Skip to main content

From the steroid era to Deflategate, athletes get caught cheating in professional sports all the time. It’s particularly embarrassing for those athletes to get caught in the act on live television, and it’s actually happened more than you would think. Here are five of the most egregious cheating violations caught on live TV.

Sammy Sosa and his corked bat

A corked baseball bat is a perfect crime if executed correctly. Since the illegal cork is inside the wooden bat, umpires can’t catch the perpetrator. They can only see the bat for what it is on the outside.

The only thing that can blow the hitter’s secret is a broken bat during a game, but that’s exactly what happened to Sammy Sosa in 2003.

Sosa hit an RBI groundout in a June contest against the Rays, shattering his bat in the process. The home plate umpire picked up a shard of wood and immediately noticed the huge cork strategically placed in Sosa’s bat.

The Cubs slugger claimed he picked up the illegal bat accidentally, but he was still suspended eight games for the infraction.

Diego Maradona and the “Hand of God”

Diego Maradona is one of the greatest goal scorers in professional soccer history, but his most famous goal shouldn’t have counted at all.

It was the quarterfinal match of the 1986 World Cup between Argentina and England. In the second half of a scoreless game, Maradona danced in behind the England defense, leaped over the goalkeeper, and subtly punched the ball into the net using his left hand. None of the referees saw the handball, and there was no replay review system at the time to take the goal back.

Argentina went on to win the match and a few weeks later won the World Cup. The goal became known as the “Hand of God” goal.

Although we know now Maradona cheated to score that infamous goal in 1986, he wasn’t caught at the time. It’s not considered cheating if you don’t get caught, right?

Joe Niekro caught scuffing baseballs with sandpaper and an emery board

One of the more hilarious incidents of cheating came courtesy of Minnesota Twins pitcher Joe Niekro. In 1987, Niekro was ejected from a game for carrying sandpaper and an emery board to scuff baseballs.

In a desperate attempt to dump the evidence, Niekro pulled the emery board out of his back pocket and quickly flicked it out of sight. However, one of the umpires witnessed Niekro’s cover-up attempt and tossed him from the game.

Niekro was suspended 10 games, and he retired the next year.

Patrick Reed improves his lie in a bunker

Patrick Reed is one of the most polarizing golfers on the PGA Tour. From his Ryder Cup drama with Jordan Spieth to uttering a gay slur after missing a putt, Reed has created drama in the golf world for years.

Last year in the 2019 Hero World Challenge, Reed actually got caught on camera improving his lie in a bunker. Reed swiped the sand away from his ball to give himself an easier shot, and he was caught on camera and penalized two strokes.

Reed maintained that he didn’t cheat on purpose, but not many fans or even other players believed him.

Mike Tyson bites part of Evander Holyfield’s ear off

Every boxing fan knows of the infamous Mike Tyson ear bite. Whether you consider the incident cheating or just an inexcusable act of anger, Tyson’s biting of Evander Holyfield’s ear during a fight is one of the most bizarre events in the history of boxing.

Tyson was disqualified for the bite and Holyfield was named the victor of the fight. It will forever be remembered as the most egregious cheating moment in sports history.