Top 10 sporting villains of 2009

By Dylan Cleaver

1 Nate Myles

Of all the low things league players have managed to do in 2009, leaving an unspeakable steaming pile for a calling card in the hallway of the Crowne Plaza, Terrigal, takes some beating.

The unfortunate Myles was on the jungle juice with teammates Mitchell Pearce, Mark O'Meley and, guess who?, Willie Mason, wrapping up the evening's entertainment at 4am.

At 8am he reportedly felt a pressing urge, but picked the wrong door.

Standing in the hallway as naked as the day he was born, the Queensland State of Origin star seemed surprised when the neighbouring family denied him access to their room to defile their Royal Doulton.

Hence the decision to unload on the spot.

"I paid for cleaning straight away," a contrite Myles said. "Once again I would just like to say sorry."

The grubbiest moment in a grubby year for the sport.

2 Flavio Briatore

The perma-tanned one finally got his comeuppance following his shocking treatment of Renault driver Nelson Piquet Jnr and Formula One in general.

"A manager is supposed to encourage you, support you, and provide you with opportunities. In my case it was the opposite. Flavio Briatore was my executioner," said Piquet.

That could have been true in the most literal of senses.

An inquiry into the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix revealed that Briatore and Renault chief engineer Pat Symonds had ordered Piquet to crash at a certain part of the track to assist teammate Fernando Alonso's bid to win the race, a phenomenally dangerous, outright stupid piece of mismanagement.

Renault did not dispute the assertion and Briatore was banned for life by the FIA.

Earlier in the season, McLaren's uber-grump Ron Dennis walked away from the sport, supposedly of his own free will, but this was too convenient for those who believe it was he who was ultimately behind Lewis Hamilton's decision to lie to Australian GP stewards about passing Jarno Trulli under the safety flag (New Zealander Dave Ryan instead became the official scapegoat).

Crashgate and Liegate left Jackie Stewart, the most tireless campaigner for safety in Formula One, seething: "There is something fundamentally rotten and wrong at the heart of Formula One."

3 Thierry Henry

Can anyone have fallen so far so fast in the eyes of the public than the owner of the Hand of Frog? Certainly he is about as welcome in the Republic of Ireland as Mehmet Agca, the man who shot and nearly killed the Pope in 1981.

Henry used to stand for everything that was good for the game. He moved with the grace of a dancer and scored beautiful goals for fun.

Then, with time running out in the France-Ireland World Cup playoff, he reached out with his hand to prevent the ball from crossing the byline, before squaring the ball for William Gallas to score.

In his heart he must have known he had done wrong - after all this was a man who reviled tap-ins even if they were scored legally.

But still he celebrated like nothing had happened, taking the acclaim of the fans at Stade de France, knowing the gains were ill-gotten.

That's what stuck in the craw: not the fact he had, on the spur of the moment, cheated, there are hundreds of players who cheat every weekend in the premiership, but the fact he revelled in it and the fact he was meant to be above that.

4 Andre Agassi

The former tennis champion scripted 388 pages of tortured and, at times, torturous, self analysis in his autobiography Open, but it is a passage on page 243 that had the sports world agog.

"Slim dumps a small pile of powder on the coffee table. He cuts it, snorts it. He cuts it again. I snort some," Agassi writes.

Like a chemical-induced high, Agassi's words provoke fear, loathing, admiration, cynicism, love and hate in equal measures.

Agassi apologists laud his searing honesty, conveniently forgetting how duplicitous and dishonest he was when confronted by his positive test for methamphetamine.

It is a conundrum for which their are no easy answers: we beg sportsmen and women to lay their souls bare in their biographies, rather than the paint-by-numbers pap they normally produce, yet Agassi's "honesty" raises too many uncomfortable questions about his conduct and about that of the ATP, tennis' governing body, for him to avoid a degree of infamy.

Perhaps nobody blurred the lines (so to speak) between good and bad like Agassi managed this year.

5 Tiger Woods

From his personal website: "I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect. I am dealing with my behavior and personal failings behind closed doors with my family. Those feelings should be shared by us alone."

No doubt prurience has played a large part in the endless fascination with his foibles but it does not explain it all away.

Plenty of high-profile sportsmen have played away from home, most of it goes unreported, but none like Tiger have projected to the world such a clean-cut image of perfection.

It's what has attracted the sort of sponsors that have made him, by some estimates, sport's first billionaire. It also goes a long way to explaining the voracious appetite from the media and, judging by the lists of most popular stories, the public, into the lurid details of his private life.

6 Dean Richards

Ah, rugby. None of that poncey diving business here. Where soccer players make a great show of falling to the ground, rugby men stay on their feet. And they never - never - fake an injury.

And then along came Dean Richards. As a player, the Harlequins' coach was more axe than rapier - if he was a touch dirty as a socks-down No 8 for England, he at least wouldn't stoop to "simulation".

But Richards' reputation went down the gurgler this year with an attempt at Machiavellian deception that ended in slapstick farce.

The Harlequins coach masterminded the "Bloodgate" swindle that saw Nick Evans return to the field as a blood replacement for wing Tom Williams, giving the side a recognised goal-kicker.

They might have got away with it too, if not for Williams' pantomime wink to teammates as blood frothed comically from his gob.

7 Liza Hunter-Galvan

This is a tough one. There are plenty of people around the world who have taken more egregious shortcuts than LH-G, but as yet she remains one of the few to soil the black singlet.

(Lisa Cropp, for example, after dragging her sport through the courts for years, this year finally got her just desserts for testing positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine in 2005. She was disqualified from all facets of racing for nine months and ordered to pay a fine of $7500 and costs of $92,000.)

LH-G has been treated poorly by Athletics New Zealand over the years, that cannot be denied, but at best it is a flimsy defence for buying and taking EPO.

The fact she received some heavyweight backing from Peter Snell and Lorraine Moller was as perplexing to the public as it was no doubt gratifying to the athlete.

Is Hunter-Galvan a villain? No, she's actually a very nice person. Did she commit an act of villainy? Unfortunately, yes.

8 Serena Williams

Almost everything about the Serena Williams story is cool.

She learned the game on public courts in one of America's toughest suburbs (she probably thought a country club was a place where rednecks practiced linedancing); she had to listen to the derogatory comments of other children's parents when she went to junior tournaments; she started beating her older sister; she refused to button down her flamboyant style to suit the sensitivities of others; she has proved that you can be one of the greatest athletes in the world and still carry curves; she has 11 grand slam titles.

But when she savagely abused a lineswoman that had the temerity to foot-fault her at a crucial moment in her US Open semifinal against Kim Clijsters, Williams's story turned nasty.

Instead she became a caricature of the preening, bullying, over-indulged sporting prima donnas we have grown to hate.

9 Larry Bertarelli

It has been a while since you could call the America's Cup a noble contest and retain a straight face, but even so it has rarely, if ever, stooped so low.

Larry Ellison, the multibillionaire egomaniac software pimp, and Ernesto Bertarelli, the multibillionaire egomaniac pharmaceuticals pimp, have been struck down by an incurable case of mine-is-bigger-than-yoursism, pumping cash into lawyers' hands at unprecedented levels while the sailing fans go cold.

10 Jarret Stoll

Hey clown, no one ditches the Tip-Top Trumpet girl just shy of the altar.

Glenfield's finest was engaged to the Los Angeles Kings hockey star and was due to be married on August 14 of this year.

However, Stoll, 13 years Rachel Hunter's junior, emailed the wedding guests two months before the big day, saying the wedding was off.

That's as cold as the ice he plays on.

- NZ Herald

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