Steve Smith, Cameron Smith and Mack Horton and Sun Yang.
Steve Smith, Cameron Smith and Mack Horton and Sun Yang.

Top 10 Australian sporting scandals of the decade

Australia's ball tampering scandal shocked the cricket world, while the arrest of one of the country's biggest horse racing trainers also dominated the headlines over the past decade.

The NRL has been shamed by salary and supplements sagas and swimming has also had its share of negative press.

Here are 10 of the biggest scandals in Australian sport of the past 10 years.

 

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1. BALL TAMPERING SCANDAL

It was the jaw-dropping cheating scandal that brought Australian cricket to its knees. The cricket world was shocked when, in March of last year, Cameron Bancroft was caught on camera trying to rough up one side of the ball with sandpaper to make it swing during a Test match in South Africa. Then skipper Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner were both found to have plotted during the lunch break to have Bancroft illegally tamper with the ball. The fallout was heavy, with all three serving suspensions and Smith losing the captaincy. He still has not regained it, and may never will.

 

Steve Smith breaks down when he fronted the media at Sydney Airport following the aftermath of the ball tampering scandal in South Africa. Picture: AAP
Steve Smith breaks down when he fronted the media at Sydney Airport following the aftermath of the ball tampering scandal in South Africa. Picture: AAP

 

 

2. DARREN WEIR

He was arguably Australia's biggest and most successful trainer. Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Darren Weir was at the top of his game when police raided his stables in January. Among other items, they found electronic "jiggers", outlawed devices known to be used to mentally condition horses to run faster in races. Weir was banned from racing for four years, while his right-hand man Jarrod McLean has been suspended indefinitely while police charges for animal cruelty and conspiracy to defraud stewards are pending. The scandal has been another black eye for the racing industry, which was still reeling from the Aquanita scandal during which trainers and stablehands were found guilty of doping-related offences.

 

 

3. MELBOURNE STORM CAP SANCTIONS

They were the harshest sanctions handed down in the history of rugby league. In 2010, Storm was found to have breached the salary cap over a five-year period. It resulted in the NRL club being stripped of the 2007 and 2009 premierships. The club was also fined $1.7 million and forced to play the entire 2010 season for no competition points. The club was stunned by the swift execution, and there are many that still believe Storm was dealt with too harshly and the NRL did not follow due process in the striping of the club's titles. It would have brought a lesser club to its knees, but Storm fought back to win the 2012 and 2017 premierships. It remains a competition powerhouse to this day.

 

 

 

A despondent Cameron Smith after the announcement of Melbourne Storm’s penalties.
A despondent Cameron Smith after the announcement of Melbourne Storm’s penalties.

 

 

4. CRONULLA SUPPLEMENTS SCANDAL

It didn't reach the same heights as Essendon, but NRL club Cronulla had its own peptides saga that has involved Stephen Dank. In February 2013, the Sharks were investigated by ASADA and WADA over the legality of its supplements program during the pre-season and the 2011 season. In August 2014, the players were found guilty of having used the banned peptide CJC-1295, resulting in the suspensions of fourteen players who were part of the program. Then coach Shane Flanagan also received a ban, but came back to lead Cronulla to the 2016 grand final win over Melbourne Storm.

 

 

5. THE STILLNOX SIX

It was considered the low point for Australian swimming. The national swim team went into the 2012 London Games with high expectations, but it instead largely failed to deliver. It soon emerged that the culture of the team leading into the Games had deteriorated with incidents of "boorish and obnoxious" behaviour by some team members towards others. Eamon Sullivan, Matt Targett, James Magnussen, James Roberts, Tommaso D'Orsogna and Cameron McEvoy also engaged in a controversial bonding session before the Olympics, which involved taking the sleeping drug Stilnox. Their penalty was a dressing down, and according to then AOC chief John Coates, a "very serious three-year good behaviour bond."

 

 

6. MACK HORTON V SUN YANG

It started at the Rio Games, when Aussie Mack Horton shocked the world to upset Sun Yang in the final of the 400m freestyle. Following the race he labelled Yang a "drug cheat" after the Chinese swimmer served a three-month suspension in 2014 for testing positive to a banned substance. Horton became public enemy No.1 in China, with the Victorian becoming the target of online trolls for the duration of the Games. Their feud reignited earlier this year, when Horton refused to share a podium with Yang at the world championships. Yang just recently made his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, where WADA lawyers argued for him to be banned for up to eight years for destroying blood vials during an out of competition drug test. He is awaiting their findings.

 

 

 

 

 

7. JARRYD HAYNE

It started off as the huge gamble that appeared just may pay off. The "Hayne Plane" was one of the biggest names in the NRL when he decided to quit the Parramatta Eels for a shot at the NFL. He was eventually signed by the San Francisco 49ers and made his debut in September 2015. He was cut from the main roster two months later and returned to rugby league in 2016. But Hayne has faced off-field issues the past few years with an American woman accusing the former 49er of sexual assault while he was playing in the NFL. He was not charged by police, but the woman launched a civil suit which was settled earlier this year. Separately, Hayne will next year stand trial on charges of aggravated sexual assault of a woman in the New South Wales Hunter region in September 2018.

 

 

 

8. ISRAEL FOLAU V AUSTRALIAN RUGBY

It was the religious social media rant that brought down the rugby career of Wallabies star Israel Folau. Referring to an article about Tasmania's decision to introduce gender-optional birth certificates, Folau took to Twitter earlier this year to caution that "the devil has blindsided so many people in this world, REPENT and turn away from your evil ways". Some two hours later, Folau - who last year garnered widespread criticism over similar comments - wrote on Instagram "those that are living in sin will end up in hell unless you repent". Rugby Australia sacked Folau for the controversial comments. Folau then took legal action against RA, demanding $14 million in compensation and an apology for what he claimed was unlawful dismissal. A confidential settlement was reached in early December.

 

 

Israel Folau leaves the Federal Court with wife Maria after reaching a settlement with Rugby Australia. Picture: Getty Images
Israel Folau leaves the Federal Court with wife Maria after reaching a settlement with Rugby Australia. Picture: Getty Images

 

 

9. TOMIC SR V THOMAS DROUET

John Tomic, the father of Australian tennis player Bernard, has made more than a few headlines over the past decade and a bit. Almost as many as Bernard himself. But the biggest controversy came in 2013, when Tomic Sr had a physical confrontation with his son's hitting partner, Thomas Drouet, in Madrid. Tomic Sr was found guilty in a Spanish court of having headbutted the Frenchman to the ground unconscious outside a hotel and was handed an eight-month suspended jail sentence. He was later ordered to stump up 300,000 euros ($435,000 AUD) compensation to Drouet.

 

 

A bandaged Thomas Drouet leaving a Madrid court. Picture: Ella Pellegrini
A bandaged Thomas Drouet leaving a Madrid court. Picture: Ella Pellegrini

 

 

10. AUSTRALIAN OPEN MATCH FIXING REPORTS

The 2016 Australian Open was hijacked from the start. It is traditionally known by players and the international media alike as the "happy slam," but there was nothing happy about the 2016 Open after an explosive story was published on the eve of the tournament. A joint investigation by the BBC and Buzzfeed detailed secret files exposing evidence of widespread suspected match-fixing at the top level of world tennis, including at Wimbledon. "Over the last decade 16 players who have ranked in the top 50 have been repeatedly flagged to the Tennis Integrity Unit (attached to the Association of Tennis Professionals) over suspicions they have thrown matches," the article read. No names were mentioned, which led to a witch hunt with player after player at the Australian Open asked for their reaction to the story.

News Corp Australia


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