In the quest for honor, some of the best athletes have turned to doping and dishonesty at the GamesBy: Emily G. W. Chau
Sure, the Olympics are an impressive show of strength and skill, but some athletes aren’t above a little deception in their quest for the gold. Performance-enhancing drugs have become all but commonplace, judges are bribed, and equipment rigged. (Granted, this isn’t always the case.) From underage gymnasts to men competing as women, we’ve rounded up some of the most scandalous turn of events at the Summer Olympics throughout the ages.
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While the 2008 Chinese women’s gymnastics team fell under scrutiny for fielding underage athletes (Search: What was the controversy?), it was Dong Fangxiao of the 2000 team that was officially determined to be ineligible. She was 14 when the minimum age is 16. In 2010, the Chinese team was stripped of its bronze medal and the US team was awarded third place.
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Marion Jones stunned the world for all the right reasons when the track star won a record three gold medals and two bronze at the Sydney Summer Olympics, and then for all the wrong reasons when it was found out that she had taken performance-enhancing drugs. Jones returned all five medals and was later sentenced to six months in jail for perjury regarding the doping.
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American boxer Roy Jones Jr. may have landed 86 punches compared to South Korean Park Si-Hun’s 32 at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, but the judges still ruled 3-2 for Park. Afterwards, one of the refs admitted voting for Park so as not to embarrass the host country. Even Park agreed that Jones Jr. was robbed of the gold.
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The Canadian sprinter bested defending Olympic champ Carl Lewis of the US in the 100-meter sprint. However, a few days later, Johnson tested positive for performance-enhancing drug use and was stripped of his gold medal.
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Despite Russian officials opening stadium doors so gusts of wind might interfere with his attempts, Polish pole vaulter Władysław Kozakiewicz still captured the gold. However, a bigger brouhaha erupted when Kozakiewicz stuck it to the USSR and gave the bras d’honneur gesture—or the “up yours” motion—in celebration.
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A member of the Soviet Union’s pentathlon team, Boris Onishchenko was caught cheating using a rigged épée (fencing sword) against Britain’s Jim Fox. The sword was modified such that it would score points even when it didn’t hit anything. Onishchenko finished the round with a regulation épée and won—but was later disqualified.
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Down 50-49 with three seconds to go, the Soviet team inbounded the ball when an assistant coach started arguing that they had called a timeout. The timeout was controversially rewarded, and a second, botched play was run by the USSR. While the US team celebrated their victory, it was determined that the game clock hadn’t been properly reset and the Soviet team was given a third shot to score. They won. In protest, the US team refused to accept their silver medals.
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The Swedish pentathlon team was stripped of its bronze medal for doping after it was discovered that Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall tossed back two brewskies to calm his nerves before the pistol-shooting portion. That sure redefines performance-enhancing drugs.
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Dora Ratjen represented Germany in the high jump at the 1936 Berlin Games—Adolf Hitler’s hoped-for showcase of Aryan supremacy. Not only did Ratjen placed fourth, “she” was found out to be a man. Born Hermann Ratjen, it’s no wonder the athlete never wanted to share locker rooms.
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Marathoner Fred Lorz crossed the finish line for the gold at the 1904 St. Louis Olympics, clocking in at three hours and 13 minutes. The catch: He rode in a car for 11 of those miles. Stripped of his medal, Lorz was banned for the sport for life, but was later allowed to run competitively and won the Boston Marathon in 1905.
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