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The Olympic Games is a major international multi-sport event. During its history, both the Summer and Winter Games were a subject of many scandals and controversies.

Some states boycotted the Games on various occasions, often as a sign of protest against the International Olympic Committee or contemporary politics of other paticipants. After both World Wars, the losing countries were not invited. Other controversies include decisions by referees and even gestures made by athletes.

Summer Olympics[]

1908 Summer Olympics[]

  • Grand Duchy of Finland competed separately from the Russian Empire, but was not allowed to display the Finnish flag.[1] Similary, Ireland participated separately from Great Britain in field hockey and polo, but also without its own flag.[1]
  • In the 400 metres, American winner John C. Carpenter, was disqualified for blocking British athlete Wyndham Halswelle in a maneuver that was legal under U.S. rules but prohibited by the British rules under which the race was run. As a result of the disqualification, a second final race was ordered. Halswelle was to face the other two finalists William Robbins and John Taylor, but both were from the United States and decided not to contest the repeat of the final to protest the judges' decision. Halswelle was thus the only medallist in the 400 metres. It was the only walkover victory in Olympic history. Taylor later ran on the Gold medal winning U.S. team for the now-defunct Medley Relay, becoming the first African American medalist.[2]

1912 Summer Olympics[]

  • American athlete Jim Thorpe was stripped of his gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon after it was learned that he had played professional minor league baseball three years earlier.[3] In solidarity, the decathlon silver medalist, Hugo Wieslander, refused to accept the medals when they were offered to him.[4] The gold medals were restored to Thorpe's children in 1983, thirty years after his death.[3]

1916 Summer Olympics[]

  • The 1916 Summer Olympics were to have been held in Berlin, German Empire, but were cancelled because of the outbreak of World War I.

1920 Summer Olympics[]

  • Budapest had initially been selected over Amsterdam and Lyon to host the Games, but as the Austro-Hungarian Empire had been a German ally in World War I, the French-dominated International Olympic Committee transferred the Games to Antwerp in April 1919.

1924 Summer Olympics[]

  • Germany was again not invited to the Games.[5]

1932 Summer Olympics[]

  • Nine-time Finnish Olympic gold medalist Paavo Nurmi was found to be a professional athlete and barred from running in the Games. The main conductors of the ban were Swedish officials, especially Sigfrid Edström, who claimed that Nurmi had received too much money for his travel expenses. However, Nurmi did travel to Los Angeles and kept training at the Olympic Village. Despite pleas from all the entrants of the marathon, he was not allowed to compete at the Games. This incident, in part, led to Finland refusing to participate in the traditional Finland-Sweden athletics international event until 1939.
  • After winning the silver in equestrian dressage, Swedish equestrian Bertil Sandström was demoted to last for clicking to his horse to in encouragement. He asserted that it was a creaking saddle making the sounds.

1936 Summer Olympics[]

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-G00630, Sommerolympiade, Siegerehrung Weitsprung

African-American Jesse Owens on the podium after winning the long jump at the 1936 Summer Olympics

  • The 1936 Summer Olympics, held in Berlin, were controversial due to the Nazi regime that came to power after the city had been selected. Adolf Hitler regarded it as his Olympics and he took them as a chance to show off the post-First World War Germany. In 1936, a number of prominent politicians and organizations called for a boycott of the Summer Olympics, which had been awarded to Germany before the Nazi regime came to power.[6] The Popular Front government of Spain decided to boycott and organized the People's Olympiad as an altermative with labour and socialist groups around the world sending athletes to the effort. However the Spanish Civil War broke out just as the Games were about to begin.
  • The United States considered boycotting the Games, but ultimately decided to participate. Nazi propaganda promoted concepts of "Aryan racial superiority"; however African-American athlete Jesse Owens, winner of four medals during the games, did not face segregation and discrimination in Germany that were normal in the United States at the time.
  • French Olympians gave what appeared to be the Nazi salute at the opening ceremony, although they may have been performing the Olympic salute, which is similar, as both are based on the Roman salute.
  • The IOC expelled U.S. athlete Ernest Lee Jahnke, the son of a German immigrant, for encouraging athletes to boycott the Berlin Games. He was replaced by United States Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage, who supported the Games.
  • In the cycling match sprint final, German Toni Merkens fouled Dutchman Arie van Vliet. Instead of disqualification, Merkens was fined 100 Reichsmarks and kept the gold medal.
  • United States sprinters Sam Stoller and Marty Glickman, the only two Jewish athletes on the U.S. Olympic team, were pulled from the 4 × 100 relay team on the day of the competition, leading to accusations of anti-Semitism on the part of the United States Olympic Committee.

1940 and 1944 Summer Olympics[]

  • The 1940 Summer Olympics were scheduled to be held in Tokyo, Japan, but were cancelled due to the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War. The government of Japan had abandoned its support for the 1940 Games in July 1938.[7] The IOC then awarded the Games to Helsinki, Finland, the runner-up in the original bidding process, but the Games were not held due to the Winter War. Ultimately, the Olympic Games were suspended indefinitely following the outbreak of World War II and did not resume until the London Games of 1948.

1948 Summer Olympics[]

  • The two major Axis powers of World War II, Germany and Japan, were not invited to the Games.[1]
  • The Soviet Union was invited but chose not to send any athletes.

1956 Summer Olympics[]

  • The political frustrations between the Soviet Union and Hungary boiled over at the games themselves when the two men's water polo teams met for the semi-final. The players became increasingly violent towards one another as the game progressed, while many Hungarian spectators were prevented from rioting only by the sudden appearance of the police.[8] The match became known as the Blood in the Water match.[9][10]

1964 Summer Olympics[]

  • South Africa was expelled from the Olympics due to apartheid.[1] It would not be invited again until 1992.

1968 Summer Olympics[]

  • 1968 Olympics Black Power salute: Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two African-American athletes who finished the 200 meter race first and third respectively, performed the "Power to the People" salute during the national anthem of the United States.
  • Students in Mexico City tried to make use of the media attention for their country to protest the authoritarian Mexican government. The government reacted with violence, culminating in the Tlatelolco Massacre ten days before the Games began and more than two hundred protesters were shot by government forces.

1972 Summer Olympics[]

  • The Munich massacre occurred during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany, when members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September which had ties to Yasser Arafat’s Fatah organization. Eleven athletes were murdered by the terrorists.
  • In the controversial gold medal basketball game, the USA Olympic Basketball team battled for the gold medal for the last few seconds against the team from the Soviet Union. With three seconds left and the US team leading the Soviets by one point, a Soviet attempt to run an inbounds play was aborted when their coaching staff interrupted game officials to argue that the team was due a timeout. Another play was run, which failed to score and sent the U.S. team into jubilant celebration over their apparent victory. But the play was ruled invalid because the game clock had not been properly reset when the ball was inbounded. The clock was reset and a third play was run, on which the USSR scored a layup to win, 51-50. Infuriated by the actions of the officials, the U.S. team refused to accept the silver medals.[11]
  • At the end of the Marathon, a German impostor entered the stadium to the cheers of the stadium ahead of the actual winner, Frank Shorter of the United States. During the ABC coverage of the event, the guest commentator, writer Erich Segal famously called to Shorter "It's a fraud, Frank."[12][13]

1976 Summer Olympics[]

Olympic boycotts 1976 1980 1984

Countries boycotting the 1976 (yellow), 1980 (blue) and 1984 (orange) Summer Olympics

  • In protest against the New Zealand rugby union team's tour of South Africa, Tanzania led a boycott of twenty-two African nations after the International Olympic Committee refused to bar New Zealand. Some of the teams withdrew after the first day.[1][14][15] The controversy prevented a much anticipated meeting between Tanzanian Filbert Bayi--the former world record holder in both the 1500 metres and the Mile run; and New Zealand's John Walker--who had surpassed both records to become the, then, current world record holder in both events. Walker went on to win the gold medal in the 1500 metres.[16]
  • Soviet modern pentathlete Boris Onischenko was found to have used an épée which had a pushbutton on the pommel in the fencing portion of the pentathlon event. This button, when activated, would cause the electronic scoring system to register a hit whether or not the épée had actually connected with the target area of his opponent. As a result of this discovery, he and the entire male Soviet pentathlon team were disqualified.[17]
  • Canada, the host country, incurred $1.5 billion in debt, which was not paid off until December 2006.[18]

1980 Summer Olympics[]

  • 1980 Summer Olympics boycott: U.S. President Jimmy Carter issued a boycott of the games to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, as the Games were held in Moscow, the capital of the Soviet Union. Many nations refused to participate in the Games. The exact number of boycotting nations is difficult to determine, as a total of 62 eligible countries failed to participate, but some of those countries withdrew due to financial hardships, only claiming to join the boycott to avoid embarrassment. A substitute event, titled the Liberty Bell Classic (often referred to as Olympic Boycott Games) was held at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia by 29 of the boycotting countries.
  • Polish gold medalist pole vaulter Władysław Kozakiewicz showed an obscene bras d'honneur gesture to the jeering Soviet public, causing an international scandal and almost losing his medal as a result.[19]

1984 Summer Olympics[]

  • 1984 Summer Olympics boycott: The Soviet Union and fourteen of its allies boycotted the 1984 Games held in Los Angeles, United States, citing lack of security for their athletes as the official reason; The decision was regarded as a response to the United States-led boycott issued against the Moscow Olympics four years earlier.[20] The Eastern Bloc organized its own multi-sport event, the Friendship Games, instead. For different reasons, Iran and Libya also boycotted the Games.[21]
  • In the finals of the 3000 metre track event, a collision involving South African Zola Budd (competing for Great Britain) and United States Mary Decker resulted in the latter being unable to complete the race. Although Budd was leading at the time of the collision, and regained and held the lead for a while after it, she eventually finished 7th, fading in the final lap, after boos from the crowd. An IAAF jury later found Budd not responsible for the collision.

1988 Summer Olympics[]

  • Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson was stripped of his gold medal for the 100 metres when he tested positive for stanozolol after the event.
  • In a highly controversial 3-2 judge's decision, South Korean boxer Park Si-Hun defeated American Roy Jones, Jr., despite Jones pummeling Park for three rounds, landing 86 punches to Park's 32. Allegedly, Park himself apologized to Jones afterward. One judge shortly thereafter admitted the decision was a mistake, and all three judges voting against Jones were eventually suspended. The official IOC investigation concluding in 1997 found no wrongdoing, and the IOC still officially stands by the decision. A similarly controversial decision went against U.S. team member Michael Carbajal. These incidents led Olympic organizers to establish a new scoring system for boxing.

2000 Summer Olympics[]

  • Romanian Andreea Răducan became the first gymnast to be stripped of a medal after testing positive for pseudoephedrine, at the time a prohibited substance.[23] Răducan, 16, took Nurofen, a common over-the-counter medicine, to help treat a fever. The Romanian team doctor who gave her the medication was expelled from the Games and suspended for four years. The gold medal was finally awarded to Răducan's team mate Simona Amânar, who had obtained silver. Răducan was allowed to keep her other medals, a gold from the team competition and a silver from the vault.
  • Chinese gymnast Dong Fangxiao was stripped of a bronze medal in April 2010. Investigations by the sport's governing body (FIG) found that she was only 14 at the 2000 Games. (To be eligible the gymnastic athletes must turn 16 during the Olympic year). Dong also lost a sixth-place result in the individual floor exercises and seventh in the vault. FIG recommended the IOC take the medal back as her scores aided China in winning the team bronze. The US women's team, who had come fourth in the event, now move up to third (bronze medal).[24]
  • United States sprinter Marion Jones won 5 medals in the 100 metres, 200 metres, Long jump, 4x100 metres relay and 4x400 metres relay. In 2007, after a lengthy investigation of the BALCO case, Jones admitted in court to having taken performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). She and her relay teammates were subsequently stripped of their Olympic medals.[25] Other individual medalists were advanced, but not all of them. 100 metres silver medalist Ekaterini Thanou of Greece was accused of evading drug testing herself before the 2004 Summer Olympics in her home country, which she suddenly withdrew from at the last minute. She eventually accepted a ban for violating the policy.[26] Amid the controversy, the IOC chose not to advance her medal, instead awarding an additional silver and bronze, but no gold in the event.[27] The reshuffling of medals involving the relay teams are still pending legal appeals. A precedent was established when the winning American men's 4x400 metres relay team was originally allowed to keep their medals, even though Jerome Young had also admitted taking PEDs and was disqualified. The narrow legal difference is that Young only ran in the preliminary races while Jones ran in the final. That men's relay team has now been disqualified with the additional admission of PED violation by Antonio Pettigrew who ran in the final. Amid the continuing controversy, the IOC has yet to announce the medal advancement for the relays.[28]

2004 Summer Olympics[]

  • Irish showjumper Cian O'Connor's horse, Waterford Crystal, tested positive for fluphenazine and zuclophenthixol months after receiving a gold medal. The subsequent investigation was hampered by several suspicious events. When O'Connor requested a second test, the horse's B urine sample was stolen enroute to a laboratory. Documents about another horse belonging to O'Connor were stolen in a break-in at the Equestrian Federation of Ireland's headquarters. Finally, in the spring of 2005, O'Connor was stripped of the gold medal.
  • The officiating in swimming and gymnastics was called into question several times. Eventually for artistic gymastics, a new point system was implemented for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
  • Hungarian fencing official Josef Hidasi was suspended for two years by the FIE after committing several errors during an Italy-China match.
  • Canadian men's rowing pair Chris Jarvis and David Calder were disqualified in the semi-final round after they crossed into the lane belonging to the South African team of Donovan Cech and Ramon di Clemente and in doing so, according to the South Africans, interfered with their progress. The Canadians appealed unsuccessfully to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
  • In the women's 100m hurdles, Canadian sprinter Perdita Felicien stepped on the first hurdle, tumbling to the ground and taking Russian Irina Shevchenko with her. The Russian Federation filed an unsuccessful protest, pushing the medal ceremony back a day. Track officials debated for about two hours before rejecting the Russians' arguments. The race was won by the United States Joanna Hayes in Olympic-record time.
  • In a tournament match in men's volleyball, the US and Greece were in the final game of the match (Game 5). When the Americans were handling the ball, a whistle was blown from the audience. As a result, the Greeks stopped their defense because in volleyball the ball is "dead" as soon as a whistle blows. To the officials however, it was a still a live ball. That let the Americans make the last spike to win by two to move to the next round. The Greek team protested, but the officials let the play count. No appeal has been made.
  • Iranian judoist Arash Miresmaili was disqualified after he was found to be overweight before a judo bout against Israeli Ehud Vaks. He had gone on an eating binge the night before in a protest against the IOC's recognition of the state of Israel. It was reported that Iranian Olympic team chairman Nassrollah Sajadi had suggested that the Iranian government should give him $115,000 (the amount he would have received if he had won the gold medal) as a reward for his actions. Then-President of Iran, Mohammad Khatami, who was reported to have said that Arash's refusal to fight the Israeli would be "recorded in the history of Iranian glories", stated that the nation considered him to be "the champion of the 2004 Olympic Games."

2008 Summer Olympics[]

  • Players for the Spanish men’s and women’s basketball teams posed for a pre-Olympic newspaper advertisement in popular Spanish daily Marca, in which they are pictured pulling back the skin on either side of their eyes, narrowing them in order to mimic the typical Asian eye.[29]
  • Swedish wrestler Ara Abrahamian dropped his bronze medal onto the floor immediately after it was placed around his neck in protest at his loss to Italian Andrea Minguzzi in the semifinals of the men's 84kg Greco-Roman wrestling event.[30] He was subsequently disqualified by the IOC.
  • Questions have been raised about the ages of two Chinese female gymnasts, He Kexin and Jiang Yuyuan. This is due partly to their overly-youthful appearance, as well as a speech in 2007 by Chinese director of general administration for sport Liu Peng.[31]
  • Norway’s last second goal against South Korea in the semifinals of handball put it through to the Gold Medal game. According to a photograph that has surfaced on the Internet, however, the ball had failed to fully cross the goal line prior to time expiring. The South Koreans protested and requested that the game continue at the overtime point. The IHF has confirmed the results of the match.[32]
  • Cuban taekwandoist Ángel Matos was banned for life from any international taekwondo events after kicking a referee in the face. Matos attacked the referee after he disqualified Matos for violating the time limit on an injury timeout.[33] He then punched another official.[34]
  • Anna Bessonova of Ukraine in the individual all-around final in rhythmic gymnastics. Technical values for the hoop and clubs routines were lowered more than a point compared to her qualification scores, despite minimum mistakes. After jeers from the crowd, the judges revised the clubs score and added 0.05 points, allowing Bessonova to compete for a podium spot against Inna Zhukova from Belarus and Olga Kapranova from Russia.Template:Citation needed

Winter Olympics[]

1968 Winter Olympics[]

  • French skiier Jean-Claude Killy achieved a clean sweep of the then-three alpine skiing medals at Grenoble, but only after what the IOC bills as the "greatest controversy in the history of the Winter Olympics."[35] The slalom run was held in poor visibility and Austrian skiier Karl Schranz claimed a mysterious man in black crossed his path during the slalom race, causing him to stop. Schranz was given a re-start and posted the fastest time. A Jury of Appeal then reviewed the television footage, declared that Schranz had missed a gate on the upper part of the first run, annulled his repeat run time, and gave the medal to Killy.
  • Three East German competitors in the women's luge event were disqualified for illegally heating their runners prior to each run.

1972 Winter Olympics[]

  • Austrian skier Karl Schranz, a vocal critic of then-IOC president Avery Brundage and reportedly earning $50,000 a year at the time,[36] was singled out for his status as a covertly professional athlete, notably for his relationship with the ski manufacturer Kneissl, and ejected from the games. Schranz's case was particularly high-profile because of the disqualification controversy centering on Schranz and French skiier Jean-Claude Killy at the 1968 games and Schranz's subsequent dominance of alpine skiing in the Skiing World Cups of 1969 and 1970. However, the ostensible reason was that Schranz was photographed at a soccer game wearing a T-shirt with a coffee advertisement. The incident led directly to changes in athlete sponsorship rules: Schranz reportedly said of these "It's an emphasis on the wrong principle. I think the Olympics should be a contest of all sportsmen, with no regard for color, race or wealth."[36] Brundage's twenty-year reign as President of the IOC ended six months later and subsequent presidents have been limited to terms of eight years, renewable once for four years.

1980 Winter Olympics[]

  • The 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York stirred controversy because of plans to convert the Olympic dormitory facilities into a state prison afterwards. Legal history was made when the National Moratorium on Prison Construction won a court ruling allowing its use of the Olympic symbol on a poster.

1994 Winter Olympics[]

  • Jeff Gillooly, the ex-husband of U.S. figure skater Tonya Harding, arranged for an attack on her closest U.S. rival, Nancy Kerrigan, a month before the start of the Games. Both women competed, with Kerrigan winning the silver and Harding performing poorly. Harding was later banned for life both from competing in USFSA-sanctioned events and from becoming a sanctioned coach.

1998 Winter Olympics[]

  • At the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, a judge in the ice dancing event tape-recorded another judge trying to pre-ordain the results. Dick Pound, a prominent International Olympic Committee official, said soon afterward that ice dancing should be stripped of its status as an Olympic event unless it could clean up the perception that its judging is corrupt.[37]
  • Also making the news was Ross Rebagliati's disqualification for marijuana being found in his system and having his gold medal stripped. The IOC reinstated the medal days later.

2002 Winter Olympics[]

  • A number of I.O.C. members were forced to resign after it was uncovered that they had accepted inappropriately valuable "gifts" in return for voting for Salt Lake City to hold the Games. Template:See
  • Dual gold medals were awarded in pairs figure skating, to Canadian pair David Pelletier and Jamie Salé and to Russian pair Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze after allegations of collusion among judges.


  • Three cross-country skiers, Spaniard Johann Mühlegg and Russians Larissa Lazutina and Olga Danilova, were disqualified after blood tests indicated the use of darbepoetin. Following a December 2003 ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the I.O.C in February 2004 withdrew all the doped athletes' medals from the Games, amending the result lists accordingly.
  • South Korean speedskater Kim Dong-Sung was disqualified for cross-tracking (cutting off another skater) through the final turn of the men's 1500 metre short-track speedskating final. This disqualification handed the gold to American Apolo Anton Ohno.

2006 Winter Olympics[]

  • Members of the Austrian biathlon team had their Olympic Village residences raided by Italian authorities, who were investigating doping charges.
  • Russian biathlete Olga Medvedtseva was stripped of her silver medal won in the individual race, due to positive drug test. A two year ban from any competition had been imposed.

2010 Winter Olympics[]

  • Quadruple jump controversy- For the first time since 1994, a male skater is awarded the gold medal without performing a quadruple jump.

The controversy includes such issues as: should a simpler routine have been awarded gold over programs that included a quadruple-triple combination, collusion in the judging process, and whether or not the most difficult jump is recognized enough as such in the current ISU judging system.

2014 Winter Olympics[]

  • In August 2008, the government of Georgia called for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics, set to be held in Sochi, Russia, in response to Russia's participation in the 2008 South Ossetia war.[38] Sochi is within twenty miles of Abkhazia, a disputed territory claimed by Georgia. The International Olympic Committee responded to concerns about the status of the 2014 games by stating that it is "premature to make judgments about how events happening today might sit with an event taking place six years from now."[39]

See also[]

  • List of stripped Olympic medals


Template:Commons category

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  12. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/polls/sportscalls.htm Washington Post
  13. http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/sports_globetrotting/2008/10/marathon-men-th.html Chicago Tribune October 10, 2008 by Phil Hersh
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  23. As of 2006, pseudoephedrine was not considered a prohibited substance by the World Anti-Doping Agency. The drug was removed from the prohibited list in 2003; the WADA moved the substance to the Monitoring List to assess in-competition use and abuse.
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  27. http://www.morethanthegames.co.uk/athletics/157743-thanou-take-her-case-ioc-ethics-commission More than the games
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  37. OLYMPICS: FIGURE SKATING; Ice Dancers Struggle To Prove Legitimacy
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External links[]

  • Template:Cite web

Template:Olympic Games controversies

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