The past turbulent year has seen doping scandals including Lance Armstrong admitting he's a cycling cheat, fixing claims in football and cricket and the arrest of paralympian Oscar Pistorius for murder.
Cricket god Sachin Tendulkar and Manchester United legend Alex Ferguson retired, while 26-year-old world champion Sebastian Vettel became the youngest driver to win a fourth consecutive title and 24-year-old Gareth Bale set a transfer fee record when he moved from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid for in 100 million euros ($137m).
Fallen cycling hero was emotional when he admitted in January using performance-enhancing drugs to win seven Tour de France titles.
|Sebastian Vettel celebrates after winning the Formula One Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi in November [EPA]
"My cocktail, so to speak, was only EPO, but not a lot, transfusions and testosterone," he said.
Police charged Pistorius in February with the St Valentine's Day murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The first double-amputee Olympic runner will stand trial in March.
Vettel raced to stake his claim as Formula One's greatest, as the German Red Bull driver chalked up a record ninth victory in a row and 13th of the year at the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix in November.
Britain's most successful football manager Ferguson in retired August by guiding Manchester United to the 2012-13 English Premier League title. It was his 38th trophy for the club during his 26 years in charge. "Fergie" has won 49 trophies in a managerial career spanning 39 years.
Football was hit by international fixing claims, the biggest bust occurring in England, where police arrested six players on suspicion of spot-fixing, including former English Premier League footballer DJ Campbell.
Global scandals to rock cricket included the Indian Premier League, where officials, players and bookmakers were charged with cheating and criminal conspiracy.
Tendulkar sealed his legend as the gentleman of sport after his 200th and final Test match in November.
"Time has flown by very quickly, but the memories will remain with me forever," the God of Cricket said.
World sprint champions Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, named the International Association of Athletics Federations' World Athletes of the Year in November, are beacons of hope amid a dark year for Jamaican sport. Six Jamaicans failed drug tests and the Jamaican Anti-Doping Commission's board too resigned in November.
|Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt won a 100m race against a Buenos Aires bus in December [AFP]
Doping claims also blighted British horseracing, Australian Rugby League and Aussie Rules.
In tennis, American Serena Williams set a new women's prize money record of $12,385,572, after successfully defending her WTA Championships title in October. The world number one also won the French and US Opens, taking her total number of Grand Slam titles to 17.
Andy Murray ended Britain's 77-year wait for a male Wimbledon winner, while Spanish world number one Rafael Nadal won the French and US Opens to take his Grand Slam singles titles to 13 - four behind Swiss rival Roger Federer.
The most successful golfer of all time, Tiger Woods, capped off his comeback by reclaiming the world number one spot and being voted the PGA Tour Player of the Year for the 11th time in his career.
The American won five PGA Tour events and secured the money title in September, surging to $8.4m after the BMW Championship.
"There were a lot of people saying I could never win again," Woods said.
American boxer Bernard Hopkins became the oldest fighter to defend the IBF light-heavyweight title when the 48-year-old beat Germany's Karo Murat in October.
In American football, more than 100 million people tuned in to see the Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers 34-31 in the Super Bowl.
Basketballer LeBron James helped the Miami Heat become NBA champions for the second consecutive season when they beat the San Antonio Spurs 95-88.
The Boston Red Sox won baseball's World Series by beating the St Louis Cardinals 6-1, in a season that saw the New York Yankees great Mariano Rivera.
In the NHL, a last-minute rally saw the Chicago Blackhawks snatch the Stanley Cup title.