Stirring the melting pot with a sprinkling of controversy...

Stirring the melting pot with a sprinkling of controversy...

Stirring the melting pot with a sprinkling of controversy...

Nelson Piquet Junior

From Caster Semenya’s gender to Andre Agassi’s flirtations with crystal meth, and Thierry Henry’s ‘Hand of Frog’ to Nelson Piquet Junior’s admission to ‘crash-fixing’, it was almost as if no sport was left untouched by the long, damning shadow of scandal.
Semenya won South Africa a famous 800M gold at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin, but she has since been subjected to the kind of scrutiny that can at best be embarrassing and at worst intensely humiliating. Allegations of the presence of male characteristics have thrown a permanent cloud over the Protean champion. That there is no clarity on the issue even four months after the event hasn’t helped Semenya’s cause or athletics’ image any.

In direct contrast to Semenya’s predicament, Agassi and Serena Williams invited scorn upon themselves through their own actions. Long after his retirement from the international game, Agassi revealed using crystal meth in 1997 when his ranking plummeted to an all-time low, failing a drug test and convincing the Association of Tennis Professionals that the positive test was because his drink was spiked.

Williams was fined a record $175,000 and handed down a suspended three-year ban from the US Open for her abominable tirade against a lady line judge, who foot-faulted her to hand Kim Clijsters match point in the final of the Open, a match the American went on to lose after being penalised a point for that outburst. Williams, who allegedly threatened to ‘kill’ the line judge – among other things – made the previous highest tennis fine of $50,000 slapped on Jeff Tarango appear positively miniscule.

Football attracted its fair share of drama. Argentine legend Diego Maradona was banned for two months and slapped with a $25,000 fine for lashing out at the media after Argentina eventually secured qualification to next year’s World Cup. Under coach Maradona, Argentina threatened not to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1970 before barely scrapping through after a 1-0 win over Uruguay.

 Diego MaradonaA touchline outburst during a television interview was followed by a longer, more foul-mouthed rant at a press conference which was broadcast live on several television channels. FIFA, which took the appropriate measure, was tested again later in the year when Henry clearly handled the ball twice on his way to setting up the winning goal for William Gallas which carried France past Ireland in the play-offs and to the World Cup.

Another action-packed Formula One season was marked by Piquet’s admission that he had been ordered by team boss Flavio Briatore to crash his car at the Singapore Grand Prix in 2008 to help Renault team-mate Fernando Alonso. Briatore was thrown out not just of Renault but also Formula One, but he is now appealing that ruling in a French court.

Earlier in the year, McLaren were given a suspended three-race ban after Lewis Hamilton lied to Stewards about cutting corners in the Australian Grand Prix.
Unrest in the swimming world owed its origin to the revolutionary high tech swim suits introduced in February 2008 that have led to more than 200 new world records being established. After weighing the pros and cons, swimming’s world governing body FINA decreed that from January 1, 2010, only textile suits would be legally admissible. Interestingly, the great Michael Phelps used the textile suit at this year’s World Cup in Berlin, and did not win a single race!