Year in review: the biggest sporting scandals, controversies and disappointments of 2018
- From marathon cheats to UFC controversy, the year has been pockmarked by unsavoury incidents on and off the field of play
- Debate has raged following flashpoints
A year can not go by in sport without scandal, controversy and disappointment. These are those incidents from 2018.
Wilder v Fury stalemate
The build up to the Bronze Bomber against the Gypsy King had been dominated by people demanding to know what a “dosser” was after Tyson Fury kept calling Deontay Wilder that.
Both boxers showed they were no dossers once they took to the ring (although Fury continued to shout it at his opponent between rounds).
The newly-trim Fury impressed with his defensive work and two comebacks from the American dropping him.
For once the controversy was in the result rather than Fury’s world views and fans were shocked when it was scored as a draw. Both fighters believed they had won but most observers had Fury edging it.
It’s all served to increase demand for the inevitable rematch.
“I see that you know your judo well,” was what Mo Salah might have said to Real Madrid’s pantomime villain Sergio Ramos after the latter dragged him to the ground in the early stages of the Uefa Champions League final. Salah didn’t say anything as he was in agony and lasted only a handful more minutes before being substituted. That might have been the turning point, or it could have been when Ramos ran into Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius, apparently giving him a concussion. Liverpool lost 3-1 and Salah suffered the further indignity of being forced to pose with “Salt Bae” after the game.
Over half a million people signed a petition calling on Uefa to punish Ramos, with people still adding their names after Christmas.
Conor McGregor v Khabib Nurmagomedov
Mystic Mac probably did not see his arrest for attacking a bus in his future but that’s what happened in April in New York. The Irish fighter and his team tried to smash their way into a bus containing Nurmagomedov after tensions between their respective camps reached boiling point.
The Dagestani later claimed that the UFC were behind the bus incident.
There was also controversy after he won in Las Vegas to retain his lightweight belt, when he kicked off a ruckus after vaulting the octagon walls to attack more of McGregor’s entourage.
This is not over, at least not if the UFC has anything to do with it.
Holders Germany crash out of the World Cup
The champions of the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil were expected to do well in Russia in the summer. Four years older and wiser, Jogi Loew’s squad were at least tipped for the semi-finals but it was not to be. They lost their opening game to a vibrant Mexico side and then needed Toni Kroos to grab the latest of winners against 10-man Sweden in game two. Those results meant that they needed to beat South Korea in the final group game to go through.
The Koreans triumphed 2-0, with both goals coming in second half injury time, to finish third in the group and leave Germany bottom and on the first plane home.
Not done there, the humiliation also kicked off a race storm back in Germany as people discussed the make up of the squad.
Shenzhen Half Marathon cheats
Cheating in marathons has been going on as long as the races themselves but runners in the Shenzhen Half Marathon hit new heights in October. CCTV camera footage captured hundreds of runners opting for a shortcut through the trees rather than going the distance while others were found to have sent someone else in their stead.
A total of 258 runners were punished – 18 with fake bib numbers banned for life along with three running as others. The other 237 corner cutters got a two-year ban from the event.
CAUGHT CHEATING: Traffic camera captures half-marathon runners taking a shortcut through the trees during a race in Shenzhen, China.
In all, 258 runners in Sunday's race were reportedly punished for various methods of cheating. https://t.co/uuQCq1CoEE pic.twitter.com/wQ9gmQWFd8
— ABC News (@ABC) 30 November 2018
Aussie cricketers caught out
Australian cricket lost some of its superiority complex in March when captain Steve Smith, Cameron Bancroft and David Warner admitting ball tampering. The trio confessed to using sandpaper on the ball in the third test against South Africa in Cape Town. Cricket Australia gave the two senior players a year-long ban and Bancroft nine months. Even Aussie PM Malcolm Turnbull was “deeply disappointed” at his countrymen, while coach Darren Lehman also stepped aside in the aftermath.
Racism on the rise
Nike used beleaguered NFL outcast Colin Kaepernick in an ad campaign that was met with Americans burning their swoosh gear. The sports giant has since said that they saw record profits since the advert.
Elsewhere, LeBron James pointed out the “slave mentality” of NFL owners compared to those in the NBA.
France’s World Cup win, like Germany’s elimination, also resulted in discussions over identity and nationality.
Perhaps it is a reflection of the politics of the time but it seemed that individual incidents were also larger in number.
Over in Europe, Chelsea fans were spotted with a flag featuring Nazi insignia while other Chelsea fans targeted Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling, and a Spurs fan threw a banana at Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubemayang.
The year ended with Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly being abused at San Siro when his side faced Inter Milan.
Snooker match fixers
China’s snooker players have been tipped to make an impact on the sport but not in the way they did. Yu Delu and Cao Yupeng were handed the first suspensions for match fixing after admitting a number of offences over a 30-month period. A late guilty plea meant Yu was handed a more lenient sentence than Stephen Lee, 10 years and nine months instead of 12 years, but the cue star will not be able to return to the baize until he is 41. Cao has been suspended for two and a half years.
The greatest tennis player of her generation took some of the shine off her US Open final loss to breakout star Naomi Osaka when she unleashed on the match umpire Carlos Ramos accusing him of being sexist.
Osaka collected her trophy in tears and the controversy filled the column inches for days afterwards as people debated whether Williams’ was in the right.
Williams also took flak from the French Open organisers for wearing a bodysuit in Paris.
Despite the fallout the 37-year-old was named the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year.
Rooney cheapening England cap
Wayne Rooney played for England 119 times between making his debut as a 17-year-old and his last cap in 2016 against Scotland.
That was until Everton and Manchester United legend came out of international retirement for a swansong at Wembley against the United States in November.
In a move that outraged former players such as Peter Shilton, the DC United forward came off the bench to captain the side.
Not even the game promoting Rooney’s charity was enough to becalm the cynics who pointed to slow-moving ticket sales as the real reason for Rooney’s return.
Manchester United pick Pogba
The soap opera that is Manchester United in the post-Ferguson era continued to delight football fans in large part thanks to the rift between the club’s most expensive player and the manager.
There was a training ground spat, a public dressing down in front of his teammates where the midfielder was branded a virus and a festering ill will that saw Pogba dropped from the team that was meant to be built around him.
One of them had to go and it was the Portuguese who was handed his marching orders in December, to which the World Cup winner responded with an ill-timed at best social media post.
The decision so far has paid off with Pogba responding to his return to the team under interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with two match-winning performances, goals and assists.