From Lance Armstrong's remarkable fall from grace to Oscar Pistorius' historic appearance at the London Olympics, we look back at the sportspeople who made headlines in 2012.
Probably the greatest doping scandal ever as the seven-time Tour de France winner was banned for life after being accused of orchestrating the most sophisticated doping programme in the history of sport. Armstrong, who has never admitted using performance-enhancing drugs, was wiped from the sport's record books. He also faces legal actions which could see him required to return millions in prize money and bonus payments.
Usain Bolt: Jamaican superstar Bolt sprinted into the record books at the London Olympics, his double-triple of 100m, 200m and a world-record setting 4x100m relay exhausting superlatives. "I'm now a legend, I'm the greatest athlete to live," said Bolt. The 26-year-old now wants to reclaim the world 100m title he lost to compatriot Yohan Blake in 2011 after being disqualified for a false start in the final.
Michael Phelps: US swimmer Phelps brought the curtain down on his career with four gold medals and two silvers at the Olympics, shattering the record for total medals in a career. In fact, his 18 golds ended up matching the previous record for total medals amassed by Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina - he was to finish with 22 altogether.
Bradley Wiggins: A good news story from cycling as 32-year-old Wiggins became the first British rider to win the Tour de France, the sport's most celebrated race. The Team Sky rider followed up his Tour win with gold in the Olympic road time-trial in front of home crowds in London.
Andy Murray: Murray's five-set win over Novak Djokovic at the US Open made him the first British man to win a Grand Slam singles title in 76 years. The victory came just weeks after he had won Olympic gold at the All England Club beating Roger Federer, the man who had denied him in the Wimbledon final.
Michael Clarke: Australian captain Clarke's masterly 230 in the first innings of the drawn Adelaide Test against South Africa was his fourth double century of 2012 - a feat that saw him become the first batsman in history to post four 200s in a calendar year. But his joy was tempered when the Proteas romped to victory in the final Test in Perth.
Yu Yang: One of the 'London Eight' who was kicked out of the Olympics badminton tournament for not trying, Yu, a gold medallist in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, went on to quit the sport. Her partner Wang Xiaoli was also disqualified as were Jung Kyung-Eun, Kim Ha-Na, Ha Jung-Eun and Kim Min-Jung of South Korea and Indonesia's Greysia Polii and Meiliana Jauhari.
Henry Cecil/Frankel: Frankel won his 14th race in 14 outings in October at Ascot to confirm his place as the greatest racehorse before heading into retirement. Part of his appeal stemmed not only from his performances - he won nine of his races by four lengths or more - but also because of trainer Henry Cecil's poignant battle against cancer.
Ye Shiwen: 16-year-old Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen stunned the Olympics with her lightning world-record 400m individual medley display. The schoolgirl timed 58.68sec in the last 100 metres, a whisker off US winner Ryan Lochte's time in the men's competition. Her her final lap was quicker than the American champion. The performance prompted an immediate whispering campaign against the teenager who denied any foul play.
Sebastian Vettel: In a gripping season-ending race in Brazil, Vettel became the youngest triple champion in Formula One history. The 25-year-old German Red Bull driver, who was involved in an opening lap collision with Bruno Senna, finished sixth. His only title rival, Fernando Alonso, finished second, but it was not enough to overhaul a pre-race 13-point deficit as Vettel winning the crown by just three points.
Serena Williams: Down and out after her worst career Grand Slam defeat at the French Open where she was a first round loser, the American thundered back, winning Wimbledon, Olympic gold, the US Open and the season-ending WTA Championships. Not surprisingly, she was voted the tour's player of the year.
Oscar Pistorius: Double-amputee Pistorius defended his 400m gold at the Paralympics having lost his 100m and 200m titles to Britain's Jonnie Peacock and Alan Oliveira of Brazil. The South African, who overcame controversy surrounding his carbon fibre blades, also won gold in the men's T42-46 4x100m relay. Weeks earlier, he had made history by participating in the London Olympics, the first double amputee to do so.
Wojdan Shaherkani: The 16-year-old judoka was the first ever female Saudi athlete to compete at the Olympics, but her historic debut lasted just 82 seconds. Looking nervous and wearing a swimming cap-style head covering, she was beaten in the first round. Heavyweight Shaherkani was only given the go-ahead at a late stage to fight after a row over the wearing of a hijab was resolved.
Queen Elizabeth II:
The 86-year-old monarch played a surprise starring role at the Olympics opening ceremony. She was shown in a pre-filmed sequence in which actor Daniel Craig, playing fictional British super-spy James Bond, arrived at Buckingham Palace in a taxi to escort the queen by helicopter to the ceremony. Real helicopters then appeared over the Olympic Stadium and stuntmen playing Bond and the sovereign jumped out, just before Queen Elizabeth entered the stadium, wearing the same outfit.
Spain's Euro 2012 winners: Spain confirmed their status as one of the greatest national teams in football history by overwhelming Italy 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final in Kiev to retain their European crown. Vicente del Bosque's team became the first side to successfully defend a European Championship title, as well as the first to win three consecutive major tournaments after their triumphs at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.
European Ryder Cup team: Europe produced the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history to retain the trophy. Trailing by 10-6 going into the closing 12 singles, Jose Maria Olazabal's men won the first five matches out and went on to make sure of victory when Martin Kaymer downed Steve Stricker 1 up in the penultimate match. The team featured Rory McIlroy who enjoyed a stellar year, winning four US PGA Tour titles, including a major title at the PGA Championship.
Britain Olympic team: Hosts Britain enjoyed their best ever Games with 29 golds in a total haul of 65, finishing third in the medals table behind the United States and China. Mo Farah, with a 5,000m-10,000m double, and heptathlete Jessica Ennis lit up the Olympic Stadium as the country rode a wave of pride and patriotism.