Rules are rules. Yet not everybody plays by them. The temptation to cheat, lie and/or mislead has spurred on a fall from grace for a number of great athletes over the years. Sometimes the story lines are familiar: Performance-enhancing drugs, or conspiring to fix the result of a game.
But athletes are a colorful breed, and a select few have invented some creative means of getting into hot water. Draymond Green's suspension from Game 5 of this year's NBA Finals only served as a reminder that athletes can make bad decisions, even when the stakes are at their highest. And in the case of Maria Sharapova, who is staring down the barrel of a two-year ban, the ramifications can change an athlete's entire career, stealing valuable time in the primes of their playing days -- and depriving fans of the chance to bear witness.
The following is a list of the longest suspensions ever dealt in professional sports history. One note: These suspensions only include athletes who were suspended while they were actively competing. Guys like Pete Rose, who was hit with a lifetime ban after his career had ended, didn't make the cut.
Alex Rodriguez, Baseball
The scandal around A-Rod drew deafening media coverage, as the slugger dug in his heels and battled hard against Major League Baseball and even his own team, the New York Yankees. MLB originally suspended Rodriguez for 211 games due to "overwhelming evidence" that he had acquired and used performance-enhancing drugs through a lab based in Florida. That suspension was reduced to 162 games after arbitration, forcing A-Rod to miss the entire 2014 season. The suspension cost Rodriguez more than $22 million in salary.
Mariano Puerta, Tennis
In 2005, Puerta was hammered with a record-setting eight-year suspension for his second positive doping test. But the drug usage in the second instance was so small that experts agreed it couldn't have affected his performance in any way. Through arbitration, Puerta had the suspension reduced to two years. But he still had to forfeit his prize money for his runner-up finish at the French Open that year.
Ron Artest, Basketball
In 2004, Artest became a poster child for sports brawls when he took a leading role in the "Malice at the Palace," which featured a violent fight between the rosters of the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons. Artest, though, took things even further: When a fan threw a cup of beer at him, he ran up into the stands and physically assaulted the man. Artest was considered by many the best defensive player in the league at the time, but he was forced to miss the rest of the season, which included 73 regular-season games and 13 playoff games.
Merle Hapes, Football
In the 1946 NFL Championship Game, New York Giants fullback Merle Hapes allegedly took a bribe to fix the game against the Chicago Bears. Hapes was banned from the NFL for life. Although the ban was later reduced to eight years, he never played in the NFL again, instead finishing his career in the Canadian Football League.
Lance Armstrong, Cycling
No athlete has accomplished more -- and had it all taken away -- than Armstrong, who had seven straight Tour de France titles nullified by a 2012 investigation that revealed he had been taking illegal performance-enhancing drugs at the time. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency described it as the most sophisticated doping scheme they had ever seen at the time, which was why Armstrong was able to avoid detection for so many years after his run of wins from 1999 to 2005. Armstrong eventually confessed, and was given a lifetime ban from all competitive sports -- not just cycling. Armstrong's doping scandal came at a time when doping was rampant throughout cycling, but he is by far the most prolific example of PED use in any sport.
The Black Sox, Baseball
In 1919, the Chicago White Sox lost the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. Later, it was determined that eight members of the team were paid to intentionally lose the series. All eight accused players were acquitted in court, but they couldn't survive the judgment of MLB, which hit them with a swift lifetime ban -- a ban that stands in effect today.
Art Schlichter, Football
Schlichter's story is one of a promising athlete who couldn't stay away from gambling. Multiple instances of gambling in the early years of his NFL career got Schlichter banned from the league, which remains in effect. Unfortunately, his gambling addiction stuck with him. He committed, by his own admission, at least 20 felonies over the years, and defrauded people of more than $1.5 million to fund his gambling. In 2012, while on house arrest, he gave a positive drug test for cocaine that sent him to jail to serve a nearly 11-year sentence.
Stanley Wilson, Football
Some Bengals fans still blame Wilson for losing Super Bowl XXIII. On the eve of the game, Wilson was found hiding in his hotel bathroom, embarrassed because he had used cocaine. It was Wilson's third relapse while in the NFL, and it prompted a lifetime ban. Meanwhile, Cincinnati had to go into the game without its starting running back. Coaches and players have insisted that Wilson's use of cocaine dealt a serious blow to the team's morale, which may have affected the outcome of the game.
Billy Coutu, Hockey
Coutu remains the only NHL player ever banned for life from the league. And why? Because he attached a referee. In Game 4 of the 1927 Stanley Cup Finals, Coutu was allegedly asked by his coach to start a brawl on the ice. He did exactly that, but was promptly hit with a lifetime ban from the league. That ban was lifted six years later, but Coutu never played in the NHL again, instead finishing out his career in smaller leagues in the United States and Canada.
Guillermo Mota, Baseball
Under new MLB guidelines regarding the protocols for punishing performance-enhancing drug use, Mota was the first player hit with an automatic 100-game suspension, a result of his second infraction. The suspension came when Mota was 38, and it effectively ended his career: He signed a minor-league deal two years later, but opted for retirement.
Neifi Perez, Baseball
In 2007, Perez suffered his third failed drug test. Under the old collective bargaining agreement in Major League Baseball, the consequences were far less severe: He was only suspended for 80 games. If his third infraction came today, he would automatically miss an entire season.
Latrell Sprewell, Basketball
Sprewell was involved in one of the more famous player-coach conflicts in NBA history. During a practice, Sprewell grabbed Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo around the throat and choked him while yelling death threats. He was suspended for 68 games. The Warriors also attempted to void his contract, but Sprewell took the team to arbitration and won. Instead of continue employing him on the team, the Warriors traded Sprewell to the New York Knicks -- where he promptly led the team to the NBA Finals.
Viktor Troicki, Tennis
In 2013, Troiki was suspended for 18 months for failing to provide a sample to anti-doping authorities. Troicki appealed, but an arbitrator only reduced his ban to one year. Troicki has never tested positive for banned substances, but his story is a cautionary one: Don't forget to submit your drug samples.
Ryan Braun, Baseball
In 2013, Braun admitted to using PEDs during his 2011 MVP season, during which time he tested positive for a banned substance. He was slapped with a 65-game suspension, and was forced to apologize after a number of prominent names, including Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, went to bat for Braun and swore the Milwaukee Brewers slugger hadn't cheated the game in any way. His admission following the suspension announcement caused Rodgers and others to distance themselves from Braun, admonishing his drug use and his decision to lie about it.
Luis Suarez, Soccer
It was the bite heard 'round the world: Suarez, competing for Uruguay, bit an opponent during group play of the 2014 World Cup. The only problem: The bite, which was innocuously placed on the opponent's shoulder, was captured by 34 different TV camera angles. FIFA analyzed the incident, which was similar to a previous instance in which Suarez had bitten an opponent during a game. He was banned from nine international matches, including the remainder of the World Cup, and also served a suspension from club play. In total, Suarez went nearly a year before playing again for Uruguay's national team.
Maria Sharapova, Tennis
While her suspension is still pending, Sharapova will likely earn herself a solid spot on this list. Her two-year suspension is one of the longest ever handed down by the ITF, and she has already admitted to taking a banned substance, although she maintains that she was not aware it was banned at the time. As it stands, she figures to lose two years of her prime playing days while serving the suspension. Even then, she'll be marked as a cheater when she returns.
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