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In Honor of the Olympics, the Best Investigative Reporting on Sports

From hockey to horse racing, steroids to Sandusky, we’ve rounded up some great sports reporting.

The 30th Summer Olympics officially opened today in London. In honor of the Games, we’ve rounded up some great sports muckreads, from college sports to racetracks. Got others? Add them in the comments.

Jumping Through Hoops, Vanity Fair, June 2012
There's still disagreement about whether the Olympic games are an economic boon or a boondoggle for the cities that host them. This article looks at the lead-up to the London games, and the long—and sometimes shady—process by which cities court the International Olympic Committee.

The Kid Who Wasn't There, ESPN, May 2012

The epic story of a high school basketball star who turned out to be someone else entirely. Unraveling his identity took reporter Wright Thompson from Florida correctional facilities to Haitian voodoo priests.
Contributed by @tremmsAU

Breakdown: Death and Disarray at America's Racetracks, New York Times, March 2012
This multi-part series analyzed data from more than 150,000 races at tracks across the country. Among the revelations: on average, 24 horses die every week, accident rates increase when casinos open at tracks, and trainers often flout anti-drug regulations, pumping horses full of painkillers to mask injuries. See also this Times article on how a powerful Mexican drug cartel became a big player in American horseracing.

Jerry Sandusky Investigation, The Patriot-News, 2011
Pulitzer-prize winning coverage of the investigation into Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse of young boys. The newspaper chronicled subsequent revelations about how university administrators, alumni, and coaching legend Joe Paterno turned a blind eye to Sandusky's crimes.

Punched Out: The Life and Death of a Hockey Enforcer, New York Times, December 2011
In the National Hockey League, fighting is an accepted and popular part of the game. This three-part series traces the rise and descent of Derek Boogaard, once the league’s “fiercest fighter" whose role was to brawl and create a spectacle for fans. Despite his tragic story and history of injury to other enforcers, the NHL hasn't banned the practice. The tradition is instilled in young players, as Deadspin’s visit to youth hockey fight camps shows.

The Shame of College Sports, The Atlantic, October 2011
Historian Taylor Branch explains how "student-athlete" has never been a simple concept. He documents cases in which players have been sanctioned while colleges profit, and instances where schools pushed back against claims for workers' compensation when athletes died or were injured.

Renegade Miami football booster spells out illicit benefits to players, Yahoo News, August 2011
Over eight years, a University of Miami booster provided perks to athletes ranging from nightclub visits to prostitutes and bounty payments for plays, in an extreme example of revelations about illicit benefits doled out to student athletes which have emerged at other colleges.
Contributed by David Epstein

College Teams, Relying on Deception, Undermine Gender Equity, New York Times, April 2011
Colleges have fudged the number of women athletes on their teams in order to appear in compliance with Title IX, which since 1972 has banned gender discrimination in federally-financed educational programs. Schools have put under-qualified or non-participant women on team rosters, and in some cases counted male practice players as women.

What You Don't Know Might Kill You, Sports Illustrated, May 2009
The multi-billion-dollar sports supplement industry has become fertile ground for "kitchen chemists" who lack formal education in science or nutrition but often decide what goes into products like muscle builders and fat-burners marketed to athletes. Little policing or scrutiny of these designer compounds has created the risk of untested products and bogus claims.

Expert ties Ex-Player's Suicide to Brain Damage, New York Times, January 2007
Over several years, the New York Times covered a growing body of evidence pointing to long-term repercussions from head injuries in football. The NFL instituted stricter rules on when players could return to the field after concussions. The Times’ series also investigated lack of oversight in helmet safety standards.

Bonds got steroids, feds were told, San Francisco Chronicle, March 2004
Early revelations about Barry Bonds and other MLB players receiving performance-enhancing drugs from the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, at the time embroiled in a major international doping scandal. Last year, Bonds was convicted of one count of obstruction of justice after telling a federal grand jury that he never intentionally took steroids.

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