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20 Of The Craziest Scandals To Ever Rock The Olympics

The Olympics might represent the best of the best, but the event itself is no stranger to scandal. With accusations of doping, entire countries getting the boot, cheating, and sex scandals, the Olympics has pretty much seen it all during its long history. So while we celebrate the victories of some of the world's best athletes, let's also not forget that those athletes are also human. The 2016 Olympics is no stranger to scandal: we've already seen a gymnast getting attacked on social media for not placing her hand on her heart during the national anthem and a synchronized diving couple having a public breakup. But historically, many of the scandals that rocked the Olympics were much more serious. Here are some of the 20 most shocking and crazy scandals to ever come out of an Olympics event.

20 Relocation of the 1976 Winter Olympics

Denver Skyline Olympics
Via Robert J. Boser, EditorASC, Wikimedia

Colorado spent 20 years trying to get the Olympics hosted in its state. It finally got an offer in 1976 for Denver to host the event, but the state ultimately decided against it. This had nothing to do with the state and city's government officials, though: the idea of hosting the Olympics was something that the citizens of Denver and Colorado did not want to deal with. They did not want their city spending the crazy amount of money that goes into putting on the Olympics, believing that the money would come directly from their paychecks. There were also concerns from the more environmentally conscious citizens that the impact of bringing so many people into their area for the Olympics would also wreak havoc on natural environments outside the city.

19 1904: Runner Fred Lorz cheats in race by hitching a ride in vehicle

Fred Lorz
Via Wikimedia

When American long distance runner Fred Lorz decided that the 1904 Summer Olympics marathon was just too hard, he decided to hitch a ride in a car with his manager to finish the race. Obviously, this is a big no-no, but the runner was close to exhaustion at the nine mile mark of the competition and hopped into the vehicle for the race's last 11 miles. But karma kicked in and the car eventually broke down. Lorz continued the race on foot and crossed the finish line first. After accusations that he didn't run the entire race surfaced, Lorz tried to pass it off as a joke, but eventually, the truth caught up with him: he received a lifetime ban from the sport, though that was eventually lifted after he apologized. Interestingly enough, the newly declared winner also cheated: he walked part of the marathon while on the drug strychnine.

18 Jim Thorpe stripped of medals won in 1912 for being professional athlete

Jim Thorpe
Via U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Wikimedia

In the Olympics' earliest days, professional athletes were not allowed to participate in the competition. Although that's since changed, it was still a scandal that marked the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. There, the Olympic Committee stripped American athlete Jim Thorpe of his gold medals for both the decathlon and pentathlon competitions. This happened because the committee discovered that Thorpe once played as a minor league baseball player, making him a professional athlete. The nice part of the story is that the silver medalists in the decathlon, Hugo Wieslander, refused to take the gold medal when the Olympic Committee offered it to him. Fortunately for Thorpe, the rules have since changed, but it wasn't until 1983 that the Olympics reinstated his gold medals and gave them to his surviving children.

17 1968: Slalom athlete accused race official of crossing his path during run

Karl Schranz
Via Karl Schranz, Wikimedia

There was a major scandal during the slalom competition at the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France. Austria's Karl Schranz competed in that event, but reported that a mysterious man dressed in black, reportedly an official of the games, interrupted his first run. Schranz got to start over and made the run again, this time completing it and beating the time set by French skier Jean-Claude Killy. But Schranz didn't get the gold medal, because a Jury of Appeal disqualified him from the event by stating that he missed the gate during his first run (although he claimed someone interrupted it). This resulted in a gold medal for Killy, which became his third in alpine skiing. This led many to believe that there was a French conspiracy to make sure that Killy won all three alpine skiing events.

16 Booted badminton players in 2012 for fixing matches

Chinese Badminton Team
Via Tom Page, Wikimedia

There was also a problem with the badminton women's doubles tournament at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. China and South Korea decided to fix the final outcome of the competition by deliberately losing matches without it seeming too deliberate. They failed, though, after judges and spectators watched a match between both countries where players continued to serve birdies into and under the net. When South Korea faced Indonesia later on, it was more of the same: both teams attempted to deliberately lose. The referee issued a black card and disqualified both teams. Eventually, the Badminton World Federation disqualified four teams for trying to fix the final outcome of the badminton competition. Many, though, still argue that this wasn't cheating, but using strategy to win the final match.

15 Quebec incurs $1.5 billion in debt after hosting 1976 Summer Olympics

Quebec
Via Wikimedia

One major criticism of the Olympics is that it forces the host city and country to bear a lot of the costs of setting up for the event and that the aftermath often leaves the area destitute and in serious debt. This was certainly the case with the 1976 Summer Olympics in Quebec, which left the Canadian province $1.5 billion in debt. It wasn't until 2006, 30 years later, that the province finally paid that amount off. Although the country used a cigarette tax to help pay for things like stadiums, apartment complexes, and an Olympics village, it wasn't enough to cover all costs incurred, particularly after a smoking ban slowed down sales of tobacco products. Rio is also a good example of what happens when there's not enough money to properly pay for the event.

14 1980 Summer Olympics Boycott

1980 Olympic Boycott Map
Via Paasikivi, Wikimedia

In 1979, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, a move greatly criticized by the majority of the international community. It also eventually led to more conflict in the region. U.S. President Jimmy Carter responded by threatening sanctions against Russia, including a boycott against the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. The U.S. began to heavily promote a boycott of the event, with President Carter sending Mohammed Ali across the world to convince other countries to join suit. Unfortunately, though, someone eventually talked Ali out of supporting the boycott. The President issued an ultimatum to Russia: if its forces did not leave Afghanistan, the U.S. would boycott the Olympics. The Russians stayed in Afghanistan, so with both governmental and public support, the U.S., along with 65 other countries, did not attend the games that year.

13 Germany and Japan not invited to 1948 Olympics

London 1948 Olympics
Via National Media Museum, Wikimedia

The 1948 Summer Olympics were the first Olympics held after World War II, as well as the first held since the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. London hosted the event, and opened it with a huge ceremony at Wembley Stadium that was attended by the royal family, including King George IV and Queen Elizabeth. But several countries were not in attendance that year: Japan and Germany. The two Axis countries didn't get an invite after losing the war and received refusals from the Olympic committee to even participate. Although the USSR did receive an invite to become part of the competition, the country declined and did not send any athletes. In the end, the U.S. won the most medals, taking home a total of 84, with 38 of those gold.

12 Cuban taekwandoist intentionally kicks referee in face in 2008

Simpsons Tae Kwon Do
Via Giphy

One thing we must all remember is that athletes are human, just like the rest of us. And sometimes that means that they get angry and do stupid things in the heat of the moment. One such athlete, Ángel Valodia Matos, a tae kwon do competitor, got in trouble after kicking a referee. After Matos fell and stayed down for over a minute during a match, the referee disqualified him. That made Matos mad, so he did a high kick and landed his foot against the referee's head. Ouch. That resulted in a lifetime ban from the sport. Apparently, though, Matos had a temper problem, because he followed that up by punching a tae kwon do official.

11 2004 Brazilian marathon runner gets attacked by Irish priest

At the 2004 summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, Brazilian runner Vanderlei de Lima only had 10 kilometers left in the men's marathon and he was in the lead. But out of nowhere, Neil Horan, an Irish priest, tackled him and dragged him into the crowd. Although de Lima didn't win gold, he recovered quickly enough to take the bronze medal. The priest in question has since become defrocked, but still has a habit of interrupting sporting events. He also still bears a strange hatred for de Lima, claiming that he sent apology letters, but never received any replies back. In 2009, though, he wowed judges on Britain's Got Talent with his Irish dancing, and even made it to the second round of that competition before officials discovered who he was.

10 1960 and 1964 female competitors accused of being men

Press Sisters
Via Wikimedia

One of the biggest Olympics mysteries revolves around sisters Tamara and Irina Press. When it came to track and field, these two women were the best of the best. They became the first two sisters to ever win gold at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, with Tamara setting a record for shot put. They also swept the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, with Tamara beating the record she previously set. But naysayers began to question their gender, given their muscular physiques. Rivals began referring to them as men who were trying to get one over on the Olympics Committee. In 1966, the European Championships set up gender testing. The sisters did not compete after that, but no one ever confirmed that the sisters were actually brothers.

9 Romanian gymnast stripped of medal in 2000 for taking cold medication

At the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, Romanian gymnast Andreea Mădălina Răducan, wasn't feeling too well: she had something akin to a cold with a mild fever. To feel better, she turned to a simple over-the-counter medication used by millions, pseudoephedrine, a common cold medication given to her in pill form by two Romanian doctors. After undergoing a mandatory drug test at the Olympics, though, she discovered that this simple drug was one on the prohibited list for athletes. Although the drug did not inhibit her in any way, the Olympics committee stripped her of her medals and disqualified her from competing in any other events. The decision created a huge controversy, and pseudoephedrine is now no longer prohibited, but Răducan never received her medals back.

8 1980: Polish gold medalist gives obscene gesture to Russian spectators

Sometimes, athletes just can't control themselves and find themselves responding to crowds who are less than enthusiastic about them winning the gold. One such athlete was Polish pole vaulter Władysław Kozakiewicz. Supporters of Russian athlete Konstantin Volkov jeered, hissed, and booed during Kozakiewicz's performance during the 1980 Summer Olympics. But Kozakiewicz still managed to show them up by breaking a world record and winning the gold medal for that event. But that wasn't enough, Kozakiewicz also offered spectators the infamous bras d'honneur, an obscene gesture that let the audience know exactly how he felt about their lack of support. Photos of the incident spread across the world, and the gesture became known as the Kozakiewicz gesture in his home country of Poland. Although the Soviets wished to see him stripped of his medal, Poland called the gesture an involuntary muscle spasm.

7 Olympic committee admitted to taking bribes in 1999

Salt Lake City Olympics
Via debaird, Wikimedia

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was the main source of scandal for the 2002 Olympics. The IOC chooses cities well in advance of each big event, with cities all over the world competing for the special honor. But the public soon learned that Salt Lake City got chosen in a much simpler fashion: a 1999 investigation uncovered that the IOC received bribes to make that city the host for the 2002 Winter Olympics. In total, the IOC took almost $600,000 from the city in scholarships, bribes, and gifts. Although the Olympics went on in Salt Lake City, as planned, the IOC's executive board made sweeping changes in policy that determines which cities get selected to host the Olympics. Those on the committee who took bribes got kicked off the IOC.

6 Marion Jones admits to doping before 2007 Olympics

Marion Jones
Via Rick Sforza, Wikimedia

Track and field star Marion Jones saw her dreams washed away after the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. She won three gold medals and two bronze medals during that event, making her the first woman in Olympics history to win five track and field medals at a single Olympics. But in 2006, Jones tested positive for a banned substance. A year later, in 2007, Jones admitted that she did take steroids to enhance her performance. The Olympic Committee stripped Jones of all five medals that she won in 2000, although they allowed her to keep the three medals she earned in the previous competitions, from 1997 and 1999. This put Jones front and center in the infamous Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative scandal, involving athletes and the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

5 Medal-winning Lance Armstrong admits to doping before 2012 Olympics

Lance Armstrong
Via Giphy

Lance Armstrong was the epitome of the American athletic hero. The cyclist not only won the Tour de France for a consecutive seven times, as well as an Olympics bronze medal, but he also inspired the world when he successfully battled testicular cancer. He was a symbol of hope and inspiration, at least until right before the 2012 Summer Olympics, when the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency uncovered evidence that Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs throughout his long and successful career. He received a lifetime ban from competing in all sports, so was ineligible to attend the 2012 Olympics. He was also stripped of all medals and achievements he made after 1998. Heroes often fail and fall, but Armstrong's descent was sudden and surprising. Armstrong admitted in 2013 that some of the drug allegations were true.

4 Photo of Michael Phelps smoking pot surfaces after 2008 Summer Olympics

Michael Phelps
Via Giphy

Even in 2016, swimmer Michael Phelps is a source of inspiration and a force of nature. As the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time, he is still out there breaking records, even this year in Rio. He also holds multiple world records. But Phelps is also human and that means he's occasionally done a few things the public isn't entirely happy about. Just after winning over the world's heart in the 2008 Olympics, a photo surfaced of Phelps smoking marijuana. The world didn't approve and Phelps apologized for his behavior.

"I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment," Phelps said in a statement. "I’m 23 years old and despite the successes I’ve had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again.”

Fortunately, for Phelps, the world quickly forgave him.

3 1972: U.S. basketball team refuses silver medal after feeling cheated in final match

U.S. vs. Russia basketball
Via Ivan Edeshko, Wikimedia

One of the most controversial events ever in Olympics History occurred in Munich during the 1972 Olympic Men's Basketball Finals. The final match there between the U.S. and Soviet Union was a tense one, with a game so close that winning came down just two points. The U.S. were seemingly unbeatable and has not lost a gold medal in basketball since 1936: they also swept their previous matches in Munich. There was a mix-up with the countdown clock, something that the U.S. believe gave the Soviets the final two points, which gave the gold to the U.S.S.R. The U.S. coaches and officials protested, but went ignored: the win broke the U.S. team's winning streak. The U.S. team felt so cheated that they refused to accept the silver medal for the event.

2 Hitler attends Olympics in 1936 and refused to give medals to black athlete

Jesse Owens
Via Wikimedia

When American track and field athlete Jesse Owens arrived in Berlin for the 1936 Olympics, he found himself scorned by the German dictator Adolf Hitler. Owens, an African-American, was there to compete during a time that Hitler wanted to show the world that his Nazi Germany had the superior genetic material that made them the stronger race. The Nazis also believed Africans-Americans as inferior to them. But Owens' performance at the games threw Hitler's plans and ideas out of whack: Owens took home four gold medals, beating out Hitler's athletes without even blinking. He became a hero, even to the Germans, as well as secured his place as the most successful athlete at the games. This infuriated the Fuhrer by destroying his claims of Aryan supremacy.

1 1994 Winter Olympics: Tonya Harding Vs. Nancy Kerrigan

Nancy Kerrigan
Via Giphy

The largest scandal to ever rock the Olympics occurred just before the 1994 Olympics. The U.S. Olympics figure skating team only had two positions available, and Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding were the two skaters mostly likely bound for the games. But Harding wanted a gold medal and felt that Kerrigan stood in her way, so she and her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, decided to hire a hitman to take out one of Kerrigan's knees. This "whack heard round the world" forced Kerrigan out of the 1994 U.S. Championships, but she still managed to get a spot on the Olympics team, earning a silver medal for the U.S. Harding only finished eighth in that competition. Officials then learned of Harding's involvement with the knee-whacking incident and banned the skater from the sport for life.

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