LONDON — From Serena Williams' near Grand Slam in tennis to Japan's shock defeat of South Africa in the Rugby World Cup and Barcelona's dominance on the football pitch, there was much to admire in international sports this year.
But much of it was spent dwelling on scandal — from widespread allegations of bribery and corruption at FIFA to systemic doping covered up in athletics.
Football officialdom endured a shameful year.
Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president since 1998, and Michel Platini, European football's top official, were banned from all football-related activity for eight years for a FIFA payment of about $2 million to Platini in 2011. The payment was judged by FIFA's ethics commission to be a conflict of interest and disloyal to the world body. Both deny wrongdoing and will appeal the decision.
And in athletics, Russia's federation was suspended after it was accused of operating a state-sponsored doping program. The suspension could keep Russia out of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Athletics had its more inspiring moments, Usain Bolt in many of them. A lunge to the line saw him see off Justin Gatlin in the 100 meters at the world championships in Beijing — scene of perhaps his greatest achievements in the 2008 Olympics.
Golf got its own new superstar this year, too. Jordan Spieth won the first two majors, and just fell short in the other two.
It was also a big year for Australia and New Zealand. The neighbors contested the finals of both the cricket and rugby World Cups. Australia won the former to claim its fifth Cricket World Cup while New Zealand got revenge when it became the first team to successfully defend the Rugby World Cup.
Attached are some notable moments in sports this year, as captured by photographers from The Associated Press.