Olympic scandals

Most sporting scandals are difficult to prove and are often revealed after the actual event. Other sporting scandals are as obvious as they are bizarre. On Day 5 of the London Olympic Games there was no hiding the fact that during the badminton competitions, four females’ doubles pairs were not playing at their best and were throwing their matches. The world’s best badminton players were sporting some of the world’s worst shots, including serves into the net and returns that saw the shuttlecock sail far out of bounds.

Two teams from South Korea, one from China and one from Indonesia were later disqualified, even after they had all qualified for the quarter finals. The round robin draw provided the incentive for these players to lose their matches. By losing, pairs would be required to play a lesser opponent in the next round.

So who is to blame? The athletes that weren’t playing in the spirit of the games or the competition set up to allow the losing teams an advantage? Regardless, spectators were disappointed and officials tried to face by threatening the team’s withdrawal. Ultimately it was the World Badminton federation who charged these players with misconduct and disqualified them from the games.

This recent scandal is not the first at an Olympics Games. Our previous Blog titled ‘Doping in Sport’ featured the stories of two American track and field athletes; Ben Johnson (Seoul 1988) and Marion Jones (Sydney 2000). Both athletes tested positive on subsequent drug testing and were stripped of their Olympic medals. With so much at stake for athletes and such small margins between winning and losing, the Olympic Games will always attract scandals.

In the build up to the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, American gold medal favourite ice skater Nancy Kerrigan was attacked after a practice session and suffered a serious knee injury. Later her American rival, Tonya Harding admitted that she had consented to her ex-husband organising an attack on Kerrigan in order to take her out of the competition.  Interestingly, Kerrigan went on to compete and won Silver, while Harding placed eighth at the games.

In the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, professional athletes were not permitted to compete. An American athlete by the name of Jim Thorpe lost his gold medals for both the pentathlon and decathlon after it was discovered he was paid to play two seasons of minor league baseball. His medals were reinstated by the International Olympic committee in 1982, 30 years after his death.

The 1968 Mexico City Olympics were the first Games to test athletes for performance enhancing substances.  This followed the introduction of anti-doping regulations by the International Olympic Committee in 1967. Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall was a Swedish modern pentathlete who became the first athlete to be disqualified for drug use after it was discovered he had drank two beers before the pistol shooting, to calm his nerves.

In 1905, Fred Lorz, an American long distance runner, won the Boston Marathon. In the previous year at the 1904 Missouri Olympics, Lorz would also have taken home the marathon gold medal if it had not been for spectators who witnessed him jumping into his manager’s car after 9 miles. Eleven miles later the car broke down and he finished the race on foot in first position.

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