29+ Athletes Who Were Punished for Misconduct


| LAST UPDATE 07/26/2023

By Riley Hammond

Even in the world of sports, talent sometimes meets controversy. Sometimes, athletes even face fines or punishments for their behavior during events. Here a few of the most notorious cases in history.

Alex Rodriguez

Rodriguez got hit with a curveball in 2014 - not on the diamond, but off it. It resulted in an entire season-long suspension, a first in the annals of MLB, all thanks to the notorious Biogenesis scandal.

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A-Rod, a legend in his own right, found himself caught up in a whirlwind of controversy. The whispers of performance-enhancing substance use became roars, echoing throughout the halls of the MLB and beyond. His reputation, once gleaming like a well-polished trophy, was now clouded with suspicion and doubt.

Ndamukong Suh

Now, there's a name that's stirred up some chatter in the NFL. You see, Suh's playing style is… let's call it 'passionate'. But with passion sometimes comes a little too much heat. Suh's been slapped with fine after fine. Why, you ask? Well, his on-field antics are a tad more aggressive than your average player.

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Ndamukong Suh has been known for stomping, kicking, and a general disregard for sportsmanlike conduct. His reputation in the NFL? Controversial, to say the least. But hey, nobody can deny that when Suh steps on the field, he makes sure everyone knows it.

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Rajon Rondo

Anyone else remember Rajon Rondo's incident in 2012? Oh boy, that was a doozy! Rondo, with his fiery temperament, has always been a bit of a hot-head on the court. But that year, things really heated up. During a game, Rondo got into a fiery exchange with a referee, and let's just say it didn't end well.

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Jason Miller / Contributor via Getty Images

The NBA slapped him with a two-game suspension. Talk about a time out! The incident wasn't just a blip on Rondo's record, though. It sparked a whole debate about player-referee relationships in the NBA. It made us all question: Where should we draw the line between passion and respect in the game?

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John Terry

Imagine being at the top of your game, a soccer legend, only to face a significant hurdle. This was the reality for Chelsea's John Terry in 2012. Amidst a fiercely competitive match against Queens Park Rangers, things got heated and words were exchanged with Anton Ferdinand.

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Anna Gowthorpe/Shutterstock

Accusations of racial abuse surfaced, casting a long shadow over Terry's stellar career. The verdict? Guilty. The punishment? A four-match ban and a whopping £220,000 fine. It was a sobering moment, not just for Terry, but for the entire soccer community.

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Aqib Talib

Do you remember that peculiar incident in 2015 involving Aqib Talib? Now, there's a story that's hard to forget! It was during a game, when out of the blue, Talib found himself in a bit of an odd situation. He was caught on camera poking Dwayne Allen's eye. Yes, an eye-poke!

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Amid all the controversy surrounding the incident, the NFL was quick to respond. They handed Talib a one-game suspension. A stern reminder that no matter how high the stakes, sportsmanship should never take a backseat. Quite the eye-opener, wouldn't you agree?

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Shaun Rogers

Shaun Rogers was a rising star in the NFL, his future looking as bright as the stadium lights. Then, out of nowhere, a hurdle appeared. In 2006, Rogers was handed a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances. It was a moment that sent shockwaves through the sporting world.

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Mark Cunningham / Contributor via Getty Images

This wasn't just a setback, it was a shock to the system, a wake-up call reverberating through the football community. It's about understanding that real victory isn't just about winning games, but about how you play them. Guess sometimes the best way forward is always the honest way...

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Raffi Torres

Hockey fans around the world will remember that this moment in NHL history was quite the talking point. Torres, an otherwise commendable player, found himself on the wrong side of the headlines. He was handed a whopping 41-game suspension - the longest in NHL history!

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Rocky W. Widner/NHL / Contributor via Getty Images

The reason? An illegal hit to the head during a game. It was a moment that had fans and players alike holding their breaths. But this incident did more than just sideline Torres. It sparked a flurry of debates about player safety in the sport. Aggressive play vs. player welfare - a fine line? Just might be so...

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Johnathan Paplebon

This incident involving Jonathan Papelbon and Bryce Harper suddenly turned the Nationals dugout, usually a place of camaraderie, into an arena of conflict. Papelbon, a seasoned pitcher, and Harper, a star hitter, found themselves in a heated exchange.

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It was not just a war of words, things escalated quickly with Papelbon grabbing Harper by the neck. It was a moment that left fans and players alike stunned. But here's the kicker: the MLB didn't take this lightly. They handed Papelbon a notable seven-game suspension, making it clear that such behavior was unacceptable.

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Pacman Jones

Known for his agility and speed on the field, Pacman Jones found himself in a different kind of spotlight - one that was far from the cheers and applause of the NFL audience. The incident took place in a Las Vegas nightclub, where instead of dodging opponents, Jones found himself navigating a confrontation that escalated quickly.

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This was not a game-time error that could be rectified with a few good plays. No, this was serious. The NFL took note and responded with a significant sanction: a year-long suspension. It was a jolting wake-up call for everyone, a clear sign that athletes are role models both on and off the field.

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Denis Shapovalov

So, here's what went down. Denis Shapovalov, an incredible tennis talent, was in the heat of a Davis Cup match when an unexpected incident occurred. In a moment of frustration, he hit a ball that unintentionally smacked the umpire. Now, this wasn't part of the game plan, obviously.

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Javier Garcia/Shutterstock

The result? An unfortunate disqualification for Shapovalov. It was one of those intense moments in sports where things just don't go as planned. It underlined how crucial self-control can be in these high-pressure games. But hey, we're all human, right?

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Zinedine Zidane

Alright, let's take a trip down memory lane. The year was 2006 and the stage was set for the World Cup final. On one side, we had Zinedine Zidane, a French soccer maestro, playing his last professional match. Now, here's where things took a turn. In a surprising twist, Zidane ended up headbutting Marco Materazzi.

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Christian Liewig - Corbis / Contributor via Getty Images

Yeah, you heard it right - a headbutt in the middle of the world's biggest soccer event. This shocked viewers all around the globe and led to Zidane getting a red card. It was a jaw-dropping moment, no doubt. Looks like intense emotions and high stakes can make things unpredictable sometimes.

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Kermit Washington

Rewinding even farther back to 1977: a year that left an indelible mark on Kermit Washington's career. An NBA game was in full swing and suddenly, an on-court brawl broke out. Amidst the chaos, Washington landed a single punch on Rudy Tomjanovich. This wasn't just any punch though.

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It was so severe, it almost put an end to Tomjanovich's career right there and then. As for Washington? Well, he got hit with a 60-day suspension. Now, it's important to remember that this moment doesn't define him entirely. After all, sports can get heated and things can escalate quickly.

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Aaron Rodgers

Super Bowl champ Aaron Rodgers found himself in a bit of a pickle back in 2021, when he attended a Halloween party and ended up facing a $14,650 fine. Why, you ask? Well, it turns out that the party was a violation of the NFL's COVID-19 protocols. Yep, even off the field, the rules apply.

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Now, remember, this isn't about pointing fingers or placing blame. It's simply an example of how seriously the NFL was taking health and safety during those unprecedented times. And Rodgers? Well, he's still the same top-tier quarterback we all know and admire.

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Urban Meyer

In the 2020 offseason, NFL coach Urban Meyer found himself on the receiving end of a $100,000 fine. Why? Well, it turns out he had a bit of a mishap with the NFL's contact rules. In the world of sports, it seems even coaches can find themselves in hot water.

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Icon Sportswire / Contributor via Getty Images

Meyers had inadvertently breached the NFL's contact rules, which regulate the interaction between teams and players outside of the season. This misstep didn't go unnoticed by the NFL authorities. The repercussion? A steep fine of $100,000 was levied on Meyer. Yikes!

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McLaren Formula One Team

Back in 2007, in the adrenaline-fueled world of Formula One, McLaren, a team synonymous with speed and precision, found themselves in an unexpected controversy. They were accused of spying on their rival team, Ferrari - a serious breach in this fiercely competitive sport. The consequences were severe.

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McLaren was slapped with a staggering $100 million fine, the largest in F1 history. This event sent shockwaves through the F1 community, highlighting the intense rivalry and high stakes involved in the sport. Despite this scandal, McLaren remains one of the most successful teams in F1 history.

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Mike Tyson

Mike Tyson certainly needs no introduction. One of the most formidable fighters of his time, he famously faced off against Evander Holyfield back in 1997. But this wasn't just any match - it became notorious for one jaw-dropping moment. In a move that stunned spectators worldwide, Tyson bit off a piece of Holyfield's ear.

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The incident led to Tyson's immediate disqualification from the match. This event, as shocking as it was, cast a shadow over Tyson's otherwise impressive career in professional boxing. Despite this controversy, however, Tyson remains an iconic figure in the world of boxing.

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Lance Armstrong

Cycling legend Lance Armstrong's journey is one of the most dramatic in sports history. He was the celebrated winner of seven Tour de France titles, an unprecedented feat. However, a shocking revelation turned his world upside down. Armstrong admitted to doping, a serious violation of sports ethics.

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The consequences were dire - he was stripped of all his Tour de France titles and received a lifetime ban from professional cycling. This event marked one of the most significant falls from grace in sports history. Despite this, Armstrong's story serves as a powerful lesson about integrity in sports.

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Novak Djokovic

Even tennis superstar Novak Djokovic can lose his cool. At Wimbledon 2023, he got slapped with a £6,117 fine for smashing his racquet—ouch! It all went down during the nerve-wracking final against Spain's young gun, Carlos Alcaraz. After Djokovic's serve got broken in the fifth set, he let his frustration out on the poor racquet.

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Tim Clayton - Corbis / Contributor via Getty Images

Part of the crowd responded with boos, but Alcaraz? He simply used the drama as fuel to drive his game to a thrilling victory. In a surprising turn of events, the tennis ace has decided to sit out the upcoming ATP 1000 event in Toronto. It seems like this defeat, combined with fatigue, has led to his decision to take a breather.

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Maria Sharapova

The world of tennis saw an unexpected twist in 2016. Maria Sharapova, renowned for her powerful game and fierce determination, found herself at the center of a controversy. At the Australian Open, she tested positive for a substance that was banned in the sports game.

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This revelation shocked fans and players alike, casting a shadow on Sharapova's otherwise stellar career. The consequence was severe - a two-year ban from the sport she loved and had excelled in. Despite this setback, Sharapova's talent and contribution to the sport remain undeniable.

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Serena Williams

Remember the 2018 US Open final? It was a match that became unforgettable for reasons beyond tennis. Serena Williams found herself in a controversial situation. Williams' emotional outburst during the match led to her being penalized for three code violations, culminating in a hefty $17,000 fine.

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The incident sparked widespread debate, with many questioning whether double standards were at play in the predominantly male-dominated world of tennis. Today, Williams remains a powerhouse in the sport, continually pushing boundaries and advocating for equality.

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Luis Suarez

In the 2014 World Cup, the world witnessed an event as shocking as it was unprecedented. During a heated match against Italy, Luis Suarez bit defender Giorgio Chiellini. This act of aggression stunned spectators worldwide. FIFA swiftly responded, imposing a four-month ban on Suarez.


This incident went down in history as one of soccer's most infamous moments, highlighting the importance of sportsmanship in the face of intense competition. Despite this controversy, Suarez's talent on the pitch is undeniable, and he continues to be an influential figure in the sport.

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Diego Maradona

Soccer fans around the world surely remember one particularly heartbreaking moment in the 1994 World Cup that went down in soccer history. Diego Maradona, arguably one of the most talented players the sport has ever seen, faced a career-altering setback. He tested positive for ephedrine, a substance banned in professional sports.

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This revelation led to his immediate expulsion from the competition, casting a gloomy shadow over his career. Nevertheless, Maradona's exceptional talent and contributions to soccer cannot be understated. He remains an iconic figure, eternally etched in the annals of the beautiful game.

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Ryan Lochte

Ryan Lochte, an accomplished swimmer, found himself in a whirlpool of controversy in the 2015 Rio Olympics. Lochte falsely claimed that he was robbed at gunpoint, a story that quickly unraveled and caused a global stir. This untrue tale led to a significant penalty - a 10-month suspension from swimming.

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While the suspension was a setback, it served as a stark reminder of the repercussions of dishonesty in sports. Despite this controversy, Lochte has gone on to make many achievements in the pool. His talent and dedication to swimming are undeniable, underscoring his prominence in the sport.

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Jon Jones

2015 was a time that saw a dominant figure in UFC face a significant career setback. Jon Jones, known for his remarkable skills in the octagon, found himself at the center of a controversy. He was involved in a hit-and-run incident, an event that led to serious repercussions.

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The UFC took swift action, stripping Jones of his title and suspending him indefinitely. This marked an unfortunate low point in the career of one of the sport's most talented athletes. Despite this, Jones' story serves as a reminder of the importance of personal responsibility and integrity, both in and out of the sporting arena.

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Ben Johnson

At the 1988 Olympics, the stage was set for triumph but was ultimately overshadowed by scandal. Ben Johnson, a sprinter with phenomenal speed, broke the world record. However, the euphoria was short-lived. Johnson tested positive for steroids, a revelation that shocked the athletic community.

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This doping scandal resulted in him being stripped of his gold medal, a severe penalty that highlighted the rigid anti-doping regulations in athletics. Despite this controversy, Johnson's talent as a sprinter is undeniable. His story remains a potent lesson in the history of sports ethics.

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Vontaze Burfict

Moving on to the 2019 NFL season, a time that saw a prominent player face severe disciplinary action. Vontaze Burfict, known for his aggressive style on the field, was handed a significant penalty. After multiple helmet-to-helmet hits, deemed dangerous in the sport, he was suspended for the remainder of the season.

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This punishment signified more than just a personal setback for Burfict. The incident highlighted the league's commitment to protecting its athletes and maintaining the integrity of the game. But Burfict's skill as a football player is still undeniable and his story remains a significant part of NFL history.

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Ron Artest

One of the NBA's most infamous incidents took place in 2004 the "Malice at the Palace" brawl. At the heart of this incident was Ron Artest, who later changed his name to Metta World Peace. Known for his impressive basketball skills and competitive nature, Artest found himself in the middle of a major controversy.

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The brawl, which shockingly involved both players and spectators, resulted in severe consequences. Artest was handed an 86-game suspension, marking one of the longest in the history of basketball. Luckily for him, Artest's undeniable talent and passion for basketball hasn't been overlooked, despite the regrettable incident.

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Adrian Peterson

Let's delve into the 2014 NFL season, a time marked by controversy involving one of its star players. Adrian Peterson, a renowned running back known for his impressive skills on the field, faced a significant personal and professional setback. He was indicted on child abuse charges, a grave accusation that led to immediate repercussions.

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The NFL took decisive action, suspending Peterson for the remainder of the season. This incident served as a reminder that athletes, while celebrated for their talents, are also expected to uphold certain standards of behavior off the field. Despite this challenging chapter, Peterson's contributions to the game remain noteworthy.

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Tonya Harding

Let's step onto the ice of 1994, a year that saw one of the most shocking incidents in sports history. Tonya Harding, a skilled figure skater with a competitive spirit, found herself embroiled in a scandal that would forever tarnish her career. She was implicated in an orchestrated attack on fellow skater Nancy Kerrigan.

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The tale of rivalry between the two had escalated far beyond acceptable limits. The U.S. Figure Skating Association responded by imposing a lifetime ban on Harding, a severe consequence that underscored the gravity of her actions. However, despite the unfortunate scandal, Harding's talent on the ice is undeniable.

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Shoaib Akhtar

Let's take a look at the world of cricket, where Shoaib Akhtar, a player known for his fiery temper and exceptional speed, made headlines for all the wrong reasons. During a heated altercation, Akhtar lost control and hit his teammate, Mohammad Asif, with a bat.

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This shocking incident led to severe consequences. The Pakistan Cricket Board took immediate action, banning Akhtar for 13 matches and imposing a hefty fine. Despite this unfortunate incident, Akhtar's talent and contributions to cricket have been significant. professional sports.

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Eric Cantona

In 1995, soccer history was marked by an infamous incident involving Eric Cantona, a renowned player celebrated for his skills. During a match, Cantona responded to an insulting fan with a shocking 'kung-fu' kick, an act that stunned spectators and players alike.

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This display of aggression resulted in an eight-month ban, underscoring the severe consequences of such behavior. This incident served as a potent reminder of the importance of composure in professional sports, even when faced with provocation. Despite this notorious event, Cantona's talent on the field is undeniable.

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