Star athletes live what many would consider the epitome of “the good life.” They take home a boatload of cash every year, they live in beautiful houses, drive fancy cars—the world is their oyster. The problem is, all that money, power and freedom can sometimes be a recipe for disaster. We’ve seen it happen time and time again: an all-star getting caught up in the mess that comes with success, and losing it all. Grab your tissues, fellas. Here are seven star athletes who fell from grace in ridiculous ways.
1. Aaron Hernandez: Aaron Hernandez seemed to have it all. An All-American from the University of Florida, Hernandez made a name for himself playing tight end for the New England Patriots for three successful seasons; he was even a Pro Bowl pick in 2011. When his contract was extended for the 2012 season, Hernandez cut a $12.5-million signing bonus (the largest ever given to an NFL tight end), and was scheduled to cash out at $40 million at the end of five years. That all came to a halt in June 2013, when Hernandez was officially charged with first degree murder over the shooting death of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd. In April 2015, he was found guilty, and he was ultimately sentenced to life in prison without parole.
2. Oscar Pistorius: The story of Oscar Pistorious’ rise to fame is nothing short of inspiring. After having both legs amputated below the knee at 11 years old, Pistorius eventually became the first amputee in history to win a non-disabled world track medal for his work at the 2011 World Championships in Athletics. His performance was so impressive that he was invited to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics. Pistorius’ dreams of being a world-class sprint runner were coming true despite the odds stacked against him. His success didn’t stop him, however, from fatally shooting his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day in 2013, which led to his subsequent arrest and conviction of culpable homicide. Though he only received a six-year sentence for the heinous murder, Pistorius’ career is undoubtedly over.
3. Lance Armstrong: Even if you don’t give a single shit about competitive cycling, you know about Lance Armstrong and his inspiring story. Not only did he win the Tour de France seven consecutive times—all of which after a serious battle with (and victory over) testicular cancer—he also founded the Livestrong Foundation to help other cancer survivors. For years, he was the world’s sweetheart. Like, from 1999 to 2005, when Jesus Christ prayed, he prayed to Lance Armstrong. But, in 2012, Armstrong was permanently banned from sanctioned Olympic sports after it was discovered that he’d been using performance-enhancing drugs—not just once or twice, but for years—crushing the hearts of many all over the world. He had all of his medals stripped, lost all his endorsements, and now owns a coffee and bike shop in Austin, Texas. Lol.
4. Barry Bonds: You can’t even have a conversation about fallen sports stars without at least mentioning the cluster fuck that was Barry Bonds’ now-legendary steroids scandal. Between his tenure with both the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants, Bonds spent 22 whole seasons playing baseball. His incredible record included seven NL MVP awards, along with 14 All-Star selections. Bonds placed within the top five hitters in the league in 12 of his 17 seasons, and even today, is considered a legend among baseball aficionados. However, in 2003, Bonds was catapulted from his pedestal when he became a key figure in the MLB steroid scandal. It was basically accepted knowledge at the time that Bonds was guilty of doping, but the real legal trouble didn’t get to Bonds until 2007, when he was indicted on four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice in relation to the case. Even though Bonds’ conviction was eventually overturned in 2015, his career was over. In fact, in August of that year, Bonds filed (and lost) a court case against the MLB after he accused the league of colluding against him to keep him from finding a team to play for.
5. Tiger Woods: At one point in his career, Tiger Woods was considered the best golfer, and he was definitely a shoe-in for the “Best Golfer in the History of Golfers” award, too. But in 2009, after his extramarital affair with nightclub manager Rachel Uchitel came to light, things changed almost overnight. Days after the Uchitel scandal broke, Woods was involved in a one-man accident after leaving his house in the middle of the night and smashing into a fire hydrant. He smoothed that over quickly, only to have over a dozen more women come public about the various affairs Woods engaged in with them. His wife left him, he lost all of his most lucrative sponsorship deals (save for Nike and EA), and he quit the sport indefinitely as a result. Woods eventually bounced back and returned to golf but, to this day, his game is nothing like it was.
6. Michael Vick: As it happens, nobody in the world except Philadelphia Eagles fans give a shit about how good you are at football if you’re also a convicted animal abuser. At least, that’s what we learned from star NFL quarterback Michael Vick. Vick played 13 incredible seasons in the NFL, including six for the Atlanta Falcons. While he proved a major asset to the Falcons’ lineup, Vick was released from the team following his controversial 2007 conviction for his involvement in a dog fighting ring. He spent 21 months in jail for his transgressions and, when he got out, he was picked up by the Eagles, where he played five more seasons (Ugh, God damn it, Philadelphia. Seriously?!). While he was able to continue playing ball after he was released from jail, his reputation to his fans and sponsors never even remotely recovered. Today, if you ask people about Michael Vick, the story is pretty much the same: “Dude was a great ball player, but I hope he rots in hell for what he did to those dogs.”
7. War Machine: This one may or may not be cheating, not because his career and life aren’t completely ruined (they are), but because it’s debatable as to how successful War Machine was in the first place. Anyway, Jonathan Paul Koppenhaver (who legally changed his name to War Machine) was an MMA fighter who competed everywhere from The Ultimate Fighter, to Bellator MMA, Tachi Palace Fights, the XFC and BAMMA. He was also a part-time porn star, where he met his beautiful girlfriend, Christy Mack. However, after an August 2008 assault on Mack that resulted in 18 broken bones, a broken nose, missing teeth, a ruptured liver and a fractured rib, War Machine lost everything. In fact, things got so bad for the disgraced fighter that he was sentenced to life in prison (with eligibility of parole after 36 years) for his abusive tendencies. Needless to say, he lost all his sponsorships, was dropped from Bellator MMA, and was considered a disgrace to the sport. Boom! How’s that for a slice of fried fucking gold?