The Five Worst Steroid Scandals

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Bigger, stronger, faster, better. Modern athletes face expectations of fans that are eclipsed only by the outrageous salaries they can earn if they perform at the top of their game. Each generation produces genetic monsters that eclipse even the superstars from the previous era. As more and more athletes struggle to keep up, a series of steroid scandals have rocked the world of sports.

5 Lyle Alzado

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All-pro defensive end Lyle Alzado was the epitome of toughness through his NFL career in the 1970s and 80s. His intimidating and aggressive style of play struck fear into his opponents. His death in 1992 from a tumor that he—and many doctors—attributed to his chronic steroid use was the moment that the athletic world conceded that being stronger and faster wasn’t worth it. In a soul-baring interview with “Sports Illustrated,” Alzado revealed that steroids made him violent and dangerous and ultimately left him with nothing but cancer. Most disturbingly, he revealed that, “Ninety percent of the athletes I know are on the stuff.”

4 East Germany

After the fall of Soviet Union in 1989, it was revealed that East Germany had for decades run a secret program that forced performance-enhancing drugs on its athletes, resulting in many international victories, including at the Olympics. The state-sponsored program showed wanton disregard for its athletes, many of whom were teenagers and some of whom were given the substances without their knowledge. Some of the athletes had their appearances radically altered, and many suffer chronic health problems today.

3 Lance Armstrong

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Never in all of recorded human history have so many people simultaneously rushed to the scissor drawer to cut little yellow rubber bracelets off their wrists than they did October 17, 2012. The date that Nike decided to drop Lance Armstrong spelled the official end for the man whose victory in seven Tour De France cycling championships and victory over cancer had once placed him on a pedestal as endurance and courage personified. He would later admit to Oprah that he was a liar and a cheater, forever ending America’s romance with Armstrong and cycling in general.

2 Barry Bonds

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So many of baseball’s top stars are now synonymous with juicing that it would hard to pick just one as the most devious—it would, that is, if one didn’t hold the two most coveted records in sports. Barry Bonds will forever have an asterisk next to his titles of most career home runs and most home runs in a single season. A litany of indictments and a conviction for obstruction of justice have sullied the legacy not just of Bonds but also of baseball, the sport most devastated by seemingly unending steroid scandals.

1 Ben Johnson

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Ben Johnson’s defeat of track-and-field icon Carl Lewis at the 1988 Seoul Olympics captured the gold medal, set a new world record and left viewers wondering, “I had no idea people could run that fast.” They can’t. Just three days later, Johnson was disgraced and had his medals revoked after it was revealed that he took illegal performance enhancers. On top of what might be the biggest steroid scandal and Olympics scandal at the same time, Johnson’s coach revealed that he wasn’t doing anything that all the other top runners—including Lewis—had been doing all along.

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