2016's most controversial sporting moments

From dodgy judging in Rio to Dustin Johnson's ordeal at the US Open

2016's most controversial sporting moments

©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

2016 had its fair share of controversial moments, and we look back at some of the stand out incidents over the past 12 months.

Dustin Johnson's penalty stroke at the US Open

Johnson was busy chasing down Shane Lowry in the hope of winning his first major title. His round was going according to plan until he went to address a putt on the fifth green. The ball moved, but Johnson hadn't caused the movement. 

He called a rules official and requested a ruling. After a brief discussion with Johnson's playing partner Lee Westwood, the official (and the chairman of the Rules of Golf Committee) confirmed there was no violation of the rules and Johnson was free to play on. 

What followed was a farce. Johnson was then informed on the 12th tee that he might incur a penalty at the end of the round once he had time to review the incident. This decision left the conclusion of the tournament in limbo. 

Johnson was a stroke ahead going down the home straight but didn't know if A) he'd be penalised or B) by how much.

The controversy brought condemnation from a raft of the game's greats including Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth.

Johnson eventually went on to win by three shots, but not before a one-stroke penalty was added to his score after he finished playing. 

The USGA has since amended the rule to avoid a similar incident in the future. 

Michael Conlan's elimination from the Rio Olympics

Michael Conlan headed to the Rio Olympics as a reigning world champion, and was one of Ireland's favourites to bring home a gold medal from Brazil.

Conlan received a bye into the last 16 where he faced Armenia’s Aram Avagyan. The Irishman won by unanimous decision, but was aware of the pressure on his shoulders, as he was the last remaining Irish male boxer left at the Olympics. 

The Irishman moved on to fight Russia's Vladimir Nikitin in the quarter final, with the winner guaranteed at least a an Olympic bronze medal. Nothing had gone to plan in the ring up to that point for Ireland, and it wasn't going to this time either.

Conlan boxed clever in the first round, engaging his opponent and then circling away from danger. He landed the cleaner shots and was barely touched. All three judges somehow awarded the Russian the round 10-9.

Ireland's Michael Conlan looses to Vladimir Nikitin of Russia. Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

After receiving a signal from Paddy Barnes, whom was situated in the crowd, that he was behind, Conlan upped the ante and turned the fight into a brawl. He stood toe-to-toe with the Nikitin and again clearly won the round and was awarded so by the judges.

Conlan kept the same tactic for the third and it was a closer round than the previous two, but again Conlan came out on top. Or so we thought.

Ireland's Michael Conlan following his defeat to Vladimir Nikitin of Russia.

Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

The judges gave the blood-soaked Russian the decision to the audible displeasure of those in the arena. Conlan vented his frustration in the ring and in interviews afterwards. "I'll never fight for AIBA again" he roared.

Nikitin had taken such a beating that he was unable to continue in the tournament and settled for a bronze medal. 

Conlan signed a professional contract with Bob Arum's Top Rank, and is due to make his debut at Madison Square Garden in New York in March. He was also fined, but something tells us he won't be paying.

The point that wasn't

Dublin and Cork met in the 2016 All Ireland Ladies final at Croke Park, where a disputable shot by Dublin's Carla Rowe in the first half was waved wide at the Hill 16 end. 

The Hawkeye system wasn't operational due to the Ladies Gaelic Football Association objecting to its use during championship matches.

The wide in question occurred in the 22nd minute, but considering the close nature of the match and the way the final score panned out, it was bound to ignite debate. Replays appeared to show that it sneaked inside the upright, but the decision to not award it proved a crucial one.

Cork went on to win their sixth title in a row by a single point: 1-7 to 1-6. 

Dublin's Carla Rowe dejected after the game. Inpho: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

After consideration, the Dublin county board decided not to appeal the decision, congratulated Cork on their win and would instead focus their efforts on ensuring a similar situation doesn't happen to any team again.   

The FAI make an offer that everyone refuses

In August, The Football Association of Ireland announced plans to give €5,000 to every club in the League of Ireland as part of a strategic development plan for the domestic league. 

The rejections came thick and fast, as Derry branded the offer "disgraceful," while a strongly-worded statement from St Pat's hit out at the FAI, stating that they believed their turning down the offer should "serve as a clear message to the FAI that it has utterly failed in its responsibility to the domestic game."

The war of words didn't end there, with the FAI hitting back at the clubs who turned down the offer, saying they had originally agreed to it and their move "defies all logic."

Things hardly improved for the FAI after an equally poorly received marketing plan towards the end of the year suggested that they paint bus stops and market their curry chips better.

Sam Allardyce loses his dream job

The joy on Allardyce's face was evident for all to see after he got the job that he believed he was destined for - sitting in the England hot seat. 

He couldn't even help himself from smiling when he was filming his first video in the new job, such was his sheer delight at having been named the successor to Roy Hodgson. 

English football was at a low ebb after an embarrassing loss to Iceland at the Euros, but with a bit of elbow grease and some pulling up of their bootstraps, Sam could whip these boys into shape. 

As it turns out, he ended up getting sacked 67 days after taking charge thanks to an investigation from The Telegraph that landed him in some hot water. 

Allardyce was filmed stating that he would be able to help the undercover journalists, posing as investors, to circumvent FA rules on transfers and third-party ownership, something which his new employers frowned on.

Pat Hickey

Despite success in rowing and sailing, as well as some near misses, Ireland's Olympic success was marred by the arrest of Pat Hickey. 

Perhaps the defining image will be the former head of the Olympic Council of Ireland being arrested in his hotel room, still wearing his bath robe, as part of an investigation into an international touting ring in Olympic tickets issued to the OCI.

Hickey was held in Bangu prison before being allowed out on temporary release, provided that he surrender his passport to the authorities. Hickey remained in the country for four months, before eventually being allowed to return to Ireland in time for Christmas. 

"I wish to state that I am totally innocent of all charges against me," stated upon his return, adding, "I intend to adhere to any requests made by the Brazilian authorities and I will do everything possible to clear my name so that I can, in due course, get on with my life with my wife and family."

Concussion rears its ugly head 

Eddie Jones' comments about Johnny Sexton's health grabbed all the headlines in the lead up to the clash between England and Ireland in the Six Nations this year. 

"They’ve talked about him having whiplash injury, which is not a great thing to talk about," Jones said. "I’m sure his mother and father would be worried about that. Hopefully, the lad’s alright on Saturday to play."

Sexton was given some very rough treatment at the hands of the French players in advance of that game, and with concerns raised over concussion injuries during his time in France, Jones' comments were certainly meant to stir the pot again. 

It irked Sexton too, mainly because the comments dragged in his family. "For some reason people are allowed to say that I’m concussed when I’m not," he told The Irish Times.

"And it’s not even because of me. It’s people close to you, they’re the ones that really care and then they’re worrying, ‘Maybe he actually is hiding something?’ But to suggest that the IRFU and doctors would be willing to do that is just crazy."

Jones has since said that he was ready to apologise to Sexton, but the issue of concussion in the game was once again in the media spotlight after George North was allowed to return to the field of play despite landing awkwardly on his head against Leicester. 

Northampton got away without any sanction for letting North play on, but as the Six Nations and Lions tour approaches next year, it's likely that the issue will feature heavily in 2017.