GRACE TO GRASS: 7 Sports Stars Ruined By Scandals, Addictions

GRACE TO GRASS: 7 Sports Stars Ruined By Scandals, Addictions

The Adam Johnson case has highlighted how a hero can turn into zero in double quick time. The once elite footballer is now unemployed and facing jail time after ill-advised trysts with an underage girl.

Johnson's will not be the first case of a top athlete losing everything due to moments of indiscretion or destructive habits, as presented by's IZUCHUKWU OKOSI in this piece…


Mike Tyson was the undisputed heavyweight champion in boxing.

 He was the youngest boxer to win the WBC, WBA and IBF heavyweight titles at 20 years, four months, and 22 days old. Tyson won his first 19 professional bouts by knockout, 12 of them in the first round.

He won the WBC title in 1986 after defeating Trevor Berbick by a technical knockout in the second round. In 1987, Tyson added the WBA and IBF titles after defeating James Smith and Tony Tucker  but Tyson's career was enmeshed in controversy and it virtually destroyed his glittering and record laden career.

Tyson successfully defended the world heavyweight championship nine times, including victories over Larry Holmes and Frank Bruno. In 1990, he lost his titles to underdog James "Buster" Douglas, by knockout in round 10.

But sadly the American apart from his boxing prowess had such vices like women to alcohol, cocaine, drinking and gambling.

Tyson's misdemeanors are captured in his autobiography, Undisputed, where he wrote about his numerous escapades with women and how his other weaknesses ruined his reputation in the sport.

"Sometimes I just fantasize about blowing somebody's brains out so I can go to prison for the rest of my life," he writes.

"Working on this book makes me think that my whole life has been a joke."

Tyson was convicted on February 11, 1992 for allegedly raping Desiree Washington, a beauty pageant contestant in Indianapolis – a charge he heatedly denies – and spent three years in prison.

Whilst in prison, he had sex behind bars with his drug counselor after he paid $10,000 to fix her roof as well as female prison visitors.

''I was having so much sex that I was too tired to even to go the gym and work out,' Tyson wrote. 'I'd just stay in my cell all day."

His career saw him earn over $300m but he still became broke and ran uo huge debts.

Tyson's marital life also lacked trust and respect. He called his wife Robin Givens "a manipulative shrew" for making him act like a trained puppy.

Tyson suspected his partner of infidelity when he walked into his home and met actor, Brad Pitt, with his wife alone.

"Dude, don't strike me. Don't strike me. We were just going over some lines," Pitt pleaded with Tyson. The marriage never lasted as they parted ways.

The boxer married another woman, Monica Turner, and as suspected their union ended in acrimony.

Tyson called home one faithful day and told his wife he had AIDS.

Monica Turner understandably did not wait for the supposed deadly virus to become a life sentence before she filled for divorce

But Tyson later admitted to the media he was never suffering from the disease neither did he have HIV.

"I guess she had enough of my fooling around because I sure did a lot of it. Calling to tell her I had AIDS probably didn't help either."

Tyson was so rich that he forgot a suitcase that contained $1 million in cash at a night club, only to have one of his many minions find it a week later.

"I had had a rough night in the city and had forgotten where I left it," Tyson said.

Tyson who turns 50 in 2016 has tried to rebuild his damaged reputation by trying his hands in acting and he featured in the hit comedy Hangover. He also undertook a one-man show telling his own story, which was well received.

Tyson's Boxing record
Total fights: 58
Wins: 50
Wins by KO: 44
Losses: 6


On Saturday, February 6, 2016, Adam Johnson scored a fantastic free kick for Sunderland, bending the ball into the bottom right corner and out of the reach of  Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, in a 2-2 draw but the former England star now faces a jail term for a three-count charge of  sexual activity with a 15-year-old child and one of grooming.

Johnson, on February 10, 2016, admitted one of the child sex charges and the grooming charge. The teenage girl cannot be named for legal reasons.

Quite curiously the player's girlfriend Stacey Flounders has stood by him since his arrest.

Johnson will be sentenced for the crimes – which carry a maximum jail term of two and a half years – after the conclusion of his trial on the two remaining charges.

Johnson's partner Stacey Flounders – mother to their one-year-old girl – was present in court,  and sat alongside Johnson's father. Johnson had initially denied all four charges against him.

The teenage girl cried as she told the court of how her relationship with Johnson began after she sent him a friend request on Facebook.

“He knew when my birthday was,” she said when asked by the court if he knew her age. “He knew when I was going to turn 16, and he asked what year I was in at school. I told him I was in Year 10.”

She further told the police: “He said ‘can I have my thank you kiss’ and then I said ‘aye, go on then’ and he was kissing me for quite a while.”

“He put his hand down my trousers and started putting his hand down my knickers and that went on for quite a while. “He put my hand on his penis in his trousers if that makes sense. I said ‘don’t you have to go’ and he said ‘no, I will be all right’, it was getting slightly awkward.”

Johnson's contract with Sunderland has been terminated, leaving him unemployed and facing jail time.

As expected, his endorsement by Adidas was  also terminated as a result of the scandalous act of the forward.

Manchester City
FA Cup: 2010–11
Premier League: 2011–12
FA Community Shield: 2012

Johnson also won the North- East Football Writers' Young Player of the Year in 2009.



Former Super Eagles of Nigeria defender Godwin Okpara was arrested in 2005 in Paris after a few weeks of holidays in Lagos and was jailed for rape of his adopted daughter, Awawu Simon, who was renamed Tina Okpara. He regained his freedom in January 2013.

One of the Nigerian stars at the Scotland '89 FIFA U-17 World Cup, Okpara was a player of Belgian side Standard Liege and was behind bars for seven years.

The former Super Eagles defender was freed after he won an appeal against the verdict reducing the jail term from 13 years to seven.

Okpara who was tipped to become one of the best football talents by Arantes Dos Nascimento (Pele) following his exploits at Scotland '89 and was part of the Super Eagles squad at the France '98 World Cup, claimed he was jailed for a crime he did not commit.

The former PSG centre-back stated he was implicated by his wife, Linda, who called in the police to arrest him on allegation of raping their adopted daughter who was believed to be under-aged at that time.

"I was never privy to her coming to France as my wife didn’t put me in the picture as I was busy with club football in Europe,” the former Nigerian international clarified during his trials.

The crux of the problem in the Okpara family case was, allegedly,  as a result of infidelity on the path of Godwin's wife who allegedly engaged in extra-marital affairs.

Consequently Okpara allegedly began sleeping with Awawu and with a plan to divorce his wife and marry the young girl when he settles down in Qatar where a lucrative club deal was waiting for him.

Linda Okpara was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for her involvement in Awawu's ordeal.

On that fateful day in 2005 when Godwin was arrested, he was in the bedroom with Awawu when his estranged wife called in police and accused her husband of raping the young girl.

On arrival, when the police officers asked the girl to confirm if the accusation was true, she kept quiet and started crying.

The French Police interpreted the silence to mean 'yes' and Godwin was taken away and kept in custody until he was tried, found guilty and sentenced to 13 years imprisonment.

“I was forced to use the lawyer provided by the French government. I didn’t see anybody at that trying moment, not even my manager, Mr. Evra, who was also Victor Ikpeba’s manager.

"It was a lost situation. I pleaded not guilty but they didn’t listen to me as they had their mind made up to jail me. The only thing I have left are my houses in Ikeja and Okota," Okpara told media upon his release.

FIFA U-17 World Cup: Quarter Finals
FIFA 1998 World Cup Round of 16

            GEORGE BEST
Manchester United legend George Best was considered as the British answer to Pele as his footballing talent was immense.

“George Best was the greatest player in the world," Brazilian football legend, Pele, was once quoted as saying.

Best responded to the compliment: “Pelé called me the greatest footballer in the world. That is the ultimate salute to my life.”

Best who won the European Cup with the Red Devils in 1968 and was the European Footballer of the Year and Football Writers (FWA) Footballer of the Year awards died in 2005, aged 59, due to complications from the immuno-suppressive drugs he needed to take after a liver transplant in 2002.

 The story goes that a scout spotted his immense talent and telegrammed United manager Matt Busby which read: "I think I've found you a genius."

After making his debut for United aged 17, he scored 179 goals from 470 appearances over 11 years, and was the club's top goalscorer in the league for five consecutive seasons.

One of the greatest dribblers of all time, his playing style combined pace, skill, balance, feints, two-footedness, goalscoring and the ability to beat defenders.

But Best's best days as a footballer are not remembered now that he is dead. What is being recalled is his life off the football field.

"I spent a lot of money on booze, birds (women) and fast cars – the rest I just squandered."

Best suffered from alcoholism for most of his adult life, leading to numerous controversies and, eventually, his death.

In 1981, while playing in the United States, Best stole money from the handbag of a woman he did not know in order to fund a drinking session.

"We were sitting in a bar on the beach, and when she got up to go to the toilet, I leaned over and took all the money she had in her bag."

In 1984, Best received a three-month prison sentence for drunk driving, assaulting a police officer and failing to answer bail. He spent Christmas of 1984 in jail.

In September 1990, Best appeared on the primetime BBC chat show Wogan in which he was heavily drunk and swore, at one point saying to the host, "Terry, I like screwing."

He later apologised and said this was one of the worst episodes of his alcoholism.

After football he spent some time as a football analyst, but his financial and health problems continued into his retirement.

Best was married twice, to two former models, Angie Best and then Alex Best. His son Callum Best was born in 1981 from his first marriage.

On 20 November 2005, the now rested British newspaper, News of the World, published a picture of Best at his own request, showing him in his hospital bed, along with a warning about the dangers of alcohol with his message: "Don't die like me."

Treatment was stopped five days later as he died from complications arising from lung infections. His immune system was said to have 'switched off' then!

Diego Maradona was football and football was Diego Maradona.

The Argentine superstar held the world spellbound with his football artistry during his playing days. He was called all sorts of endearing nicknames like "The Golden Boy", "Half Angel, Half Devil" etc for his supreme ability on the ball.

From the 1979 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Tunisia to the 1986 World Cup in Mexico where he led the Albeceleste to winning the World Cup, Maradona proved to be the best player in the game with his amazing dribbles, feints, pace and vision. He was the quintessential number 10.

In the 1986 World Cup quarter final, he scored both goals in a 2–1 victory over England that entered football history for two different reasons.

The first goal was an unpenalized handling of the ball in the eighteen yard box which was later called the "Hand of God", while the second goal followed a 60m (66 yard) dribble past five England players, voted "The Goal of the Century," by voters in 2002.

Maradona was arguably the biggest football icon of his time. He was simply the poster boy of the beautiful game.

Maradona's magic also took Argentina to the final of the 1990 World Cup in Italy but they were defeated 1-0 in the final by West Germany.

Nigerian football fans will remember Argentina's 2-1 victory over Nigeria at the USA '94 World Cup.

Well, that also marked the beginning of the end of Maradona's career in football because Maradona's vice was his undoing in his career.

Maradona was sent home after failing a drug test for ephedrine doping, after his team defeated Nigeria coached by Clemens Westerhof 2-1 in a Group D game at the Foxborough Stadium on June 25.

In his autobiography, Maradona claimed that the test result was due to his personal trainer giving him the power drink Rip Fuel.

Maradona was addicted to cocaine. He allegedly began using the drug in Barcelona in 1983.

Over the years following his retirement his health seriously deteriorated. On 4 January 2000, while vacationing in Punta del Este, Uruguay, Maradona had to be rushed to the emergency room of a local clinic.

And in a press conference, doctors stated that it was detected heart muscle damage due to "an underlying health issue". It was later known that traces of cocaine were found in his blood and Maradona had to explain the circumstances to the police.

On 18 April 2004, doctors reported that Maradona had suffered a major myocardial infarction following a cocaine overdose; he was admitted to intensive care in a Buenos Aires hospital.

Scores of fans gathered around the clinic. He was taken off the respirator on 23 April same year and remained in intensive care for several days before being discharged six days later.

On 29 March 2007, Maradona was readmitted to a hospital in Buenos Aires. He was treated for hepatitis and effects of alcohol abuse, and was released on 11 April, but re-admitted two days later.

In the following days there were constant rumors about his health, including three false claims of his death within a month.

Maradona was a gift to football but the drugs scandals that trailed his career was a blemish that will put in perspective the question of whether he was the ideal model for the new generation of footballers.

Lance Armstrong ended years of denial by admitting he used performance-enhancing drugs during all seven of his Tour de France wins in a live interview on Oprah Winfrey show.

"I view this situation as one big lie I repeated a lot of times," he said. "I made those decisions, they were my mistake and I'm here to say sorry," Armstrong said in the emotional interview with Winfrey.

Armstrong took performance-enhancing drugs in each of his Tour wins from 1999-2005, it was revealed.

The American did not feel he was cheating at the time and viewed it as a "level playing field" and doping was "part of the process required to win the Tour."

Cycling's governing body the UCI welcomed Armstrong's decision "to come clean and confess", and said the interview had confirmed it was not part of a "collusion or conspiracy".

In 2012, Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France titles after being labelled a "serial cheat" by the Unites States Anti Doping Agency (USADA).

The American was "engaged in serial cheating" and his career at the team was fuelled from start to finish by doping.

More than a dozen former team-mates, friends and former team employees confirmed a fraudulent course of conduct.

Armstrong acted with the help of a small army of enablers, including doping doctors, drug smugglers and others within and outside the sport and his team.

He had ultimate control over not only his own personal drug use but over the doping culture of the team.

Team staff were good at predicting when testers would turn up and seemed to have inside information.

That all changed within seconds of an explosive opening to the interview when Winfrey, one of America's top chat show hosts, demanded yes or no answers.

"Did you ever take banned substances to enhance cycling performance?"

"Yes," came Armstrong's response.

"Was one of those substances EPO?"


"Did you use any other banned substances?"


"All the fault and blame is on me and a lot of that is momentum and I lost myself in all that. I couldn't handle it. The story is so bad and toxic and a lot of it is true."

"I don't want to make any excuses, but that was my view and I made those decisions," Armstrong admitted before crying on air.




United States' 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump athlete Marion Jones was one the of the most revered athletes of her generation but little did the world know that she spiked her system with drugs to achieve fame and fortune.

Until 2007, Jones routinely denied — in almost every way possible and in almost any venue where the question arose — ever being involved with performance enhancers in any way, shape, or form.

One of Jones's frequent statements in her own defence was that she had never tested positive for performance-enhancing substances.

In her autobiography, she blamed the 2002 breakup of her marriage to C.J. Hunter in part on the fact that Hunter had tested positive for steroids four times before the 2000 Olympics, tainting her own drug-free image.

But a pattern of Jones choosing to train with both coaches and athletes who were also being dogged by rumors and accusations of performance-enhancing drugs began to emerge.

And then according to her estranged husband's testimony before a federal grand jury, Jones' use of banned drugs began well before Sydney Olympics.

On October 5, 2007, Jones finally admitted to lying to federal agents under oath about her use of steroids prior to the 2000 Summer Olympics and pleaded guilty.

As a result of these admissions, Jones accepted a two-year suspension from track and field competition issued by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, and announced her retirement from track and field same day.

She broke down in tears during a press conference as she tearfully apologized, saying "With a great amount of shame…I stand before you and tell you that I have betrayed your trust…and you have the right to be angry with me… I have let my country down and I have let myself down."

The US Anti-Doping Agency stated that their sanction "also requires disqualification of all her competitive results obtained after September 1, 2000, and forfeiture of all medals, results, points and prizes."

Former IAAF president Lamine Diack who himself these days have been involved in corruption matters said in a statement that, "Marion Jones will be remembered as one of the biggest frauds in sporting history."

But it was not only drugs that her name was rubbed in the mud.

In July 2006, Jones was linked to a checque-counterfeiting scheme that led to criminal charges against her coach and ex-boyfriend Montgomery.

Documents showed that a $25,000 cheque made out to Jones was deposited in her bank account as part of the alleged multimillion-dollar scheme.