Top 10 Olympic Controversies
Scandals at the Olympic Games have been going on almost as long as the Games themselves. From funny to fascinating, here is a list of the top 10 Olympic controversies throughout the years.
Fred Lorz (1904)
Fred Lorz was a long-distance runner best known for "winning" the marathon in the 1904 Summer Olympic Games. At mile 9, Lorz became so tired that he hitched a ride in his trainer's car for the next 11 miles. When the car broke down, Lorz returned to the stadium on foot, where he broke the tape and was considered the winner. Although he initially went along with the victory, he eventually admitted to the stunt, and Thomas Hicks was named the real winner.
Jim Thorpe (1912)
Jim Thorpe won the gold in the pentathlon and decathlon in the 1912 Olympic Games. He was stripped of his medals when it was discovered that he had played two seasons of minor league baseball for $25 a week, violating the amateur status rule. (At that time, professional athletes were not allowed to compete in the games.) He went on to play professional baseball and basketball. In 1999, Thorpe was ranked third on the AP's list of athletes of the century. His medals were eventually restored to him in 1983, 30 years after his death.
Jesse Owens (1936)
The 1936 Olympic Games were held in Berlin, Germany, during a time when Adolf Hitler was determined to prove to the world the superiority of the German "Aryan" people. Jesse Owens, a black man from Cleveland, Ohio won four gold medals and beat out every single "Aryan" in his events. Hitler refused to shake his hand or hand him his medals. The 1936 games are now known to many as the "Hitler Olympics."
Stella Walsh (1936)
After winning the gold in the women's 100-meter dash in the 1932 Olympic Games, Stella Walsh lost to her bitter rival, Helen Stephens, in the 1936 Games. Walsh's supporters claimed Stephens was too fast to be a woman, and demanded she be examined to ensure she wasn't a man. An examination proved Stephens was female. Fast-forward to 1980, when Walsh was shot to death outside a Cleveland shopping mall. An autopsy yielded a surprise: Walsh was really a man.
U.S. vs. USSR Basketball (1972)
The U.S was on a 63-game winning streak when they met the USSR in the gold medal game in the 1972 Olympic Games. In the final three seconds of the game, the U.S. was up, 50-49. The Soviets inbounded the ball, but a referee blew the whistle with one second remaining. It was determined that the Soviets' coach had called a time-out. Three seconds were put back on the clock. The Soviets again inbounded the ball, and seconds later a horn sounded, signaling the U.S. victory. However, the teams were ordered back on the court when it was determined that the clock had not been properly reset to show three seconds remaining. This time, the Soviet Alexander Belov caught a full court pass and scored the winning shot as the buzzer sounded. The Soviets won, after being given three chances to score the winning basket. To this day, the silver medals awarded to the U.S. lie unclaimed in a vault in Switzerland.
Borys Onyshchenko (1976)
One of the most famous, non-drug-related incidents of cheating took place during the fencing portion of the 1976 pentathlon. The judges became suspicious when hits were registering against Borys Onyshchenko's opponent, even when it was obvious he hadn't been hit. Onyshchenko was caught using a sword with a hidden push button circuit breaker. This allowed him to register a hit whenever he wanted.
Madeline de Jesus (1984)
In the 1984 Olympic Games, Madeline de Jesus was a member of the Puerto Rican 4 x 400 meter relay team. After she injured herself in the long jump, she asked her twin sister, Margaret (who was in Los Angeles as a spectator), to fill in for her in the preliminary heat. Margaret agreed. When the Puerto Rican coach found out, he refused to let the team take part in the finals.
Park Si-Hun vs. Roy Jones Jr. (1988)
Although no evidence exists that this fight was fixed, many are left to wonder. In the 1988 light-middleweight division of boxing, Park Si-Hun came up against his opponent Roy Jones Jr. Jones was the obvious winner, landing 86 punches to Hun's 32. However, in a 3-2 vote, Hun was determined to be the winner. Four months after the infamous fight, the three judges who voted for Hun were banned for two years. Jones was voted the Outstanding Boxer at the Olympic Games.
Ben Johnson (1988)
Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson is best known for setting consecutive world records in the 100-meter sprint during the 1987 World Championships in Athletics, and again in the 1988 Olympic Games. The 1988 Olympic Games earned him one gold and two bronze medals. Johnson lost his Olympic title and both world records when he tested positive for steroids. Although he admitted to doping when he ran his world-record race in 1987, he claimed it was necessary to stay on par with other top athletes, who were also using drugs.
Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan (1994)
Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan were both top contenders for winning Olympic gold in the 1994 Winter Olympic Games. On January 6, 1994, Kerrigan was clubbed in the knee while leaving practice in Detroit, MI, sidelining her from competing in the U.S. Figure Skating Championship. Harding took the gold, and secured a spot on the Olympic team. Not long after, Shawn Eckhardt, the hired accomplice who clubbed Kerrigan, admitted to the FBI that he had been hired by Harding's ex-husband to carry out the attack. Harding admitted she knew about the attack in advance, but failed to come forward. She narrowly avoided getting kicked off the Olympic team. Luckily, Kerrigan recovered in time to compete in the Games, where she took the silver. Harding finished a distant 10th...and managed to avoid jail time.