The history of the Olympic Games is littered with scandals, big and small. While the competition brings out the best in terms of competition and athletic excellence, the quest for glory can also bring out the worst in athletes, judges and even entire national sporting federations. Here are 10 of the most scandalous moments in the history of the Olympic Games.
At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Chinese gymnast Dong Fangxiao helped her team bring home the bronze medal. The problem? She was just 14 at the time and you must be 16 to compete. The Chinese team was eventually stripped of its bronze medal in April 2010.
At the 2002 Winter Games, French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne awarded Russian pairs figure skaters Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze enough points to edge Canadians Jamie Salé and David Pelletier for the gold, despite everyone else seeing it the other way around. Eventually, Le Gougne admitted it was a plot to award Russia gold in one event and France gold in another. After the revelation, Salé and Pelletier (pictured) were awarded the gold. Le Gougne was suspended indefinitely.
At the 1968 Winter Games in Grenoble, France, French skier Jean-Claude Killy was on his way to winning gold when opponent, Austrian Karl Schranz claimed a mysterious “man in black” crossed his path, causing him to stop. Officials granted Schranz a restart and he posted the fastest time. But after a review of TV footage revealed Schranz had missed the gate, his repeat time was annulled and Killy reclaimed gold.
Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler envisioned the 1936 Berlin Olympiad as a showpiece for blonde, blue eyed aryans. Unfortunately for Hitler, black American runner Jesse Owens flipped the script, winning four gold medals and besting the “ubermen.” It was too much for the Fuhrer who refused to meet Owens.
Canadian runner Ben Johnson became a national hero when he won a gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics with a 9.79 second 100-meter dash, beating out rival Carl Lewis in the process. But adulation turned to disgrace when it was revealed that Johnson had tested positive for steroids. He was stripped of his medal.
No list of Olympic scandals would be complete without a retelling of the story of Tonya Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly taking a lead pipe to the knee of rival skater Nancy Kerrigan just weeks before the 1994 Games. Kerrigan recovered and went on to take the silver while Harding was banned from the sport for life.
Following allegations of doping, a panel was commissioned to review all Russian athletes slated to compete at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The panel uncovered widespread and systematic doping and a third of the Russian team was officially banned from the Games – including the entire track and field team. Two years later, the entire Russian team was banned from the PyeongChang Games, although some athletes were allowed to compete under a neutral flag.
In the light-middleweight gold match at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, American boxer Roy Jones Jr. dominated a South Korean Pak Si-Hun, landing some 86 punches to the Korean’s 32. Despite Jones’ dominance and Si-Hun not winning a single round, the judges declared the Korean the winner and he was awarded the gold.
Prior to being awarded the 2002 Winter Olympics, Salt Lake City, Utah had tried and failed on two previous occasions to be awarded the Games. As the old saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try bribery.” Which is what president of the SLC bid committee Tom Welch (pictured) and other officials did in the form of ski trips, cash bribes and Super Bowl tickets given to IOC officials.
In the run-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia there were calls for a boycott due to oppressive anti-gay legislation. The games went ahead, but ballooning costs made the Sochi Games the most expensive in history, while a litany of problems with athlete and media accommodations made the “Sochi problems” meme the Games’ lingering legacy.