Even as professional tennis developed more of an edge with Rafael Nadal’s grunts and Serena Williams’ daring outfits, it will always be viewed as a gentleman’s sport. We can’t help but picture high society types in white sweaters daintily swinging their wooden rackets about until it’s time for tea.
Though this aristocratic version of the game existed for generations, it also covered up the dark underbelly of some athletes’ lives. Just ask Vere St. Leger Goold. He was such a charismatic and upstanding young man that nobody could quite believe the heinous accusations hurled toward his side of the net.
This charming youngster seemed to cast a spell on the village of Wimbledon in the summer of 1879. Vere St. Leger Goold was making a mark in a brand new game called tennis, and his future in the sport seemed so bright, nobody could’ve foreseen him turning to a life of deception.
While the Goolds were among Ireland’s wealthiest and most prominent families, Vere couldn’t count on some grand inheritance. He was the fifth-born son, so he only stood to own a pittance of the family fortune. He’d have to provide for himself somehow.
Fortunately, he broke through as a talented sportsman in his teens, particularly in tennis. No longer just a leisure lawn sport, competitive tennis tournaments cropped up around Europe in the 1870s, offering fame and a modest cash prize to those who triumphed.
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Young Vere made an immediate splash around the tennis world, and he soon set his sights on the recently established The Championships, Wimbledon. He gained a fan following with his “showy and attractive” style, though he wasn’t known for his work ethic.
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On the contrary, Goold cemented himself as a fixture in the social scene. The athlete became a favorite at parties, where he wooed many a lady and enthralled countless dinner guests with his wit. Vere would come to regret one night of revelry.
He woke up severely hungover on the morning of July 16, 1879, which was unfortunate, because he was about to play the biggest match of his life. The sluggish athlete tamely fell to his opponent, Reverend John Hartley, and limped home with the runner-up trophy.
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From then on, Goold’s magic on the court seemingly evaporated. Inexplicable losses piled up. By 1883, the Irishman realized that his tennis potential was squandered. He hung up his racquet and looked for an opportunity that didn’t require him to sweat and toil.
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Vere’s prospects back in Ireland were drab and limited, so he knew he couldn’t spend the rest of his life hiding in the Goold family estate. The ex-tennis ace was desperate for a purpose, and he found it in a woman.
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The aristocrat fell head-over-heels for Marie Giraudin, a London dressmaker. After they exchanged vows, the two high-rollers spiraled into an incredible amount of debt with their fancy living. They had to flee back and forth across the Atlantic to escape collectors.
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In the new century, the self-styled Sir Vere and Lady Goold settled in Monte Carlo, where the posh casinos offered nonstop excitement. Marie claimed to have discovered a gambling system that would make them rich, so they poured their savings into games of chance.
Marie’s plan completely failed, but the couple’s charm kept them afloat. They befriended a Swedish dowager named Emma Levin who was more than happy to lend the Goolds thousands of francs. Their Monte Carlo lifestyle only became more grand and out of control.
Despite constant bickering with one another, the Goolds stuck by Levin’s side at every waking moment. The widow was a bit put off by their behavior, but others in her social circle — especially those also siphoning off her wealth — felt particularly threatened by the couple.
Levin’s confidantes soured her views on the Goolds to the point where she demanded that she repay her loans. The couple responded by promptly leaving for France — but that wasn’t what really alarmed the city of Monte Carlo.
The day following Vere and Marie’s departure, Emma Levin missed her daily appointments. In fact, nobody could track her down. The widow’s friends went to the police, who retraced Levin’s steps, as well as those of her ungrateful beneficiaries.
The authorities got a tip from the Monte Carlo hotel that the Goold’s once called home. Much of their luggage had yet to be sent along to them in France, and one trunk aroused the suspicion of the baggage handlers. It seemed to be leaking.
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Trying to avoid the gooey liquid seeping through the wooden slats, investigators cracked open the Good’s trunk. Inside, they were met with the dismembered body of Emma Levin. All of Europe was soon abuzz about the news of the “Monte Carlo Trunk Murder.”
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There was no doubt about who was responsible. After falling into the clutches of police, Marie revealed that she pulled Vere into a gruesome scheme. They conspired to murder the kind widow, steal her jewels, and disappear before anyone could stop them.
Marie received the death penalty, which was later reduced. Sir Vere, meanwhile, had the misfortune of a life sentence in the infamous Devil’s Island, a penal colony off the coast of French Guiana. The former playboy had no hope of escape or redemption.
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Perhaps it came as no surprise that he took his own life in 1909. Goold was buried without ceremony near the prison, but the world always remembered him as the tennis star who stooped to murder. Still, he was far from the only criminal in the sports world.
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In 1980s Brazil, soccer was everything. Fans lived and died with every match, which meant that they celebrated their champions and vilified their underachievers. Still, there was one grand exception to that rule.
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Enter Carlos Henrique Raposo, better known as Carlos Kaiser. Since he was a boy, he wanted nothing more than to become a professional footballer. Boasting a colorful personality, sleek figure, and a full head of hair, Carlos was only missing one thing.
The Brazilian couldn’t kick a football for his life. “I wanted to be among the other players,” Kaiser explained. “I just didn’t want to play.” He even fashioned himself after other players, taking his new surname from all-time great Franz “Der Kaiser” Beckenbauer.
While still in his teens, Carlos won over a Mexican talent scout — mostly by talking a big game rather than playing one. He then signed with Club Puebla as a striker in 1979. It was his first real contract, though he never made it on the field.
Never showing enough talent to enter a match, Kaiser got the boot from Mexico. But that was fine by him; his dismissal gave him a reason to return to sun-kissed Rio de Janeiro. Carlos wasted no time embeding himself in the colorful party scene.
Improbably, Carlos got into a number of exclusive clubs by posing as Renato Gaúcho, a Brazilian football hero who sported a similar mullet. That tactic was a smashing success, until Kaiser bumped into the real Gaúcho one night.
But instead of getting upset, Gaúcho took a shine to the brash imposter. He introduced Kaiser to many of his teammates and offered to set him up with a number of local try-outs. With that chance meeting, Carlos was on the brink of becoming a Brazilian football star.
Over the following years, Kaiser signed with each of Rio’s soccer clubs without playing a single second. How’d he pull it off? Well, many football players have come under fire for flopping — faking injury to attain a penalty — but Carlos elevated it to an art form.
Whenever Kaiser inked a contract for a team, he would join his new teammates for a workout. The striker stretched and jogged around for a few minutes during warm-ups. But then the theatrics would start.
Carlos would suddenly clutch his leg and claim to be in immense pain. This injury conveniently occurred right before he had to demonstrate basic soccer skills. As skeptical as the team trainers were, they didn’t yet have the technology to prove Kaiser wrong.
With his alibi firmly in place, Carlos rode the bench for the rest of the season. This meant he never registered a score or goal over his fourteen years as a pro, but he still won over the tempestuous Brazilian crowds.
He tricked entire arenas into thinking he was a fan favorite! By bribing spectators and ball boys to chant his name, Carlos Kaiser became a key figure in any soccer conversation. Of course, many newly converted fans then wanted to see him in a match.
Carlos was too clever to let himself get into that position. Once, when a coach insisted on subbing him in, Kaiser picked a fight with a loud fan in the stands. The ploy got the striker immediately ejected, while still upholding his aura as a passionate athlete.
Each club inevitably parted ways with Kaiser, but he remained a hot commodity. Using a toy cellphone — most people in the ’80s couldn’t spot a fake — Kaiser staged calls about his next contract, always within earshot of an actual manager.
He also had the support of other footballers. Many suspected the con that Carlos was pulling, but he entranced them with his charisma and sharp sense of humor. Plus, Kaiser was a good guy to know off the field.
As one of Rio’s leading social butterflies, Carlos took charge of planning all team parties. Rarely did they disappoint. Kaiser made contacts all over Brazil, even with dangerous men in the highest reaches of power.
Only Carlos could’ve defrauded sport promoter/mafioso Castor de Andrade and earned the kingpin’s respect for it. De Andrade had the entire country under his thumb, even Brazil’s president, but Kaiser had a knack for getting whatever he wanted from the man.
Since retiring from football — or his approximation of it — in 1992, Carlos has been quite open about his lies. Nevertheless, he remained adamant that he never did anything wrong. He joked, “Not even Jesus pleased everybody. Why would I?
He since found a second act in the athletic world, as a trainer for female bodybuilders. But soccer fans all over Rio, even children born long after his retirement, still laud him as one of the greats. In a sense, he scored more than anyone else in history.
On the other hand, most people who hear the saga of Carlos Kaiser claim that they’d never fall for such an obvious scam today. People are too smart, too cautious, they say. However, a so-called teenage prodigy from the U.S.A. proves otherwise.
By 2015, Elizabeth Holmes had already reached the top of the world, but she was determined to go higher. The billionaire entrepreneur promised her company would change the world — and it did…in a way.
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Born in 1984, Elizabeth stood out as a gifted student from a young age. She seemed destined to achieve greatness, and at age 9, she wrote a letter to her father saying she wanted to do “something that mankind didn’t know was possible.”
After mastering Mandarin in her teens, Elizabeth enrolled at Stanford University to study chemical engineering. Even such a prestigious academic setting, however, couldn’t quite keep up with Holmes’ ambitions.
So, after less than two years at Stanford, Elizabeth dropped out to found her own consumer healthcare company. Not long after, she unveiled a revolutionary idea that took the entire world by storm.
Citing a lifelong fear of needles, the budding businesswoman announced that she was about to revolutionize blood analysis. With just a finger prick, her technology could allegedly perform 50 different blood tests.
In 2004, she officially brought her company together in the form of Theranos — a portmanteau of “therapy” and “diagnosis.” Though she chose to keep the company quiet from the general public, she coaxed big spenders to support her.
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Elizabeth found her first investor in venture capitalist and family friend Tim Draper. Soon, she brought aboard Rupert Murdoch, future Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, and the Waltons — founders of the Walmart empire.
But to become an iconic CEO, Elizabeth needed more than just a lot of dough; she had to look the part. She took a page out of Steve Jobs’s book and began wearing black turtlenecks every day. According to some, she also significantly lowered her voice.
By 2013, Elizabeth introduced Theranos to the world by inking a monster deal with Walgreen’s. Elizabeth had billions in company coffers and became the talk of the town, but she did have to deal with criticism.
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In scientific circles, statements abounded that Holmes’ technology simply couldn’t work. While she brushed off the naysayers, the young CEO also refused to explain exactly how they were wrong. She wouldn’t tell reporters or the FDA. Not even her employees knew — save for one.
In her late teens, Elizabeth met entrepreneur Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani. Though he was 19 years older and married, they entered a relationship that was both romantic and professional. Sunny became the COO of Theranos and the only other soul who knew the secrets of its technology.
For a while, the lack of transparency didn’t bother anyone. Forbes credited her the youngest self-made female billionaire in history, and Elizabeth received honors from Time Magazine and Harvard Medical School.
Elizabeth went so far as to become an icon for the next generation. In 2015, she launched a campaign called Iron Sisters to promote women in STEM fields. That was shortly before her entire world came crumbling down.
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That year, disturbing rumors started to circulate about Theranos. For instance, anonymous sources whispered that Theranos secretly used other companies’ blood tests for demonstrations, while leaving their own technology completely untested.
These theories gained traction when Theranos employee Tyler Schultz turned whistleblower. Cooperating with the Wall Street Journal, he revealed that Theranos’ technology was completely inaccurate and didn’t do what the company claimed. All eyes turned to Elizabeth.
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Attempting damage control, she rebuffed the allegations on CNBC’s Mad Money. She told Jim Cramer, “This is what happens when you work to change things. First, they think you’re crazy, then they fight you, and then all of a sudden you change the world.”
However, the general public didn’t buy her disruptor narrative any longer. Without an actual product, Theranos fell apart from the inside out and saw its $9 billion worth turn to ash.
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After the Securities and Exchange Commission began interviewing so many Theranos insiders, it was no surprise when the bell came tolling for Elizabeth. She and Sunny were charged with eleven counts of fraud. Amazingly, she wouldn’t admit anything was wrong.
Elizabeth continued to chat pleasantly with her scant employees, adopted a husky, and found a new love interest in Billy Evans. However, no level of denial could stop Theranos from finally dissolving in 2018.
Only time would tell exactly how Holmes would pay for her crimes, but her legacy is clear. Instead of revolutionizing technology, she innovated the 21st-century scam, wrapping up rich and poor alike in her lies.