Athletes caught cheating on live TV

If you've ever watched a sport you're passionate about, you know that cheating happens a lot. You've felt the rage when the refs miss a call that truly changes the outcome of a game or match.

Of course, not all acts of cheating are created equal. A baseball player who's caught red-handed using a loaded bat during a game is guilty of a more egregious sin than a hitter who crowds the plate and attempts to shrink the strike zone. Diving, flopping, or whatever you want to call it is visible in just about any sport where athletes make contact with each other. In fact, one of the most famous goals in the history of world soccer would never count in the modern game thanks to technology. However, with cameras everywhere, it's hard for athletes to get away scot-free these days. Whether they escaped official punishment or were ejected from the game, the athletes on this list were all caught dramatically cheating on live TV.

David Luiz said plenty with only a smile

In the spring of 2013, visitors Chelsea were looking to maintain their 1-0 advantage over Manchester United during the closing minutes of a Premier League contest at Old Trafford. As Chelsea defender David Luiz attempted to shield the ball from Manchester United's Rafael da Silva, da Silva made what appeared to be slight contact with Luiz's leg. Luiz immediately fell to the ground and earned the call from the referee's assistant, and referee Howard Webb showed da Silva a red card. The Blues held on for the 1-0 victory.  

However, neither Webb nor his assistant witnessed Luiz's immediate reaction after hitting the floor, one that may have changed their minds and their final rulings. A camera pointed directly at Luiz's face caught him flashing a smile, almost as if the footballer had gotten away with stealing from the figurative cookie jar. According to the Daily Mail, Luiz later claimed that his cheeky smile was intended for United supporters who jeered him throughout the match. Despite being caught on camera, Luiz and Chelsea had the last laugh that afternoon, while legendary United boss Sir Alex Ferguson said Luiz rolled "like a dying swan" in the corner, per The Telegraph

Sammy Sosa was caught cheating with a corked bat

Fair or not, Sammy Sosa's name will always be linked with the so-called MLB "steroid era," largely because of his famous single-season home-run record chase that included fellow slugger Mark McGwire ... and also because Sosa reportedly tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003, per ESPN. Granted, casual fans stopped caring about such stories well into the 2010s. The perception exists that "everybody did it" back in Sosa's day, and the sport's culture during the 1990s and early 2000s resulted in pitchers and hitters alike believing they had to do and use whatever possible to keep up. 

However, Sosa wasn't just using PEDs. During the 2003 campaign, he was caught breaking a direct MLB rule after his bat shattered into multiple pieces during what otherwise would've been a routine groundout. Umpires quickly confiscated portions of Sosa's bat and determined it had been corked. Fans watching on live TV were also able to see where the bat was illegally altered. The umpire crew chief tossed Sosa for his crime, and MLB officials handed the outfielder an eight-game suspension that was reduced to seven following Sosa's appeal

Sosa earning his muscles with the help of something other than spinach was one thing. But swinging a corked bat is completely different, and some will always wonder how often he used one while blasting home runs over walls.

Neymar made headlines for throwing himself to the ground

Brazilian playmaker Neymar should be widely respected and even adored as one of the most brilliant and flashy attackers of his generation. Some, however, will instead remember him as a blatant diver who repeatedly threw himself to the ground during club and international matches in attempts to earn sympathy and fouls. Neymar may not be the worst diver in the history of world football, but his superstar status coupled with his tendency to go down on the sport's biggest stages earn him a mention here. 

Neymar's biggest contributions to the 2018 World Cup involved what outlets such as Radio-Culture referred to as "petulance" and "play-acting." It often felt as if nearly every one of Neymar's attacking runs ended with him flopping to the turf before completing several on-the-pitch rolls that left viewers and non-Brazilian fans fuming. As explained by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, one of Neymar's more offensive and hilarious dives sparked Internet memes that went viral and birthed the creation of an online "Neymar challenge." 

Diving is hardly new to the game, but footballers from past generations didn't have to worry about high-definition cameras catching and spotlighting such gamesmanship. One hope is video assistant referees (VARs) will cause players to think differently about how, or if, they embrace these simulation tactics. 

Marty McSorley's stick changed the 1993 Stanley Cup Final

The Los Angeles Kings defeated the Montreal Canadiens to win Game 1 of the 1993 Stanley Cup Final on the road, and the Kings held a 2-1 advantage with under two minutes to play in Game 2 when the Montreal bench called for the refs to inspect the stick belonging to Los Angeles defenseman Marty McSorley. Montreal challenged that the stick's curve was beyond what the NHL allowed at the time. As television cameras zoomed in to the official measurement, all could see McSorley was guilty of using an illegal stick. The officials sent McSorley to the penalty box, the hosts scored on the power play to send the game to overtime, and Montreal won the game and then the subsequent three straight contests to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup. 

As explained by NHL.com, the stick in question became a part of hockey history and postseason folklore. As the story goes, McSorley knew well before the measurement that his blade wasn't legal. However, there were also accusations of wrongdoing by the Canadiens and by Montreal police officers who may have aided the hometown team in measuring sticks that fateful evening. Gaetan Lefebvre, Montreal's athletic therapist that spring, denied his club's involvement in any "Stickgate" scandal. 

Joe Niekro couldn't hide the evidence

For just about as long as professional baseball has existed, pitchers have looked to doctor, or scuff, baseballs to cause them to dip or otherwise change direction mid-pitch. After all, a famous adage teaches that it's only cheating if you get caught. That's how we know that pitcher Joe Niekro was cheating in August 1987

Niekro was pitching for the Minnesota Twins versus the California Angels when the home plate umpire asked for the pitcher to return a baseball toward home plate. The umpiring crew then requested to inspect Niekro's glove and for him to empty anything in his pockets. Niekro eventually reached into his back right pocket and attempted to toss an emery board onto the field unnoticed. The umpires did notice, though, and Niekro was awarded an early trip to the showers. That highlight became an infamous sports blooper. 

Per Sports Illustrated, MLB suspended Niekro for ten games after he tried to explain that he used the board and sandpaper "to file my nails between innings." We recommend pitchers get midweek manicures on their days off.

Rivaldo's acting skills earned him a fine

Had Turkey's Hakan Ünsal either slid the ball toward Brazil's Rivaldo or merely kicked it out of frustration away from opposing players late in the 2002 World Cup match between the two countries, we wouldn't have any reason to talk about that particular match. Instead, Ünal sent the ball flying toward Rivaldo, who was waiting to take a corner kick and then collapsed to the ground, holding his face after the ball made contact. 

Neither the referee nor his assistant saw all that occurred, so they took Rivaldo at his word and dismissed Ünsal from the match. However, one look at the replay showed that the ball struck Rivaldo's right leg and never came close to touching his face, and FIFA later fined him £4,500 for the simulation. 

According to The Guardian, Rivaldo was unrepentant after he received the punishment. "It may not have hit my face, but the Turkish player should not have done that in the first place," he said. "I was glad to see the red card. ... There's too much foul play and violence in football. It doesn't matter where the ball hit me. It was only the intent that mattered."

Mikko Rantanen has fallen on the ice multiple times

While NHL "goons" were extinct long before the start of the 2010s, we still envision hockey players as large and tough individuals who aren't afraid to get into fistfights on the ice and who play through scary injuries during the postseason. For non-diehard fans who maybe attend one game per season and who watch hardly any hockey until the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the idea of players mimicking international footballers and diving is completely foreign. 

It does happen, though, and the worst of the bunch make for lowlights that get airplay on broadcasts that otherwise ignore the sport. For example, on November 14, 2018, Colorado Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen attempted to skate away from Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins in the final minute of the second period. Bergeron's stick made contact with Rantanen, who reacted by throwing his arms up into the air and sliding as if attempting to steal second base during an MLB contest. Bergeron was whistled for the penalty, but Rantanen was also booked for the dive. 

One week later, the NHL fined Rantanen for his shameful flop. It was the second time that season he'd violated the league's rule regarding embellishment. 

Tony Romo tried to cheat his way to a first down

With 42 seconds remaining in the November 3, 2013 game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Minnesota Vikings, Dallas quarterback Tony Romo dropped back and delivered a touchdown pass caught by Dwayne Harris, and the Cowboys held on for a 27-23 home victory. Dallas finished that campaign with an 8-8 record, though, so we don't blame any fans for forgetting about that scoring play. 

Instead, the highlight from that fall day remains a humorous moment involving Romo trying to cheat his way into a first down. With the Cowboys leading 20-17 halfway through the third quarter, Dallas came up shy of earning a first down. Romo didn't accept that result even before the chain gang ran onto the field for a measurement, and the Dallas signal-caller gently tapped the ball forward with his foot as referees appeared distracted by other players. 

As Bleacher Report and Business Insider point out, referees and Minnesota players saw Romo's new ball placement, and the Cowboys were forced to punt after a three-and-out. Still, it was worth a shot. Trying to move the ball forward after the play is much safer and easier on the body than attempting a quarterback sneak into the offensive line on a fourth down. 

Luis Suarez has bitten multiple opponents over the years

Luis Suárez was one of the most gifted goal-scoring forwards throughout the 2010s. Suárez earned multiple individual honors during his time with Liverpool, and he was the "S" in the Barcelona "MSN" attacking trio — himself, Lionel Messi, and Neymar — that helped Barça hoist multiple domestic and European trophies. In total, Suárez won La Liga, the Champions League, Copa del Rey, the Club World Cup, and the European Super Cup after completing his move from the Premier League to the Spanish giants in the summer of 2014. 

Before that summer transfer, however, Suárez committed one of the most heinous acts in World Cup history when he chomped down on Italy's Giorgio Chiellini during Uruguay's final match of the group stages. That act, alone, was disgusting, but Suárez followed it up by diving to the ground as if he'd been hit in the mouth. The referee missed what cameras did not, and FIFA banned Suárez from the rest of the tournament and for four months. He didn't play for Uruguay again until March 2016.  

Disturbingly, that was the third time Suárez had bitten an opposing player on the pitch. Following the World Cup incident, former player Glenn Hoddle suggested that governing bodies needed to threaten players like Suárez with lifetime bans.

The NBA fined LeBron James for flopping

Throughout his physical prime, LeBron James was a 6'9", top-tier athlete who often looked more like an NFL tight end or an undersized linebacker than somebody who played both guard positions for championship basketball teams. The King was never the Association's biggest player, but knocking him away from the basketball was likely quite the challenge. Few, if any, could've tossed that version of James to the floor with relative ease, and individuals working within the league's front office in the spring of 2013 agreed with those assessments. 

As explained by Bleacher Report, James and Indiana Pacers forward David West were fined for their roles in a pair of flops on the same play in the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals. James attempted some sort of spin move before he dropped to the ground for reasons that defied gravity and physics, while West also exaggerated following minimal contact. Neither man obtained any real advantage due to their theatrics. They merely lost $5,000 apiece for their efforts. It will likely shock you (sarcasm intended) to learn that such a minimal financial penalty didn't prevent James from embellishing again during games.

Television viewers caught Simon Dyson cheating

Viewers stopping by the channel airing the 2013 BMW Masters probably wouldn't have thought much about Simon Dyson marking his golf ball on the eighth green. That occurs at every tournament, not to mention when random players hit the links for a weekend round with their friends. When Dyson lifted his ball off the green, however, he appeared to tap down spike marks on the playing field's surface, a direct rules violation. 

Those working the event didn't immediately notice anything suspicious. That changed, however, "after [officials] were notified by some viewers who had seen some footage," as European Tour chief referee John Paramor explained to reporters, per the Golf Channel. The Tour disqualified Dyson from the event the next day, according to the rules, all thanks to fans who tattled on the professional. And on top of that, the man was fined $49,000. 

Diego Maradona got away with the 'Hand of God'

It's arguably the most discussed goal in World Cup history. Diego Maradona, the planet's top soccer player and the best man on the pitch during the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal match between Argentina and England, opened the scoring early in the second half with what initially looked like a headed finish that beat England goalkeeper Peter Shilton. Video replays later showed, however, that the diminutive magician used a raised hand to drive the ball past the line. The goal shouldn't have counted, and the referee should've shown Maradona a yellow card for the foul. Video assistant referee wasn't in the minds of those running governing bodies such as FIFA in 1986, though, so the tally stood. 

In July 2017, Maradona admitted to FIFA.com that his goal would've been erased from the scoreboard had VAR existed decades before that system debuted at a World Cup. "Obviously I think about it whenever I show my support for the use of technology," he said. "I thought about it, and sure, that goal wouldn't have stood if technology had been around." 

Later that same match, Maradona produced what is commonly referred to as the "Goal of the Century," one he scored after slicing through the England defense with an all-time great darting run. Per FourFourTwo, England international Gary Lineker, who scored for his country versus Argentina in the 2-1 World Cup loss, later admitted that he "felt like applauding" upon seeing Maradona's moment of athletic genius.