While in Greece in 67, the Roman emperor Nero joined an Olympic chariot race with a team of ten horses rather than the regulation four. “Being thrown out of his chariot,” wrote Suetonius, “he was again replaced but could not retain his seat and was obliged to give up before he reached the goal, but was crowned notwithstanding.”
American athlete Jim Thorpe set a decathlon record at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics but was stripped of his gold medals when it was discovered that he had previously earned a living playing semiprofessional baseball, which was against Olympic rules. With his amateur status lost, Thorpe signed a contract to play baseball for the New York Giants.
By the sixth century, supernatural cheating by means of curses placed on opponents became so commonplace in Roman and Greek racetracks that they lost their shock value. “Among charioteers,” the statesman Cassiodorus wrote of an athlete accused of sorcery, “it is seen as a great honor to attain to such accusations.”
In 2008 the New York Post reported that a Boston Red Sox souvenir jersey had been intentionally placed in the concrete foundation of the new Yankee Stadium by construction worker Gino Castignoli, who hoped to jinx the New York team. Yankees management spent $50,000 to extract the jersey.
In July 1434 the Leonese knight Suero de Quiñones vowed to take on all comers in jousting matches at the Orbigo River. Before he was forced to retire due to injuries (having bested sixty-eight opponents over the course of a month), Suero had several challengers disqualified for secretly using padded saddles to gain a height advantage.
After Kansas City Royals third baseman George Brett hit a game-winning home run in a 1983 game against the New York Yankees, umpires ruled that his bat had been coated with too much pine tar, negating the win. The Royals convinced the American League to order a redo of the final inning, which they won unambiguously.
After Manchester City player Billy Meredith offered a player from an opposing team ten pounds to throw the final league match of the 1905 season, the Football Association suspended Meredith and sixteen teammates. The team’s manager and chairman were banned from any involvement in the sport.
The Japan Sumo Association canceled a March 2011 tournament in Osaka after cell phones confiscated from wrestlers during a police investigation into illegal gambling revealed widespread match fixing. Twenty-five wrestlers were found guilty of match fixing and banned from the sport.