The loudest scandals at the Olympics

Behind every Olympic Games, there is a scandal. Doping controls, disqualifications, and protests have spared no sport.

The 1896 Games

In 1896, the modern history of the Olympic Games began. However, the organizers were not prepared for the difficulties that arose in the competition. Because of this, the Games were waiting to fail. The start was scheduled for early April. In Greek Athens, the water temperature was thirteen degrees Celsius. Conditions were also made worse by a stormy sea. The swimmers petitioned to postpone the games and insisted on a change of venue, but the organizers remained adamant. On our site –, you can find even more interesting materials about sports.

In the 1,200-meter swim, Alfred Khayos won. At the conference after the awards ceremony, he claimed that it was not about the first place for him, but about survival. After this scandal, the rowing and yachting competitions were canceled.

The Games were marked by another scandal that has long angered professional athletes. The Italian racer Carlo Airoldi arrived in Athens the day before the games and found out that he had been disqualified. The reason was not explained to the athlete. The press thought that the Greeks were trying to eliminate strong competitors in this way.

Coronavirus problems

Coronavirus infection has caused many scandals. Problems with vaccination and PCR testing are still found in the headlines of world publications. In the Russian figure skating team, difficulties arose even two weeks before the departure for Tokyo. Mikhail Kolyada tested positive for PCR and the coaches had to replace him with Evgeny Semenenko. There were cases of substitutions in all the countries.

Passions heated up during the hockey competitions as well. During the qualifying game between Russia and Canada, one of the Maple Leaf players left the court. He cited the lack of covid-tests by his opponents as the reason. After an hour of persuasion, the hockey player agreed to return if all the players wore respirators. The news at the time did not stop talking about this situation.

The Israeli Question

There was a terrorist attack at the 1972 Olympics. The Black September terrorist organization was in Munich, Germany, on September 5. The goal of the Palestinians was to disrupt the competition. The victims were eleven Israeli athletes. The operation could not be prevented, but the police reacted quickly and immediately neutralized five of the eight terrorists.

Subsequent scandals have also arisen because of the political situation in Israel. In 2004, Iranian judoka Arash Mearsmaili was disqualified after he was found to be underweight. He gained weight in protest of the IOC’s recognition of the state of Israel. Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said that his refusal to compete against an Israeli would be inducted into the state hall of fame.

In 2012, the Israelis asked for a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the Munich massacre as part of the opening ceremony. However, delegations of Muslim countries opposed it. IOC President Jacques Rogge also said the opening should be held in an optimistic spirit.

American protests

Americans have always been in the spotlight at the Olympics. The Munich games were the most scandalous in history for them. The American Dave Wattle, who won the 800 m, did not take off his golf cap even on the podium during the American national anthem.

The U.S. sprinters were not informed of the postponement of the quarterfinals in the 100-meter dash. That is why Eddie Hart and Ray Robinson, then at the top of the world charts (9.9 seconds in the 100 m), could not reach the quarter-finals. They filed a protest, but their request was denied.

In the final basketball tournament between the USSR and the United States, there was a timing problem. The final siren sounded at 50:49 for the Americans, but the referee ordered the final seconds, in which Alexander Belov scored and secured victory for the Soviet Union. The protest was overruled. The losing team refused to accept the silver medals. It was the first defeat for American basketball players in Olympic history.

Doping confusion

In 2004, new rules about testing for banned substances were introduced. This provoked dozens of scandals.

A week before the games, sprint favorites Konstantinos Kenteris and Ekaterina Tanou did not show up for the mandatory doping control. Instead, they called supposedly from the hospital and reported that they had had an accident. The information turned out to be false. Until now, no one knows exactly what the reason for this behavior was. The Greek Olympic Committee decided to expel the players.

Hungary’s Adrian Annus lost his gold medal in the hammer throw because of doping, and his colleague Robert Fazekas lost his gold medal in the discus throw for the same reason. Also Russian athlete Irina Korzhanenko tested positive for banned substances and was stripped of her medal for winning the shot put.

Transgenders at the Olympics

According to the Games’ top sports doctor, the topic of transgender inclusion is more of an evolution than a revolution. In Czechoslovakia, the example of Zdena Kubkova, who was a multiple world record holder in the 80 and 800 meters in the 1930s, is well known. At the age of 23, she underwent a sex change.

Also famous is the 2018 film “Eric and Erica,” which tells the true story of the 1960s of successful skier Erica Schinegger, whose hormonal and doping controls at the Olympics proved that she was genetically male.

There is also the case of South African athlete Caster Semenya, who won medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. In 2019, she was unable to start at the World Championships because she refused to undergo procedures to lower her blood testosterone levels.

Laurel Hubbard was born in Oakland. She completed her shift process eight years before competing in the Olympics. She was listed on the men’s team under the name Gavin Hubbard until she was 35. Gavin had a relatively successful career by local standards. He even set several New Zealand records during his junior years. He broke the 300-kilogram barrier.

Winter Sochi

Even before its opening, the Sochi Olympics were the subject of criticism because of the Russian law banning the promotion of homosexuality, the strict security measures, and the impact of the construction of sports facilities on the Caucasian nature. Joachim Gauck and Fran├žois Hollande announced that they would not attend the opening ceremony of the games.

In May 2013, opposition activist Boris Nemtsov criticized the way the Olympic center was built and said that oligarchs and officials had stolen $25-30 billion. This caused a wave of indignation in the international community. Then Alexei Navalny drew a map of corruption in the construction of the Olympic center. Navalny also said that the cost of the Olympics instead of the officially announced 214 billion rubles reached 1.5 trillion rubles.

Swedish hockey player Nicklas Backstrom was not allowed to play in the final against Canada because he tested positive for pseudoephedrine after the quarterfinals. The player attributed the presence of the substance in his blood to a commonly available allergy medication that he had used under a doctor’s care for seven years without a single doping control problem. Without Backstrom, the Swedes lost 0-3. The IOC subsequently decided to award the hockey player a silver medal.

Vancouver ice

At the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the Canadian women’s ice hockey team won three consecutive gold medals. The players celebrated their victory in the locker room, but when they found out that the rink was empty, they returned to the ice with champagne and cigarettes. It later turned out that the rink wasn’t exactly empty after all – and the team came under fire for celebrating. Some of the drinking players were underage, and the public was outraged by smoking cigarettes in the Olympic Stadium. But there was no punishment for the act.

Suria’s somersault

French figure skater Surya Bonali decided to compete in the 1998 Olympics despite an Achilles tendon injury. She took sixth place in the short program and realized that she would not take the medal. That’s why she decided to do a special jump – a backward somersault with a single-leg kick. But that element had been banned since 1976. For the banned somersault she was stripped of her points, and soon after the Olympics, Surya Bonali quit figure skating. However, she is still the only figure skater to perform a backflip with a single skate landing.

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