As the whole country waited to hear if Alex Rodriguez, major league baseball's highest paid player, would be banned from baseball, the question on many fans' minds was: "Why?" Some wondered why he allegedly risked using performance-enhancing drugs to up his game, while others wondered why he is singled out in a sport that is widely suspected of being a haven for illegal substances.
Meanwhile, the NFL, NBA and other professional sports organizations are fighting their own battles. The New England Patriots former tight end Aaron Hernandez remains in jail on murder charges, while Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper is reportedly in counseling, following his separation from the team after using racial slurs at a recent public event.
These high-profile cases are just the latest in a long string of athletes behaving badly, and often the biggest stars in their respective sports fall the hardest.
Big names like Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Tiger Woods, Mark McGuire and Lance Armstrong reached the pinnacle of their professions before tumbling down because of their own deliberate missteps.
Just this week, MLB handed down 50-game suspensions to 12 players, and a 211-game suspension to Rodriguez, all for their connection to performance enhancing drugs.
"While it's true we hear a lot about these people, my guess is that if you look for serious arrests or criminal behavior it is far less in pro sports than it is in the society as a whole," said Randy Roberts, a distinguished professor of history at Purdue University who has studied the societal impact of athletes and professional sports. "I think the nature of the person who is convicted becomes so sensationalized that some people want to say this is the norm, but it probably is not."
Still, many observers have expressed concern that pro athletes are societal role models to younger people, and their bad behavior has far-reaching implications.
"I don't believe athletes should be role models," said Roberts, author of "Rising Tide: Bear Bryant, Joe Namath, and Dixie's Last Quarter."
"We live in a society that has enshrined instant gratification," he said. "An athlete shows that you can be fabulously wealthy by the time you're 22 or 23, maybe younger if you're a great athlete. This is a bad role model because life doesn't work like that. You don't get your first job and start making millions of dollars from day one."
Roberts is quick to point out that there are many athletes who live exemplary lives, but they don't make headlines for that. "If you look at a guy like Peyton Manning (Denver Broncos quarterback), he's not hanging out in bars or getting arrested, so we don't hear much about him."
The instant wealth and adulation can be heady stuff for a player who goes from being a typical broke college student to a multi-million dollar star player, said Jeff Benedict, author of the forthcoming book, "The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football."
"One explanation for the bad behavior, especially in football, is that the NFL drafts these guys right out of college," Benedict said. "If you look at Aaron Hernandez, this is a guy who had had multiple run-ins with law enforcement during college, also issues with alcohol and failed drug tests, but that kind of thing rarely stops a guy from progressing to the NFL draft."
Couple that with the easy access young pro athletes have to alcohol, or women, and it can be a recipe for disaster.
"The domestic violence cases I've looked at among athletes more often than not predicate on another woman, and that is what sparks violence in the home," Benedict said. "The home can be pretty stressful, because these homes are quite different than most other homes."
Although the major leagues are cracking down on inappropriate and illegal acts among their players, the fans seem to be hanging in there, even when they've seen the headlines. The competition and on-field victories seem to take precedence over any ethical or legal issues involved.
"Pro sports are more popular than ever," Benedict said. "TV viewing, merchandise sales, every barometer there is shows the games are off the charts in terms of popularity. Sports fans can't help it. We want to win so badly and want to be entertained and we'll put up with just about anything. We wring our hands when we see things happen, but when Sunday comes along, we turn that TV on."