We're all aware of this time-honored sports adage: "Rules are made to be broken." No, wait, technically the bromide is "Records are made to be broken." But in an era of unending federal trials, NCAA investigations and international inquiries, the former seems more appropriate than the latter.
The latest sports figure immersed in controversy over alleged rule breaking is Lance Armstrong. His seven Tour de France championships are at risk because the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is charging that blood tests indicated the presence of banned substances in the cyclist's system. This follows allegations that he provided other riders with illicit drugs and that Armstrong engaged in the unseemly practice of blood doping.
|Slideshow: Top 10 stripped championships|
Well, only if you consider it unseemly to have your red blood cells removed, concentrated, frozen and then reinjected into your circulatory system. Of course, Armstrong is far from the only athlete to endure such scrutiny. In his own sport, Floyd Landis and Alberto Contador have had Tour de France titles taken away. Sprinters Ben Johnson and Marion Jones have lost Olympic medals and world records.
Poor old Jim Thorpe, whom some consider the greatest athlete in American history, was first in the long line for tawdry behavior, though by today's standards his offenses seem quaint. Thorpe stunned the world by winning gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Olympics. About six months later, a report surfaced that he had received a small amount of money to play semipro baseball. Thorpe acknowledged the misstep but chalked it up to ignorance, saying, "I was doing what I knew several other college men had done, except that they did not use their own names." Sentiment turned in Thorpe's favor over the decades, and in 1983 – some 30 years after his death – the IOC restored Thorpe's medals and titles.
But the Thorpe case is laughably mild compared with others. USC won the BCS championship in 2004 until it found out it had not won the BCS championship in 2004. That happened when the school was stripped of the title for improper benefits received by Heisman-winning running back Reggie Bush. Though he went on to play in the NFL and clean-as-a-houndstooth (just ask him!) coach Pete Carroll was rewarded with the Seattle Seahawks job, that empty line on the chart of BCS winners is a huge punishment. Or so we're told.
Even kids have been involved in these shenanigans. The 1992 Philippines Little League team won the championship in Williamsport, Pa., only to have it discovered that some players had exceeded the age limit by as many as three years and others had competed under assumed names. The title was vacated – as was the dignity of all adults involved. In a sports world seemingly gone mad with bad behavior, these are some of the greatest hits on the list of Top 10 championships stripped for rules violations.
10. Arkansas Track (2004-2005)
9. Philippines Little League Team (1992)
8. Syracuse lacrosse (1990)
7. Alberto Contador (2010 Tour de France)
6. UCLA softball (1995)
5. Juventus (Serie A 2005-2006)
4. Marion Jones (2000 Olympics)
3. Floyd Landis (2006 Tour de France)
2. Ben Johnson (1988 Olmypics)
1. USC football (2004)