Most Controversial Athletes of 2009

James Cullinane

2009's most controversial athlete, Tiger Woods, flexes his muscles. (Photo courtesy of Kall Sports 700)
2009's most controversial athlete, Tiger Woods, flexes his muscles. (Photo courtesy of Kall Sports 700)


1.  Eldrick “Tiger” Woods.  Entering 2009, Tiger Woods was more admired than he had ever been before.  The former childhood phenom has taken over the golf world since his debut in 1996.  Any of Tiger’s doubters were silenced after his remarkable victory at the 2008 U.S. Open.  Woods barely edged out Rocco Mediate in sudden death for his 14th major championship.  It was not until several days later that Woods revealed that he had been playing for 10 months on a torn ACL and had fractured his left tibia while playing in the U.S. Open.  Tiger Wood’s was no longer the richest and most famous golfer in the world, he was now the richest and most renown athlete in the world. 

In late November of 2009, Tiger Wood’s squeaky clean image took a major hit.  It all started with a car accident in the early morning hours of November 18, 2009.  From here, rumors of adultery and domestic violence spread like wildfire through the media.  Tiger soon admitted his infidelities, and took an indefinite leave of absence from professional golf to focus on improving his relationship with his family.  The world’s best golfer has temporarily given up the sport he loves to focus on becoming a better father, husband, and person.

Amidst all of the buzz around Wood’s marriage came information that could possibly worsen his image even more.  The New York Times reported that during his recovery from ACL surgery, Wood’s had seen a doctor who is now being charged with the illegal distribution of anabolic steroids and Human Growth Hormone (HGH).  This allegation has brought about rumors that Woods has been using such banned substances.  Although these allegations have yet to be proven, they have already harmed the golfer’s previously immaculate image.  Hopefully for Tiger’s sake, it can only get better in 2010. 

2.  Caster Semenya.  This South African Olympian in track and field may be the perfect definition of a controversial athlete.  The 18 year old Semenya was toted as the most promising member of the South African Olympic team in years.  Semenya possessed speed and physique that was very unusual in women’s track and field events.  Semenya’s deep voice and muscular body soon began to raise questions.  Actually, one question was raised:  Could Caster Semenya really be a woman?  After a genetic test revealed that Semenya was indeed a hermaphrodite whose male organs have never been visible, the “Athletics South Africa”, otherwise known as the ASA, came under fire.  They have since admitted that they had previous knowledge of Semenya’s condition and had withheld this information for the advantage of their track and field team. 

3.  Manny Ramirez.  The Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder is no stranger to controversy.  Throughout his career Ramirez’s character and work ethic have been questioned time and time again.  Due to his outstanding ability to hit a baseball, his antics have been written off over the years as “Manny being Manny”, otherwise known as “Manny being selfish”.  After his antics drove Ramirez out of Boston to Los Angeles, he seemed to be on top of his game.  In 2009 Ramirez was suspended by the MLB for 50 games after testing positive for HCG, a fertility hormone taken by steroid users at the end of a steroid cycle.  This caused flurries of fans to question Ramirez’s incredible statistics and many actually questioned the world series championships won by the Red Sox with the help of Ramirez.  In 2009 Ramirez’s already faulty reputation was permanently tarnished with the label of “cheater”.

4.  Brock Lesnar.  Prior to 2009, many would recognize Brock Lesnar as a retired WWE wrestler who had a shot at making it to the NFL after his wrestling career ended.  In 2009, Brock Lesnar became a UFC legend.  Lesnar became the undisputed heavyweight champion of the UFC, after a brutal beatdown of Frank Mir.  Unfortunately, Lesnar’s post-fight antics overshadowed his incredible performance in many ways.  During his post-fight interview, Lesnar made innapropriate gestures to the fans and encouraged them to boo him, along with making sexually explicit comments about his wife.  To UFC president Dana White’s chagrin, Lesnar then badmouthed Bud Light, one of the UFC’s main sponsors.  After a severe scolding from White, Lesnar apologized for his actions, and even drank a Bud Light during his press conference.  This may have been the first time a UFC fighter has lost fans after becoming the champion of his weight class.

5.  Alex Rodriquez.  Prior to 2009, most baseball experts would tell you that Alex Rodriquez was on pace to be one of the best players to ever play the game.  This fact may not have changed in 2009, but it has certainly been covered in a thick layer of controversy.  Rodriquez’s name surfaced amongst the names of many other All-Stars who tested positive in the infamous 2003 “anonymous” steroid test.  This information was released shortly after “A-Rod” appeared on 60 minutes  and told Katie Couric that he had never taken performance enhancing substances because he never felt that he needed them to be a dominant player.  In an era known as the “juicing era”, it was not Rodriquez’s positive test that caused America to go into an uproar, but it was the fact that he lied to the entire United States populous on national television without thinking twice.  For Rodriquez, along with the other athletes on this list, 2009 may not have been their best year or worst year, but it was certainly controversial.