These Olympic Scandals Will Make Your Jaw Drop

Posted by Zainab Pervez in Sports On 22nd July 2021

From Nancy Kerrigan's 1994 attack to Ryan Lochte's Rio de Janeiro robbery scandal in 2016, relive the wildest sports scandals in Olympics history ahead of the Tokyo Games.


Sha'Carri Richardson Banned for Marijuana

Fans were outraged after runner Sha'Carri Richardson was banned from the U.S. Olympic team in 2021 for testing positive for marijuana, which she claims she smoked after the recent death of her mother.

The fan-favorite runner first caught eyes across the nation on June 19 when she secured her spot on the U.S. Olympic Team after winning the women's 100-meter dash in Eugene, Oregon.

Richardson's violation via the 2021 World Anti-Doping Code was controversial since she legally smoked in the state of Oregon and many fans argued weed is not a performance-enhancing drug.

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Olympic Gymnastics Team Doctor Larry Nassar Molests Gymnasts

Former U.S. Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Ingham County (Mich.) Circuit Court on Wednesday. Nassar had been accused of molesting numerous young athletes while working with the U.S. gymnastics team and Michigan State University.

Some of the victims cited in the counts were between 13 to 15 years old while others were under the age of 13. U.S. Olympians Gabby DouglasAly Raisman, and McKayla Maroney have all come forward as victims of Nassar's abuse.

After three separate rulings, Nassar was sentenced to over a hundred years in prison in 2018.

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Ryan Lochte Lies and Says Swimmers Were Held at Gunpoint

In August 2016, the swimmer falsely claimed that he and Team USA swimmers Gunnar BentzJack Conger and James Feigen were robbed at gunpoint at a gas station in Brazil during the Rio Games.

He was admittedly "hammered" at the time, as he'd been celebrating their win; Lochte later confessed he didn't remember all the details of the night.

After returning to the Olympic Village, Lochte exaggerated the story to his mom, who later told the media that Lochte had been robbed at gunpoint. He repeated the story on NBC's Today—and before long, his lies got the best of him.

At first, Lochte had told Billy Bush on the Today show, "We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge, no lights, no nothing just a police badge and they pulled us over. They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground—they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn't do anything wrong, so I'm not getting down on the ground."

After the truth came out, Lochte was dropped by his sponsors and given a 10-month suspension by the U.S.A. Swimming and the United States Olympic Committee.

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Russia Banned From 2018 Winter Games

The International Olympic Committee announced on Dec. 5, 2017 that Russia would be banned from the 2018 Winter Games after being found guilty of widespread doping of athletes. 

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Zika Virus Deters Athletes From Rio

A number of athletes opted out of the 2016 Olympic Games following the Brazilian Zika virus outbreak, which caused widespread concern among athletes, reporters and spectators attending the events.

The mosquito-borne disease is linked to birth defects and other serious illnesses, and for several competitors, it's just not worth the risk.

Seven of the world's top golfers declined their Olympics opportunities, including Rory McIlroyAdam Scott, and Jason Day, who tweeted, "Playing golf cannot take precedent over the safety of our family."

Soccer star Hope Solo said she would "begrudgingly" participate, despite her hesitations. Meanwhile, basketball legends-to-be LeBron James and Steph Curry have claimed that the virus is totally unrelated to their decisions to not participate.

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Maria Sharapova Suspended from 2016 Games

Fans were shocked to learn the Russian tennis superstar would be barred from participating in the 2016 Games after testing positive for meldonium in January.

Sharapova, who competed in the 2012 Olympics, maintains that she didn't know the substance was banned.

She received support from Serena Williams, who said, "I think most people were happy she was upfront and very honest and showed a lot of courage to admit to what she had done and what she had neglected to look at in terms of the list at the end of the year."

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Rio Olympic Village Reportedly Built on Mass Slave Grave

Brazil ended its slave trade in 1888, but the long-term effects managed to impact the 2016 Rio de Janiero Games.

Developers were accused of constructing Olympic Park right on top of a mass grave of countless African slaves.

One descendant told reporters, "I regard the ground as sacred because it is where my ancestors were buried."

The Rio city government denies any wrongdoing.

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Russian Teams Banned Following Nationwide Doping Violations

Doping is bad enough. Government-sponsored doping is a whole new level. In the months leading up to the Rio Games, investigators determined that the Russian government had knowingly covered up and even encouraged the utilization of illegal drugs.

More than 100 Russian athletes were officially barred from the Rio Games in 2016, including entire teams. 

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2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Under Fire

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics were shrouded in controversy. 

Many celebrity voices joined the fight against Russian President Vladimir Putin's radical homophobic legislation passed in 2013 and boycotted the Winter Games, including Lady Gaga who said, "I don't think that we should be going to the Olympics at all," adding "I mean, I would never take anything away from [the athlete's] hard work, I just think it is absolutely wrong for so many countries to send money and economy in the way of a country that doesn't support gays."

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The Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding Showdown

This infamous figure-skating soap opera of the 1994 Olympics had it all: arch-rivals, record Nielsen ratings, even an FBI probe. And to think, it all started with a simple knee-clubbing

Despite the attack, which was orchestrated by Harding's ex-husband, Kerrigan went on to medal at the 1994 Olympics, while Harding was banned from skating for life for her involvement.

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The Judge Who (Almost) Stole the Gold

Again with the figure skating… After Jamie Sale and David Pelletier's winning pairs routine rated but silver at the 2002 games, the judge representing France confessed she'd been ordered to place the Russian team first in a vote-trading scheme. Sale and Pelletier were belatedly named cowinners.

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South Korea vs. Apolo Anton Ohno

The short-track speedskating star won his first career gold medal in 2002 when his South Korean rival was disqualified—or robbed, some say—shortly after their race. Hate mail, much of it from South Korea, ensued.

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The Cold War Comes to the Basketball Court

The Munich Games were marred by tragedy when terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes and coaches; they were marked by controversy when the United States lost—or got robbed, some say—to the Soviet Union's men's basketball team in the still-debated gold-medal game.

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The Boycotts

Countries had sat out the games before but never had a superpower snubbed another superpower the way President Jimmy Carter did when, in protest of the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan, he pulled Team USA from the Moscow-hosted Olympics.

Four years later, Team USSR returned the favor and led an Eastern Bloc blackout at the Los Angeles games.

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Michael Phelps Goes to Pot

No, the scandal, involving a photo of the U.S. swimmer apparently inhaling from a marijuana pipe, didn't alter any official results.

And, no, the scandal didn't cost Phelps any of his eight Beijing gold medals. But it reminded that one, Olympic scandals can happen anywhere, anytime—even in a newspaper, six months after the games—and, two, Olympic scandals can totally ice your sweet deal with Kellogg's Frosted Flakes.

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The World's Fastest Man on Steroids

Before baseball star Jose Canseco's tell-all autobiography, before U.S. Olympic hero Marion Jonesfall from grace, and basically before we came to expect such things, Canada's Ben Johnson stunned the world when he was outed as a juicer, and stripped of his gold medal for the men's 100-meter sprint at the 1988 games.


The Boxer Who Got K.O.'d Outside the Ring

Future A-list fighter Roy Jones Jr. suffered the biggest blow of his career at the Seoul games when the American lost—or got robbed, some say—to the hometown South Korean boxer in a gold-medal bout. 

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The Protest

At the 1968 Olympics, American track athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gold- and bronze-medal winners, respectively, for the men's 200-meter dash, brought the black-power movement to the world stage (and drew a suspension from the U.S. team) when they lowered their heads and threw up gloved fists as the National Anthem played at their medal ceremony.

Credit: WNYC