Biggest sports controversies of 2022

From Kamila Valieva's scandal at the Olympics to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, 2022 had no shortage of sports drama.

Kamila Valieva's doping scandal was one of the biggest sports controversies of the year. (Photo by Ulrik Pedersen/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Kamila Valieva's doping scandal was one of the biggest sports controversies of the year. (Photo by Ulrik Pedersen/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

This past year in sports featured countless breathtaking moments. The Los Angeles Rams won the Super Bowl, the Colorado Avalanche hoisted the Stanley Cup, the Golden State Warriors further cemented their legacy and Serena Williams bid farewell to professional tennis, just to name a few.

But 2022 wasn't all fairytales. Controversy reared its ugly head and cast a shadow over the sporting landscape time and time again over the past 12 months. From the Olympics to the World Cup, here are the most controversial sports moments of 2022, in chronological order.

Jan. 2: Brown storms off field

Antonio Brown is no stranger to making headlines for the wrong reasons. In what could go down as his final NFL game, the wide receiver caused a scene in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Week 17 matchup with the New York Jets. Brown ripped off the top half of his uniform, then flashed a "peace out" sign to fans in the end zone as he exited the field in the middle of the third quarter. After the game, Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said Brown was "no longer part of the team."

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Jan. 16: Djokovic deported from Australia

Novak Djokovic had his sights set on a 10th Australian Open title but was not eligible to compete in the tournament due to his vaccination status. The tennis star was originally granted an exemption to travel to Australia but the decision was overruled once he arrived. He was deported 10 days later in a saga full of twists and turns.

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Feb. 8: Valieva doping scandal rocks Olympics

Kamila Valieva was the talk of the Beijing Games when she became the first female skater to land quad jumps in the Olympics, helping Russia win gold during the team competition. The 15-year-old then tested positive for a banned substance from a sample taken on Christmas Day, 2021, delaying the medal ceremony. The medals from the team event have still not been awarded. Valieva returned to compete in the individual program but did not finish on the podium after falling multiple times during her free skate.

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Feb. 17: Griner detained in Russia

While traveling to Russia to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg, the team she has played for during the WNBA offseason since 2014, Brittney Griner was detained going through security at Sheremetyevo Airport near Moscow after officials found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage. After a 294-day saga that saw Griner sentenced to nine years in prison, she was released on Dec. 8 after United States President Joe Biden released Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in a one-for-one prisoner swap.

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Griner is shown being escorted by police before a hearing during her trial on charges of drug smuggling. (Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Images)
Griner is shown being escorted by police before a hearing during her trial on charges of drug smuggling. (Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Images)

March 7: Ridley banned for gambling

The NFL suspended Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley for the entire 2022 season for betting on games in 2021. It was reported that Ridley made parlay bets on games using his cell phone and that his bets included Falcons games. Ridley quickly responded, saying he bet $1,500 total and that he does not have a gambling problem. Atlanta traded him to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Nov. 1.

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May 26: Hockey Canada scandal blows up

A woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted in London, Ont., in 2018 by eight CHL players, including members of Canada’s gold medal-winning 2018 World Juniors team, reached a settlement with Hockey Canada and the CHL. The ensuing investigation revealed several concerning findings, including how Hockey Canada maintained a fund that drew on minor hockey membership fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual abuse claims.

Major sponsors terminated their relationships with Hockey Canada, with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also voicing his displeasure with the organization on several occasions. Hockey Canada announced in October that CEO Scott Smith departed and the entire board of directors resigned.

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June 9: LIV Golf tees off

LIV Golf, a Saudi Arabia-backed, eight-tournament venture rocked the golf world in 2022 when it debuted in June. Dishing out enormous contracts to its biggest golfers, it poached numerous high-profile stars from the PGA Tour, including Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson. LIV's introduction to the sports landscape forced athletes and fans to look themselves in the mirror and answer tough ethical questions.

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ST ALBANS, ENGLAND - JUNE 09: Dustin Johnson of 4 Aces GC greets Phil Mickelson of Hy Flyers GC look on on the 4th green during day one of the LIV Golf Invitational - London at The Centurion Club on June 09, 2022 in St Albans, England. (Photo by Chris Trotman/LIV Golf/Getty Images)
Dustin Johnson, left, and Phil Mickelson, right, are two of the biggest stars playing in LIV. (Photo by Chris Trotman/LIV Golf/Getty Images)

Aug. 12: Tatis busted for PEDs

Just as he was approaching his long-awaited season debut, superstar San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. was suspended 80 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.

Few, if any, MLB suspensions for PEDs have been as shocking as Tatis, who was positioned as one of the league's brightest young stars and inked a massive 14-year, $340 million contract extension ahead of the 2021 campaign.

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Sept. 22: Celtics suspend head coach Udoka for entire season

Fresh off an NBA Finals appearance the previous season, the Boston Celtics suspended head coach Ime Udoka for the entire 2022-23 campaign due to an "improper, intimate relationship with a female staff member." The woman involved accused Udoka of making unwanted comments toward her, leading to internal reviews.

The Brooklyn Nets also got involved in this saga, as they were reported to be close to hiring Udoka in November to replace the fired Steve Nash. The Nets ultimately gave the job to Jacque Vaughn after immense backlash to the Udoka hiring rumours.

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Oct. 2: Fishing scandal uncovered at Cleveland tournament

Two anglers in Ohio were caught red-handed after putting lead weights into their catches in an effort to win a fishing tournament. They were indicted on felony charges of cheating and attempted grand theft, among other charges, and could face jail time and fines.

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Oct. 4: Chess grandmaster called out for cheating

In late September, the world's top chess player, Magnus Carlsen, accused 19-year-old grandmaster Hans Niemann of cheating in a match they played against one another. A week later, an investigation into Niemann was conducted by Chess.com — the world's top chess website — which found the American to have cheated in more than 100 games.

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Oct. 7: Draymond goes viral for punching Poole

The most controversial week of 2022 raged on when video leaked out of a Golden State Warriors practice showing Draymond Green punching teammate Jordan Poole.

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The Warriors said they would discipline Green internally, and opted for a fine instead of a suspension. The four-time NBA champion apologized for his actions, saying he "failed as a leader and as a man." Green took some time away from the team to reflect before returning to practice on Oct. 13.

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Oct. 27: Kyrie's tweet causes major outcry

Kyrie Irving is no stranger to controversy, and the Nets star came under fire for tweeting a link to an anti-Semitic documentary film. Irving initially defended his tweet and did not apologize, leading Nets owner Joe Tsai and the NBA itself to release statements denouncing Irving's actions. Brooklyn suspended him on Nov. 3, which finally prompted an apology. Nike also elected to terminate its relationship with the 30-year-old.

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Nov. 4: Bruins sign disgraced prospect Miller

The Boston Bruins sent shockwaves through the hockey world when they signed Mitchell Miller to an entry-level contract in November. Miller was convicted of bullying a Black and developmentally disabled classmate when he was in eighth grade. Boston faced immediate backlash for its decision and severed ties with Miller two days later.

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Nov. 20: World Cup kicks off in Qatar

It is not hyperbole to call Qatar the most controversial World Cup host country ever. The nation did not have infrastructure equipped to hold a major sporting event when it was awarded the tournament in 2010. The construction work largely fell on migrants from Southeast Asia and Africa who experienced unbearable working conditions. A Qatari official involved in organizing the World Cup has put the number of worker deaths related to the tournament "between 400 and 500" but some outlets estimate the death toll is significantly higher.

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter told the Swiss newspaper group Tamedia in early November that he regretted picking Qatar as the host country.

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