The big five sports stories of 2012

Steve Hepburn identifies the top five stories in world sport in 2012.

Enough is enough
During all those years that Lance Armstrong dominated the Tour de France, there were doubts lingering in the back of many minds about how he did it.

Was it all just willpower? Mental toughness?Last year, those doubts came front and centre as Armstrong was exposed as a cheat and a fraud.

After years fighting against the United States authorities, Armstrong declared enough was enough and he would not continue to fight the claims he had used drugs to win all his titles.

From there, an avalanche of evidence came pouring out about Armstrong and how he had orchestrated a sophisticated drug-taking campaign to keep ahead of the drug testers.

He lost numerous sponsors and the sport was undoubtedly tarnished.

One wonders if it can come back after taking so many hits.

London Olympics
This is how the Olympics, or any major sporting event, are played out these days.

In the run-up to the event, there are dramas over numerous things - accommodation, money worries, staffing and the stadia.

Then, as soon as the sport starts, all is forgotten and it turns out great.

London in 2012 was no exception. Once the sports got under way, the Games were thrilling.

Highlights had to be Usain Bolt again doing the business, Michael Phelps and others in the pool, the judo, the volleyball men's final, and the home team enjoying so much success.

Even the weather, which had been terrible for most of the summer in the United Kingdom relented for long enough to allow the event to go off without as much as a hitch.

Penn State problems
University sport in the United States is massive. It attracts huge crowds and media coverage.

Sometimes, that gets in the way of what universities are set up for: educating young people.

Penn State had been a powerhouse of college football for years and had an iconic coach in Joe Paterno.

But his legacy was tainted by the antics of assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

Sandusky was found guilty of sexual assault on boys which had occurred over many years.

What made it even worse was that his behaviour was reported to those high up in the university and they tried to hush it up or failed to actively look into the complaints.

Paterno was fired, and then died. A statue of him outside the football stadium was taken down. Sandusky was sent to jail for a minimum of 30 years.

The university itself was fined US$60 million ($NZ72 million) and stripped of many scholarships and all post-season play for four years. Its football team did all right in the just completed season but for many, the game had died.

Messi the magician
Lionel Messi just keeps getting better.

His Barcelona side did not win the Spanish league but Messi managed to pass the mark for most goals scored in a calendar year.

It had been held by German Gerd Mueller but the Argentinian passed that mark with 86 in early December.

Playing for one of the best club sides in the world undoubtedly helps but Messi can do it all.

Of course, records are made to be broken and proved wrong, with claims the Brazilian Zico and some African bloke have scored more.

Messi also scored a hat trick on February 29, so he made the most of that extra day.

Andy Murray finally wins a Grand Slam
After getting through to the Wimbledon final and losing to Roger Federer it looked like it was never going to happen for the Scotsman.

Murray, though, finally got his mental game right and smashed Federer to win a gold medal at the London Olympics.

Then he moved to New York to Flushing Meadows for the final grand slam of the year.

He looked composed through the early rounds and then beat Tomas Berdych in the semifinal.

Facing Novak Djokovic in the final, Murray won the first two sets, lost the next two before winning the last 6-2 to become the first British grand slam champion in 76 years.

Was given a hero's welcome back home but surprisingly was not the country's sports personality of the year, losing out to cyclist Bradley Wiggins.