Sports stars who fell from grace

Updated on Apr 21, 2004 05:54 PM IST

Diego Maradona's descent from glittering stardom and celebrity to a daily fight for survival is one that is only too sadly echoed elsewhere in the world of sport.

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Diego Maradona's descent from glittering stardom and celebrity to a daily fight for survival is one that is only too sadly echoed elsewhere in the world of sport.

Others to have travelled similar paths are:

MIKE TYSON (BOXING)

Undisputed heavyweight champion of the world and the greatest since Muhammad Ali.

However, after 37 straight wins, he entered the ring overweight and overconfident aginst the unheralded Buster Douglas in Tokyo in February, 1990 and subsequently paid the price by being knocked out by his American rival.

From there it was all downhill as the boy from the Bronx in New York wasted away a fortune. Like Maradona he was beset by hangers-on and bad influences.

He served prison time for rape, was divorced from actress wife Robin Givens, banned for biting off part of Evander Holyfield's ear and then bit the leg of Britain's heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis at a promotional event intended to launch their long-awaited fight in 2002. Lewis handed out suitable retribution in the ring that June.

At 37 Tyson is still in the boxing wilderness and said to be in dire financial circumstances.

ALEX HIGGINS (SNOOKER)

Inspirational talent from Northern Ireland whose rapidity around the green baize justifiably earned him the nickname of 'Hurricane' Higgins.

Twice crowned world champion, he appeared to have redeemed himself after several legendary drinking bouts and rows with the bosses of the sport and fellow professionals and in which he ushered on his long suffering wife who later divorced him.

Sadly it was a brief hiatus as the drink took over again, he frittered away his money, and was more often to be found earning some much needed cash by making lurid allegations about the game he had done so much to turn into a glamorous TV friendly sport.

Suffered from throat cancer in recent years.

GEORGE BEST (FOOTBALL)

Another outstanding world class Northern Irish talent, perhaps the finest player of his generation when he played under Sir Matt Busby at Manchester United.

Sadly not even the legendary disciplinarian Busby could keep him on the straight and narrow even after winning a European Cup and numerous other titles.

The glamour of the 60's turned his head and a feast of champagne and gorgeous women took him from the back pages of the press onto the front. Descended into alcoholism, appeared the worse for wear on a chat show in England when trying to promote his autobiography and not even a liver transplant a few years ago has stopped him from the occasional binge.

That behaviour recently cost him his much younger wife Angie and then a row with his son led to him being found guilty of drunk driving and losing his licence.

Still does some TV punditry and has gone on several lucrative and popular speaking tours with old pal Rodney Marsh.

PAUL GASCOIGNE (FOOTBALL)

The English version of Best.

Sublime talent countered by excesses off the pitch — and some on it such as his near career ending foul on Gary Charles in the FA Cup final that saw him stretchered off but his club Spurs win it.

Constant drinking bouts with his mate 'Five Bellies' in native Newcastle and then when he signed for Italian giants Lazio his lifestyle eventually took its toll as increasingly injury-plagued he ended up having to ply his trade in China.

Separated from his wife Cheryl after beating her up. The once very rich midfield genius now lives in a friend's flat above a fish and chip takeaway restaurant in Gateshead.

He perhaps summed up his decline best in an interview last year when comparing himself to England captain David Beckham.

"Maybe if Beckham had played before me, I would have lived my life differently and taken some tips."

O J SIMPSON (AMERICAN FOOTBALL)

The glamour boy of grid iron and a great running back for the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills in the 70's.

Went on to a relatively successful acting career in big budget disaster movies such as 'The Towering Inferno' and conspiracy thrillers like 'Capricorn One'.

However his life turned upside down when he was charged with the murder of his estranged wife Nicole and her young lover Ron Goodman. Despite seemingly convincing evidence against him his expensively assembled defence team secured a not guilty verdict.

However Nicole's parents were not to be persuaded otherwise about his culpability and won a civil case against him later on in which they also succeeded in having his children taken away from him.

Lost all his lucrative sponsorship/advertising deals and was struck off the prestigious golf club he was a member of despite the jury's insistence at the criminal trial that he was innocent.

LESTER PIGGOTT (HORSE RACING)

The greatest rider of his generation and many would say of all time.

Despite being hard of hearing because of being born with a cleft palate he had an innate sense of breaking from the gate and there was no finer judge of pace whether leading from the front or timing his final run.

Formed a stunning partnership with Irish trainer Vincent O'Brien and the late owner/breeder Robert Sangster. He garnered nine English Derbies, three Arc de Triomphes and 11 jockeys championships.

However his renowned miserliness led to his downfall as he was found guilty of tax evasion and imprisoned for a year in 1985 — a judgement many found harsh.

Any hope of a knighthood was ended by that blot and also had the indignity of being stripped of the OBE.

Returned to the saddle winning an emotional Breeders Cup Mile on Royal Academy in 1990 for his old friend O'Brien.

JOHN DALY (GOLF)

Golf's one-and-only "Wild Thing" took the previously sedate sport by storm when he came out of nowwhere to win the 1991 USPGA title at Crooked Stick.

One of the biggest hitters golf had ever-known the burly Arkansan was a born crowd-pleaser and looked set to reign in the immediate pre-Tiger Woods era.

But there was a destructive side to his nature that resulted in a perpetual struggle with booze, women and his weight. He quickly became a controversial figure thanks to his on-course temper tantrums and off-course drinking and gambling.

He held it together enough to score an emotional win in the 1995 British Open at St Andrews, but then underwent six years of poor play and erratic behaviour.

Has made a dramatic comeback this year capped with a win in the Buick Invitational. But his fourth wife Sherrie and her parents have been indicted on drug and gambling charges and he says he is taking it just one day at a time. (Agence France-Presse)

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