odds
Having a name as wimpy as Fine Cotton is not a fate we would wish on anyone, much less a horse. But being saddled with that moniker was the least of this Australian gelding's problems. Among the bigger problems was that, despite being a race horse, Fine Cotton was horrible at racing.
But never has a horse been better at Russian roulette.
So what do you do if you're the owner of a race horse that's all but guaranteed to lose any race in which it competes? The obvious answer is to buy a stronger horse and just race with that one. That's exactly what Fine Cotton's owners did, but only after taking the less traditional step of claiming that the new horse was Fine Cotton. If that sounds stupid, understand that the ploy meant that they could use a stronger horse while still collecting on the long betting odds placed on the original shitty horse. If the plan worked, they would cash in nicely.
And it almost did work, except that the horse they wanted to use got injured. Rather than accepting the clear signs that God wanted them to fail, the syndicate simply found another horse to buy. Unfortunately, the new horse looked nothing like Fine Cotton and was even a completely different color. Game over, right? No, not even close. Rather than let a little "Hey, that's a completely different horse" get in the way, the conspirators doused Bold Personality in Clairol hair dye to try to lighten his coat, a ploy that worked about as well as you'd expect -- which is to say, not at all.
That's the Fine Cotton impostor winning the race. And smelling like a freshly painted hair salon.
On the day of the actual race, the incompetence of the plotters reached Wile E. Coyote levels. When they realized that no one had remembered to change the color of Bold Personality's leg hair, they literally painted the poor beast's legs and figured nobody would notice. Then, as bets began flowing in on Fine Cotton, the odds changed dramatically, from a 33-1 long shot to a 7-2 favorite. This caught the attention of bookmakers, and authorities began to suspect cheating. When the race was held and the previously inept Fine Cotton emerged victorious, suspicions were raised even further. The white paint visibly running down "Fine Cotton"'s legs probably played some part in fueling those suspicions.
When track officials tried to talk to Fine Cotton's trainer and get the horse's registration documents, they found that the trainer had fled and taken the papers with him. By this point, the jig was up, and Fine Cotton was disqualified. The trainer was discovered hiding out in South Australia a few weeks later and tossed in prison, and the other members of the conspiracy were banned from horse racing. We're guessing Fine Cotton lived in relative happiness for the rest of his days before finally being made into glue.
Bold Personality eventually grew to enjoy its natural hair color.
Faking a Rugby Injury (With Fake Blood)
In 2009, the English professional rugby team the Harlequins were facing off in a tournament game against an Irish team called Leinster that was expected to make it to the finals. That, of course, would mean that the Harlequins would not make the finals. Knowing that the time when tons of practice and hard work could be a viable solution to this dilemma had long since passed, something more drastic was going to need to be done. And as everyone knows, when your natural talent and athletic ability have failed you, the next best thing you can do is bring a bunch of blood capsules onto the field and use them to fake injuries.
"Oohhh, my leg. Mouth! I meant my mouth."
Fine, maybe that last sentence requires some explanation. See, rugby teams are allowed a minimal number of substitutions per game. When you can't substitute freely, players tend to get worn down and therefore less able to perform. But those limits on substitutions don't apply to injured players. The Harlequins' plan was to use the blood capsules to simulate injuries, thus allowing them to keep a steady supply of well rested players on the field.
"He must have ruptured your lungs. We need to get you to a hospital -- right after this game."
The plan worked at first, but shockingly, the sight of several players literally spouting blood one minute and then returning to action without even a scratch on them the next made officials suspicious. In an absurdly bold commitment to seeing a stupid plan through, the Harlequins tried to prove that the injuries were real by having the team doctor cut open one of the player's lips. But injuring their own players was not enough, and it was soon uncovered that the Harlequins were using the fake blood packets not only in the semifinal game, but in several earlier games as well.
The team director, the team doctor and several Harlequins players were hit with a litany of bans and fines. They just narrowly avoided having the entire team being banned from playing in Europe.
"Sir, I'll have you know that all of our players are direct descendants of Wolverine."
Note: This infamous game is now referred to by the metal-as-hell nickname of "Bloodgate."
Getting on a Pro Team With a Prank Phone Call
In 1996, the English soccer team Southampton was shocked to get a call from soccer great George Weah telling them that his cousin in Senegal was tearing it up for another pro team and now wanted in at Southampton. Well, no need to double check! Southampton immediately signed the player to the squad. The player's name was Ali Dia.
He turned out to be an incredible player, and that's the end of that story.
Shortly after he was signed, at the 32-minute mark of a game against Leeds United, it was finally Dia's time to shine. What happened for the next 53 minutes turned out to be one of the absolute worst performances by a soccer player at the top level ever. Instead of keeping up with the team, Dia ran around the field, going after the soccer ball like a possessed 5-year-old at the playground. Simple passes and kicks on goal were missed, as if doing so enough times would somehow lead to points being awarded just for trying so hard. Mercifully, he was soon taken out, with fans, players and coaches alike thinking the exact same thing: "What the hell just happened?"
"Drugs! I was on all the drugs. And now I retire!"
When Dia was confronted about this, he broke down and admitted that his contract was secured using what amounted to a prank phone call. Dia was in fact a soccer player, but not a very good one, and basically bounced around some of the lowest level soccer leagues in Europe. He was kicked out of all them for being awful. Deciding that a lack of ability shouldn't hold him back from achieving his dreams of playing professional soccer, Dia had one of his classmates call up the local big-league team while pretending to be Weah. And somehow, that dumb shit worked.
"Ha! That's too funn- wait, he said I recommended him to who?"
Try as hard as you'd like to deny it, but if you managed to talk a major league team into letting you play for money, you'd probably give it a shot, too. On a hilarious side note, Ali Dia is now famous in England, and his jersey is the top seller for Southampton to this day. All for cheating his way onto a major league team.
The Fake Horse in the Fake Race at the Fake Track
The London of 1898 was a hotbed of illegal gambling. Because the money in betting on what prostitute would be disemboweled by Jack the Ripper next had dried up 10 years earlier, horse racing was the main gambling attraction at the time. The annual August bank holiday was an extremely popular day for races, and the major papers scrambled to print the results of as many races as possible from all over England.
"Four hours of looking, and I still can't find -- oh, here we are. 'Race canceled.' Motherfucker."
So when the editors of The Sportsman received an exclusive request to cover an upcoming event in Trodmore, they were happy to oblige, especially since it gave them an edge against their major competitor, The Sporting Life. However, due to the remote location of the race, the paper would not be able to send anyone to cover it. But that was OK: The clerk of the racecourse, "Mr. Martin," promised to wire them the results of the Trodmore races in time to make the morning papers the next day.
The Sportsman dutifully announced the event, and bets started flowing in to the underground bookies scattered across London. In particular, there was a lot of action on a 5-1 shot awesomely named Reaper who was running in the fourth of the six races being held at Trodmore that day. That evening, the newspaper received the results, revealing that Reaper had won his race. When The Sportsman appeared the next day, the bettors began collecting their winnings. Some bookies complained, arguing that since the results had only appeared in one of the two major sports journals, the odds could have been printed incorrectly.
"And gambling is immoral and illegal. I couldn't possibly give you the money in good conscience."
The truth was quite a bit stupider than that. It wasn't long before people noticed something fishy about the Trodmore races. Not only was Reaper not a real horse, but also the race itself never occurred and, in fact, Trodmore wasn't even a real goddamned place. By the time the journals printed retractions, "Mr. Martin" and his unknown associates had vanished into thin air with their winnings.
By the way, the fraud was only discovered because of a printer's error (another paper printed the wrong odds, which is what prompted someone to look into it), which raises an obvious question: How many times had they pulled this off before without anyone noticing?
Probably enough to need some help moving.
Scamming an entire town out of horse race bet winnings -- it's just one more thing the Internet has made impossible for the rest of us.
Be sure to check out the originals in The 7 Ballsiest Sports Cheats Ever. Or discover the 7 Great Sports Moments (That Might Have Been Fixed).