Sex, drugs and bribes: 2015 in sport
From sex tapes to corruption and doping, 2015 will go down as a year of scandal in the sporting world. There was also no shortage of drama, some memorable wins and a dose of tragedy. FRANCE 24 looks back at ten of the year’s biggest sporting moments.
Ivory Coast win Africa Cup of Nations
This year’s Africa Cup of Nations got off to a troubled start as original hosts Morocco pulled out over fears of the Ebola epidemic spreading from West Africa, giving the organisers just days to find a replacement, eventually settling on tiny Equatorial Guinea. The hosts had a remarkable tournament, making it all the way to the semis. But the deserved eventual winners were Ivory Coast, claiming their second CAN title 23 years after the first with a 9-8 penalty shootout win over Ghana on February 8, ending years of disappointment and underachievement for the talent-packed Elephants.
FIFA engulfed in corruption scandal
The corruption allegations that have long plagued world football’s governing body came to a head in May in dramatic fashion when Swiss police raided a Zurich hotel and arrested seven FIFA officials as part of an investigation into bribery led by US authorities. A criminal investigation was also launched by Swiss authorities into alleged corruption over the awarding of the 2016 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.
The scandal eventually engulfed FIFA boss Sepp Blatter himself who, along with UEFA chief Michel Platini, was banned from all football-related activity for eight years by FIFA’s ethic committee in December.
Chile win Copa America
The Copa America is always a tournament to look forward to with an abundance of talent and flair on display and 2015 was no different. It was capped off with hosts Chile ending their 99-year wait for their first eve Copa crown, seeing off Lionel Messi’s Argentina with a 4-1 penalty shoot out win over a 0-0 draw in the final on 4th July, sending the homegrown in the 45,000 capacity Estadio Nacional in Santiago into raptures. Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez scored the winning penalty with an audacious chip down the middle to secure the cup in style.
Jules Bianchi dies aged 25
After years in which improved safety measures seemed to have eliminated driver fatalities, tragedy struck Formula One on July 17, 2015, when French driver Jules Bianchi passed away eight months after a crash in wet conditions in the Japanese Grand Prix that left him in a medically induced coma. It was the first time an F1 driver had died as a result of a race accident since Ayrton Senna in 1994.
The Formula One fraternity paid their last respects to Bianchi at a funeral service in his hometown of Nice. F1 "was his life, his vocation. He was a champion blessed with a rare talent, as well as being a young man whose stature was as high as the depth of his humility", the priest told the congregation.
"Jules never managed to make it on to the Formula One podium, and so I ask you to applaud him now," which the emotional congregation, featuring Formula One stars past and present, duly did for several minutes.
Chris Froome wins second Tour de France
The 2015 Tour de France was billed beforehand as something of a clash of the titans, with former champions Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali and Alberto Contador set for an epic three-way battle for yellow. In the end, though, Britain’s Froome crushed his rivals with some dominant displays in the mountains to finish 1' 12" ahead of his nearest challenger, Colombia’s Nairo Quintana, and claim his second Tour de France title following his 2013 triumph. Allegations of doping followed Froome throughout the tour, however, and culminated in some unsavoury incidents, including having urine thrown at him by an irate spectator.
New Zealand win Rugby World Cup, Jonah Lomu remembered
The All Blacks cemented their status as the greatest team in rugby history when they beat Australia 34-17 in a one-sided final in Twickenham in October to claim a record third Rugby World Cup.
“To win back-to-back World Cups is a dream come true. It's a pretty strong group of guys,” flyhalf Dan Carter said after the match. “We try to do things no other team has done before... it's a special feeling to be part of such a great team."
Just three weeks later, New Zealand and the entire rugby world was plunged into mourning by the death of one of the sport’s true greats when Jonah Lomu passed away suddenly at the age of 40 from a heart attack linked to a long-standing kidney disease. Lomu never got his hands on the Webb Ellis Cup himself, despite his record 15 World Cup tries, but will always be remembered as one of the finest, fiercest and most imposing players to have graced the game, while cutting a humble, gentle and generous figure off the pitch.
The Benzema sex tape scandal
A story that seems almost too incredible to be true. Karim Benzema, the Real Madrid striker and France international, was placed under formal investigation by French police in November over allegations he was involved in a plot to extort money from fellow French international Mathieu Valbuena using a sex tape featuring the Lyon midfielder.
“I'm being accused, I'm being dragged into the mud as if I were a criminal, it's horrible," Benzema protested in an interview with French TV channel TF1 earlier this month. "It drives me crazy to hear the word 'blackmail', it's ridiculous. I am not guilty of anything.”
Neverthless, Benzema has been suspended indefinitely from the France squad until the criminal investigation comes to a conclusion, just months before France hosts Euro 2016.
Djokovic’s annus mirabilis
Novak Djokovic’s year got off to a fine start after he secured his first of what would turn out to be three 2015 Grand Slam titles after beating Andy Murray in the final of the Australian Open. Victories at Wimbledon and the US Open followed and only a surprise loss to Stan Wawrinka in the final of Roland Garros stopped the Serb from winning all four of tennis’s biggest prizes in the same year. Nevertheless, he went on to claim a record six Masters tournaments, his last coming in Paris in early November, and topped off his miracle year with victory at the ATP World Tour Finals in London two weeks later.
Athletics doping scandal
The world of athletics was thrown into turmoil in November after a sensational report by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) alleged that illegal doping in the sport was widespread and systemic, particularly among Russian athletes. It found that corruption went right to the highest levels of the sport to allow doping programmes to go undetected, even accusing Russia of "state-sponsored doping". The IAAF took the unprecedented step of provisionally banning Russia from international competition in the wake of the report. But while Russia bore the brunt of the report’s impact, the fears are that doping in athletics is far more widespread and the scandal is likely to leave a stain on the sport for years to come.
Great Britain win Davis Cup
When Britain last won the Davis Cup, George VI was on the throne, the first rumblings of war were beginning to worry Europe and the sport’s players competed wore long trousers and wielded wooden rackets. But Andy Murray and doubles specialist brother Jamie powered Britain to victory in the final against Belgium to secure the country's first Davis Cup title since 1936. It was a remarkable turnaround for British tennis, with the country as recently as 2010 in danger of being relegated to the competition’s lowest division following defeat to Lithuania.