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Top Five Sports Feuds of 2012

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Top Five Sports Feuds of 2012

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Lance Armstrong's feud with Floyd Landis left no winners.

Sports bring out the fighter in their participants--and, on occasion, in their fans--but sometimes that fight spills out beyond the arena, resulting in ongoing feuds. Here are the top five sports feuds that we were all treated to in 2012, none of which left anyone in the win column.

No. 5 - Michael Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte

Is it a feud or not? Olympic swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte claim there's no feud between them and that they're good buddies. It sure felt like a feud, though, leading up to and during the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Tension appeared to ramp up between them as Lochte's recent rise in the world of swimming put a dent in what had been Phelps' invincible armor for years. Lochte did the unthinkable: beat Phelps in races. He did it with increasing regularity leading up to the London Games, and Phelps was visibly unhappy about it.

When Lochte trounced Phelps in the 400-meter individual medley in the 2012 Olympics, it was the first time that Phelps had failed to medal in an event since 2000 . Phelps did rally, though, and slipped past Lochte in the 200-meter IM in London before retiring after the Olympics.

Was it a feud, or simply a great rivalry?

No. 4 - Bobby Valentine vs. Kevin Youkilis

As if the Boston Red Sox didn't have enough problems this year, manager Bobby Valentine decided that throwing barbs at one of the Sox's most beloved players, Kevin Youkilis, was the way to go.

In mid-April, Valentine declared on WHDH-TV that he didn't think Youk was "as physically or emotionally into the game" anymore. Youk was understandably perturbed, and verbal barbs were traded between the two through the media throughout the season.

If that was Valentine's attempt at a motivational strategy, it backfired horribly. Youkilis was traded to the Chicago White Sox on June 24, the Red Sox finished in last place in the AL East with a 69-93 record and another late-season swoon, and Valentine was fired after the season.

No winners in this feud.

No. 3 - Dwight Howard vs. Stan Van Gundy

Tensions between a star player and the team's head coach didn't go any better in Orlando than it did in Boston.

The Orlando Magic's 2012 season was marred by a feud between center Dwight Howard and head coach Stan Van Gundy. For the past few seasons, Howard had become increasingly frustrated with the Magic's inability to compete for an NBA title, resulting in frequent requests to be traded. The frustration spilled over into a developing feud with Van Gundy.

In March, Howard finally had his chance to bolt Orlando, but he decided to stay instead. A few weeks later, on April 5, Van Gundy announced to the press that Howard wanted him fired . Howard immediately denied asking management for Van Gundy's head on a platter but on May 21 the coach was given the pink slip.

The Magic finished the year with an unimpressive 37-29 record and were once again bounced in the first round of the NBA playoffs. In August, Howard was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, leaving the Magic and their listless 5-8 start to the 2012-13 season as the biggest losers in this feud.

No. 2 - Lance Armstrong vs. Floyd Landis

For years, Armstrong ruled the cycling world and raised the sport to a level never seen before in the United States. Seven Tour de France victories. Cancer survivor. Commercial spokesman. The guy who made those silicone wristbands popular with his famous yellow LIVESTRONG creed.

King of the world.

Armstong was constantly accused of doping by people like Floyd Landis, who won the 2006 Tour de France and was subsequently stripped of that title after testing positive for PEDs. But Armstrong kept passing test after test after test, and Americans embraced him even more as he thwarted his accusers time and time again.

Landis, meanwhile, came across as a petty, bitter, disgraced cheater desperate to take someone down with him and was summarily dismissed from the American consciousness.

Then in October, the unthinkable happened. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency found 26 people--including Landis and 10 other former teammates of Armstrong--and a mountain of evidence that illustrated how Armstrong doped throughout his career and demanded that his teammates dope, too.

All of Armstrong's Tour de France victories were stripped, and he was banned for life from the sport. For his efforts, Landis earned a "scumbag" label from International Cycling Union president Pat McQuaid. Landis has also been busy avoiding a prison sentence on a federal wire fraud case.

And as this feud wages on, the sport takes an enormous hit in credibility and Americans go back to not caring about cycling.

No. 1 - Jonathan Vilma vs. Roger Goodell

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said that the New Orleans Saints maintained a bounty system, paying players to hurt opponents. The league's sanctions on the team were crushing: Head coach Sean Payton banned for a year, general manager Mickey Loomis banned for eight games, former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams banned indefinitely, assistant coach Joe Vitt banned for six games, a $500,000 fine, and two forfeited second-round draft picks.

Then came the player punishments : Linebacker Jonathan Vilma suspended for the year, defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove suspended for eight games, defensive end Will Smith suspended for four games, and linebacker Scott Fujita suspended for three games.

Not so fast, said Vilma. Goodell got his facts wrong, he and seven witnesses testified in front of a federal judge . An internal appeals panel vacated the penalties, the NFL reinstated them, the players appealed again, and now former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue is reviewing the case. His ruling is expected in December, the timing of which could either bolster or destroy the Saints' run at the postseason.

Some fans say Goodell is a tyrannical dictator who is ruining the game by turning it into flag football. Others think the penalties are well-deserved -- that while the game is violent by nature, intentionally hurting opponents crosses the line.

Whose side are you on?

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