The Olympics is supposed to be a celebration of global sporting excellence. But over the years several athletes have treated it like a celebration of global sporting deception. So here’s a look at 20 who tried but failed to pull the wool over everybody’s eyes.
20. Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang
This is an unusual entry, as Chinese badminton players Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang weren’t cheating to win, but to lose! In fact, the pair purposely tried to throw their match against South Koreans Kim Ha-na and Jung Kyung-eun at London 2012 in order to get an easier next-round draw. However, matters then descended into farce when the Koreans saw through their plan and started to do the same. And along with an Indonesian pair and another Korean duo, all four players were subsequently disqualified.
19. Nesta Carter
Nesta Carter didn’t just harm his own career when he tested positive for drugs in a reanalysis of blood and urine samples from the 2008 Beijing Games. Indeed, he also harmed that of the world’s fastest man. That’s because the entire Jamaican 4x100m relay team were stripped of their gold medals when Carter was found guilty. Furthermore, it meant that Usain Bolt could no longer be described as a triple-triple Olympic champion.
18. Jerome Young and Antonio Pettigrew
What’s more, Bolt isn’t the only innocent party to have been stripped of a medal through no fault of their own. Four members of the U.S. 4x400m relay team from Sydney 2000 were forced to hand back their golds not just once but twice thanks to the cheating of their teammates. Firstly, when Jerome Young tested positive for a banned substance in 2004, before a successful appeal saw them reinstated. And secondly, and permanently, when Antonio Pettigrew’s drug use was later identified in 2008.
17. Lance Armstrong
Arguably the most famous sporting cheat of all time, Lance Armstrong was stripped of his Olympic bronze medal 13 years after winning it in Sydney. The disgraced cyclist was forced to hand it back in 2013 following the doping scandal that wrecked his career. What’s more, ironically one of the whistleblowers on the Armstrong case had also been stripped of an Olympic medal. Indeed, former teammate Tyler Hamilton surrendered his gold from Athens 2004 eight years later, after confessing to taking illegal substances.
16. Tony Andre Hansen
Of course, equestrian events mean that it’s not just human competitors that are tested for banned substances at the Games. And a horse named Camiro fell foul of Olympic regulations after competing at Beijing 2008 when it tested positive for the banned stimulant known as capsaicin. Camiro was subsequently stripped of its bronze medal, as was its Norwegian rider, Tony Andre Hansen.
15. Bertil Sandström
What’s more, a horse was also involved in one of the biggest Olympics scandals of the pre-WWII era. Dressage rider Bertil Sandström looked to have won a third silver medal at Los Angeles 1932 with his horse Kreta. But he was later demoted to bottom place when officials ruled he’d used an illegal clicking method to steer the animal. Sandström subsequently claimed that his polished leather saddle was responsible for the clicking noise. But the jury of appeal wasn’t convinced and the result stood.
14. Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson certainly wasn’t the only sprinter in the men’s 100m at Seoul 1988 who attempted to cheat the system. Indeed, six of the eight competitors were accused of being drug cheats during their subsequent careers. But as the gold medal winner, the Canadian sprinter was undoubtedly the most high-profile. Johnson’s reign as Olympic champion lasted just three days, when he was found to have taken the illegal steroid stanozolol.
13. Boris Onischenko
Russian Boris Onischenko is responsible for perhaps the most blatant display of cheating in Olympic history. The modern pentathlete was found to have rigged the fencing part of the 1976 Montreal competition by installing an intricate wiring mechanism in his sword. In fact, all Onischekno had to do to register a hit was push a small button. Unfortunately for him, British opponent Jim Fox realized something was up. After much investigation, officials discovered his elaborate ruse and immediately disqualified him.
12. Spyridon Belokas
Even the very first modern Olympic Games wasn’t devoid of cheating, although Spyridon Belokas wasn’t exactly a master at it. Despite riding in a carriage for the much of the men’s marathon at Athens 1896, the Greek still only finished in third place. And he was later stripped of his bronze medal when his dishonesty was discovered. However, his trick apparently still struck a chord with a certain other marathon runner…
11. Fred Lorz
The 1904 men’s marathon ended in farce when Fred Lorz was crowned the winner, despite barely running half the race. Indeed, the opportunistic New Yorker had withdrawn from the event just nine miles in but re-entered at the 20-mile mark. He consequently reached the finish line 15 minutes ahead of the runner-up Thomas Hicks, before being caught out. What’s more, Hicks himself was later found to have used a performance-enhancing drug during the race, but unlike Lorz was allowed to keep his medal.
10. Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall
Half a century later the men’s modern pentathlon caused another Olympic scandal. In fact, the 1968 Mexico City Games were the first to test competitors for performance-enhancing drugs. Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall, who drank an “excessive quantity of alcohol” before the pistol shooting, subsequently became the first athlete to fall foul of the new laws. And although the Swede was forced to return his bronze, he can consider himself unlucky. Indeed, 14 of his competitors were also under the influence of tranquilizers that only later became banned.
9. Marion Jones
Marion Jones was once the darling of American athletics. But her reputation lay in tatters in 2007 when she confessed to taking steroids prior to Sydney 2000. And the long jumper and sprinter wasn’t only stripped of her three golds and two bronzes; she was also sentenced to six months in prison for deceiving federal investigators. What’s more, Jones’ shot putter husband C.J. Hunter had previously been found guilty of using steroids as well.
8. Karl Schranz
The Winter Olympics has also endured its fair share of cheating scandals. And probably the most famous occurred in 1968 at Grenoble during the men’s slalom race. Austrian Karl Schranz was initially deemed to have denied hot favorite Jean-Claude Killy a second triple gold. However, he only recorded a faster time at the second attempt, having protested that a mysterious “man in black” had obstructed him during his first try. A jury of appeal subsequently threw out his claims and, as a result, Killy was belatedly crowned champion.
7. Johann Mühlegg
Three decades, on another male skier brought the sport into disrepute with a far more conventional method of cheating. German-born Spanish citizen Johann Mühlegg was even congratulated by King Juan Carlos of Spain after winning three gold medals at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. But within days of the royal blessing, Mühlegg tested positive for a red blood cell-boosting medicine known as darbepoetin. And although it wasn’t an illegal substance at the time, he was still expelled from the Games.
6. Ortrun Enderlein
A simple but effective ruse helped East Germany’s female lugers take three of the top four positions at Grenoble 1968. Gold medal winner Ortrun Enderlein and her teammates illegally heated their sled rails prior to competing in order to reduce friction on the ice. However, after their quick post-race getaways drew suspicion from competitors, they were found out and consequently disqualified from the Games.
5. Rashid Ramzi
Rashid Ramzi became a national hero in Bahrain when he gave the country its first ever Olympic medal at Beijing 2008. The Moroccan-born athlete took gold in the men’s 1,500m, having previously won medals at the World Indoors, World Championships and Asian Games. However, Bahrain’s Olympic tally soon went back to zero when Ramzi tested positive for CERA, an illegal blood-boosting drug. In addition to being forced to hand back his gold, he was also expelled from international athletics for two years.
4. Cameron van der Burgh
A lack of underwater cameras allowed Cameron van der Burgh to win gold in the men’s 100m breast stroke final at London 2012. Indeed, the South African swimmer subsequently confessed to taking three dolphin kicks during the race, when only one is permitted. But without any footage of the incident, van der Burgh was allowed to keep his medal. However, swimmers are now filmed underwater during races to ensure such flouting of the rules doesn’t happen again.
3. Dong Fangxiao
Gymnast Dong Fangxiao had been an instrumental part of China’s bronze-winning gymnastics team at Sydney 2000. But she and her teammates had to hand their medals back when it emerged that she’d lied about her birthdate. The minimum age for competitors had been raised to 16 in the late ’90s. However, detective work by the IOC deemed that Fangxiao was in fact no older than 14.
2. The Spanish Paralympics basketball team
Sadly, even the Paralympics has occasionally been tarnished by acts of cheating. For example, at Sydney 2000 it was discovered that the majority of Spain’s gold medal-winning men’s basketball team had pretended to be intellectually disabled. A report found that the Spanish Paralympic Committee had failed to conduct the required mental tests on its players. In fact, only two of the 12-strong team actually had an impairment. Spain were subsequently forced to hand their medals back.
1. Madeline and Margaret de Jesus
You almost have to admire the sheer audacity of Madeline de Jesus and her identical twin sister Margaret at Los Angeles 1984. Unable to compete in a 4x400m relay heat after injuring herself in the long jump, the former consequently asked the latter to take her place instead. Margaret duly obliged and subsequently helped the Puerto Rico team to advance to the final. Admirably, it was the country’s chief coach who pulled the team from the final after learning of their deception.