In a worldwide poll of Associated Press subscribers, David Beckham's jump from English football club Manchester United to Real Madrid was the number-one international sports story of 2003. Beckham's transfer received 321 points (15 of 55 first-place votes) and finished 24 points ahead of the doping scandals that rocked the sports world.
The Beckham saga grew in June when news hit that he would be leaving his home of 13 years, Manchester United, for nine-time European champion Real Madrid. The $43 million deal stunned the football world and received almost non-stop media attention.
Finishing second (with 13 first-place votes and 297 points) were the doping scandals that shocked the sports world, including the discovery of the designer steroid THG and the stimulant modafinil. Four U.S. track and field athletes, four National Football League players and British sprinter Dwain Chambers have tested positive for THG.
German Michael Shumacher's latest Formula One title, his sixth straight, was the third-rated international sports story of the year (7 first-place votes and 279 points). American cyclist Lance Armstrong's fifth straight victory in the Tour de France was fourth (225 points), and England's epic first ever World Cup rugby victory was fifth (196 points).
Rated sixth was Roman Abramovich's Russian revolution with the London football club Chelsea, which is a serious contender after the influx of his money. Rounding out the top 10 are the death of Cameroon's Marc Viven Foe at football's Confederation's Cup; the rape charge against American basketball star Kobe Bryant; Belgium's Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijster's eclipsing American sisters Serena and Venus Williams in women's tennis; and Switzerland's Alinghi winning the America's Cup for sailing.