Just about every Olympic Games has had its share of scandals and controversies. The following highlights some of the most notable.
Marion Jones, Sydney 2000
At the time, Marion Jones was the American hero of the Sydney Olympics, collecting gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 4 x 400m relay, along with bronze medals in the sprint relay and long jump. However, delight turned to dismay when, in October 2007, Jones admitted using the performance-enhancing hormone, Erythropoietin (EPO) since before the Summer Games of 2000. Subsequently, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) demanded the return of the 5 medals from Sydney and expunged Jones’ athletic records dating back to that period. She pleaded guilty to perjury and received a prison sentence of 6 months in 2008. A 2009 attempt to resurrect her athletic career, in the Women’s National Basketball Association, was short-lived, with Jones dumped by Tulsa Shock in July 2011.
Ben Johnson, Seoul 1988
Canadians had plenty to celebrate when reigning world champion and world-record-holder Johnson narrowly beat American Carl Lewis, the 1984 Olympic champion in the 100m final in South Korea. Johnson recorded a time of 9.79 seconds, breaking his own world record (9.83 seconds) set in Zurich the previous year. However, within a few days, Johnson had gained a reputation as one of the most notorious Olympic drugs cheats, testing positive for the performance-enhancing anabolic steroid Stanozolol and losing his Olympic medal, which was subsequently awarded to Lewis.
Roy Jones Jr., Seoul 1988
Jones battered home fighter Park Si-Hun throughout the bout, landing nearly three times as many punches. However, he lost out with the judges’ decision split 3-2 in favour of the South Korean, who reportedly apologised to Jones. The IOC investigation finally ended in 1997, concluding that there had been no wrongdoing and effectively endorsing the result. However, the IOC ensured the rapid introduction of a new method of scoring boxing bouts.
Boris Onishchenko, Montreal 1976
Although perhaps mild in a more modern environment, Boris Onishchenko’s cheating at the 1976 Games caused public outcry. The Ukrainian modern pentathlete, competing for the Soviet Union, used a rigged weapon in the epée fencing tournament. The cunning device had a modified grip that made the scoring system register hits, despite the sword blade making no contact. It seemed a little pointless, since Onishchenko was one of the best fencers in the competition. His cheating was discovered in a bout with Jim Fox, the captain of Great Britain, who took the gold medal after Onishchenko was disqualified and the Soviet Union was forced to withdraw.
“Dora” Ratjen, Berlin 1936
Adolf Hitler planned a display of Aryan superiority at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. High jumper Gretel Bergmann won the national trials and expected to represent Germany at the Olympics. However, shortly before the Games were due to start, Bergmann received notification that she had been dropped from the team, ostensibly for “mediocre performance” – she was, of course, Jewish. Bergmann’s replacement was the Hitler Youth member, Dora Ratjen. The German authorities’ plans came unstuck, with Ratjen finishing out of the medals in 4th place and subsequently discovered to be a man, born Hermann Ratjen. Ibolya Csák became the first Hungarian to win an Olympic gold medal, clearing a height of 1.62m. Ironically, Csák was also Jewish and Bergmann had jumped higher in the trials.
This article was written on behalf of Hughes Carlisle Liverpool Solicitors.