The 2012 Summer Olympics in London faced its first major controversy as four women's doubles badminton teams were disqualified after the sport's ruling body determined they had tried to throw their matches. The Olympic Games have a history of scandals, from judges deciding against clear winners, to referees being kicked in the face and an epee wired with a circuit-breaker. Here's a look at 24 controversies or scandals from the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, reaching back to 1956.
The Badminton World Federation disqualified eight female badminton players from China, South Korea and Indonesia during the London Olympics doubles competition for trying to lose matches in order to receive a more favorable draw. British TV called the competition an "evening of shame," and spectators booed the players as officials warned them about disqualification during the events. The Chinese players are the reigning world champions. "Hard to see the sport I love like this!" Hans-Kristian Vittinghus of Denmark tweeted. "What a disgrace! I'm not going to blame BWF for the group format -- players should always try to win!!!"
The North Korean women's soccer team delayed its game against Colombia in London after the South Korean flag was mistakenly displayed on the stadium's scoreboard before the game. The game began 40 minutes after it was scheduled to start. "We were angry because our players were shown as if they were from South Korea which affects us very greatly," North Korea's coach Ui Gun-sin said. "Our players cannot be shown especially with other flags, especially the South Korean one. If this matter had not been solved, continuing would have been a nonsense."
In a new type of Olympic scandal, triple jumper Paraskevi Papachristou of Greece was kicked off her Olympic team after tweeting a "joke" that was interpreted as racist. She apologized for the "unfortunate and tasteless joke." Swiss soccer player Michel Morganella was also sent home after he tweeted about South Koreans following a loss to the South Korean team. FIFA president Sepp Blatter is now seeking for Morganella to be banned from other competition.
South Korean fencer Shin A Lam was under the impression she won her bout with Britta Heidemann, but a referee ruled that one second remained on the clock when the match was called, so both fencers went back to the piste and competed three times with one second left on the clock. Heidemann appeared to register the winning touch, but Heidemann had more than one second to win due to a clock error. Shin was kept out of the gold-medal match and lost in the bronze competition. Shin staged a one-hour protest and had to be escorted off the fencing piste. The Federation International d-Escrime will give a special FIE medal to Shin.
A photo taken of the Spanish men's Olympic basketball team where the players used their index fingers to push up the outside corners of their eyes sparked controversy as the team was preparing to leave for the Beijing Olympics. CNN reported that some criticized the team for making a racist gesture, but the team denied that assertion. Jose Manuel Calderon said the picture was "interpreted incorrectly," and that the sponsor asked the team "to pose with a 'wink' to our participation in Beijing . . . We thought it was something appropriate and that it would always be interpreted as somewhat loving."
Swedish wrestler Ara Abrahamian was disqualified and stripped of his bronze medal after he protested the award over a disputed penalty call in his semifinal match against Italian Andrea Minguzzi. Abrahamian took the bronze medal from his neck and dropped it on the mat as he walked away from the medal ceremony. The International Olympic Committee said his actions violated the spirit of fair play and was not appropriate. No other athlete was awarded his medal.
The ages of Chinese gymnasts He Kexin and Jiang Yuyuan were disputed during the Beijing games, with Chinese officials insisting they were 16, the minimum age for Olympic eligibility, and online records suggesting otherwise. Online records indicated that He and Jiang could be as young as 14, The New York Times reported before the Olympics took place. "These people think we are stupid," Bela Karolyi said. "We are in the business of gymnastics. We know what a kid of 14 or 15 or 16 looks like. What kind of slap in the face is this? They are 12, 14 years old and they get lined up and the government backs them and the federation runs away." The Chinese team won gold and the United States claimed silver.
The World Taekwondo Federation recommended that Cuba's Angel Matos be banned from the sport for life after he deliberately kicked a referee in the face after he was disqualified in a bronze-medal match. He was disqualified after being hit, falling to the mat and taking too much injury time. Matos' coach said the match was fixed and the referee was too strict. He was later banned, and Jin Suk Yang, general secretary of the WTF said Matos' actions were an "insult to the Olympic vision, to the spirit of taekwondo and for me, an insult to mankind."
U.S. gymnast Paul Hamm won a gold medal in the men's all-around competition in Athens, but his gold medal sat in a drawer and tucked inside a sock to protect it, in case he needed to give it to someone else. South Korea's Yang Tae-young was wrongly docked a tenth of a point on his parallel bars routine, and if the mistake hadn't been made, he would have beaten Hamm out of the award. Yang asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport to order international gymnastics officials to change the results to give him the gold, but the CAS panel dismissed the appeal. Gymnastics officials asked Hamm to give up his gold medal, but the U.S. Olympic Committee told them to take responsibility for their own mistakes, The Associated Press reported at the time.
Biathlete Olga Medvedtseva of Russia competed at the 2006 Turin Olympics. After winning silver in the women's 15 km individual race, she tested positive for a banned substance and was subsequently stripped of her medal and banned from competition for two years. She blamed the positive drug test on pain medication she had taken for an ankle injury. She later went on to win an individual gold medal in the 4 x 6 km relay at the 2010 Winter Olympics. She retired from the sport in 2010.
During the Salt Lake Olympics, Olympic pairs figure skating erupted as Russia's Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze were awarded the gold medal after making a few mistakes, while the Canadian team of Jamie Sale and David Pelletier skated "flawlessly," according to ESPN. Judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne of France said she was under "a certain pressure" to vote for the Russians and give the Canadians the silver medal. A deal was worked out that awarded both pairs with gold medals.
Olympic speedskating star Apolo Anton Ohno won his second medal during the Salt Lake 2002 Olympics during a race mired in controversy. Although Ohno was the second across the line behind South Korean Kim Dong-sung, he was bumped up to a gold medal after the South Korean racer was disqualified for blocking Ohno during the last lap. Ohno said the move was a "good call," but it earned him the nickname, "king of fouls" in South Korea.
Ten years after the 2000 Olympics where China won bronze, Chinese gymnast Dong Fangxiao was stripped of her Olympic medal after finding that she was only 14 when she competed and had therefore violated the minimum age limit. The move bumped the U.S. team up to the bronze medal. Chinese sports fans blamed the government for the decision, with headlines like, "Cry for Dong Fangxiao, Victim of the Sports System" appearing in the local media.
Marion Jones captured three gold and two bronze medals in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, but was later stripped of the medals after a 2007 press conference where she admitted that she'd lied about taking performance-enhancing drugs. However, ABC reports, she still contends that she was unaware that drugs were being administered to her. Jones served a six-month prison sentence after lying to federal authorities about her doping activities and check boo fraud. As of 2009, the IOC was still debating what to do with re-awarding the medals.
16-year-old Romanian gymnast Andreea Raducan was stripped of her gold medal in the 2000 all-around competition after she tested positive for the banned stimulant pseudo-ephedrine after being given a Nurofen Cold and Flu tablet by her team doctor. Jacques Rogge said the decision was "very painful" and "one of the worst experiences I have had in my Olympic life." Raducan's teammate Simona Amanar had taken the same tablet but weighed more than Raducan and therefore did not test positive. "My whole life I have dreamed of coming to the Olympics and winning a medal," Raducan said at the time. "I did that. I lost a medal but in my soul I know it was mine."
In 1994, figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was attacked by a man who clubbed her on her right knee with a police baton. In the weeks leading up to the Olympics, Tonya Harding's ex-husband and three other men pleaded guilty to the attack. Harding stayed on the Olympics team and Kerrigan worked through her injury. Harding performed poorly at the Olympics and finished in eighth place, while Kerrigan won a silver behind Russia's Oksana Baiul. Harding was banned for life from skating by the United States Figure Skating Association.
In what is counted as one of The Guardian's 50 "stunning Olympic moments," American light middleweight Roy Jones Jr. was skipped over by the judges, who awarded the gold medal fight to his South Korean opponent Park Si-Hun despite Jones landing 86 punches to Park's 32. NBC's Count-A-Punch recorder scored the rounds 20-3, 30-15 and 36-14 in Jones's favor. Referee Aldo Leoni reportedly whispered, "I can't believe they're doing this to you," to Jones. Three of the judges, from Uganda, Uruguay and Morocco, were suspended for six months but later cleared. He was awarded the Val Barker Cup by the International Amateur Boxing Association as the outstanding boxer of the Olympics.
On Sept. 24 1988, Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson beat American Carl Lewis in the 100m final at the Seoul Olympics, lowering his own world record to 9.79 seconds. However, Johnson's urine samples were found to contain the steroid stanozolol, and he was disqualified three days later. Olympic officials stripped Johnson of his gold medal and world record in Seoul and Johnson was banned from competition for life.
In another 1988 boxing controversy in Seoul, two South Korean boxing officials climbed into the ring and attacked a referee. The South Koreans were already sensitive about close bouts in the 1984 Olympics, The New York Times reported at the time, but referee Keith Walker of New Zealand became the target of their ire during a bout between Byun Jong Il and Alexander Hristov of Bulgaria. After Hristov was declared the winner, Lee Hong Soo, a trainer-coach, and another coach backed Walker into a corner and punched him. When Walker was escorted out, another security officer hired by the Olympic organizing committee tried to kick him.
In the 1976 Montreal Games, modern pentathlon star Boris Onishchenko came up with a "cunning plan that a James Bond baddie would have been proud of," an ESPN article said. He wired his epee with a circuit-breaker, allowing it to register a hit against his opponent whenever he wanted. It was against Briton Jim Fox that Onischenko's plan was discovered. As Onischenko lunged toward him, Fox leapt out of range, but the hit registered anyway. "It was like waving a magic wand," Fox said. "I said: 'Something is wrong here.' He said: "Yes, I know I didn't hit you,' and tried to change his weapon. I was having that, not because I thought he was cheating but because I thought the weapon was faulty and might be used again. I wanted it examined." The weapon had to be dismantled for the wiring system to be discovered.
According to ESPN, the 1972 basketball team was the youngest squad to ever represent the U.S. in Olympic basketball competition, and it also proved to be the first American team to lose in men's basketball in Olympic play. After running through the Munich games, the U.S. faced the Soviets in the gold medal game, where the U.S. fell behind but came back to within one point with 38 seconds remaining. The Americans gained their first lead of the game, but the referees halted the game with one second remaining. The refs then put three seconds back on the clock after the Soviets contended that they had signaled for a time-out between two American free throws. After the horn sounded, it looked like an American victory, but the teams were ordered back on the floor because the clock had not been properly reset. The Soviets made a layup as time ran out. The U.S. did not accept the silver medal, and the medals are still sitting unclaimed in Switzerland.
Frank Shorter, the winner of the Olympic marathon in 1972, was upstaged by an imposter who fooled the crowd into believing he was about to win the race. West German student Norbert Sudhaus ran onto the track before being removed by officials. "Now here's som — this is, this is very puzzling — this man is not on the program," the BBC commentator said at the time. "It's a hoax. It's somebody having a lark. I don't think it's a demonstration, but he looks as fresh as a buttercup." Erich Segal's "It's a fraud, Frank!" became one of the most famous moments of commentary for the sport. Shorter said he entered the stadium to boos, and it took a few minutes to realize the boos weren't for him.
During the Munich games, host West Germany beat defending champion Pakistan in the gold medal field hockey match. It was the first time since the 1920s that a team other than India or Pakistan earned an Olympic men's field hockey title. Several Pakistani players and fans doused the International Hockey Federation president with water and turned away from the German flag during the medal ceremony.
The 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble saw what the International Olympic Committee calls the "greatest controversy in the history of the Winter Olympics." During the giant slalom event, skier Jean-Claude Killy of France was leading after his second run. Norweigian skier Haakon Mjoen was disqualified for missing a gate. Austrian Karl Schranz halted mid-course, as a "mysterious figure" crossed his path during the race. He was given a re-run and produced the fastest time, only to be disqualified by a Jury of Appeal for missing a gate. Killy was therefore awarded the gold.
As the Hungarian Olympic team left for the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, the Soviets were in the process of putting an end to the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, and the water polo match between the Soviet Union and Hungary became a symbol of the political turmoil between the two countries. Violent clashes helped the match gain its notoriety as the "Blood in the water" match, and the game was eventually abandoned as the crowed spilled out of the stands. Hungary was awarded the victory and went on to collect the gold medal. Most of the team members chose exile in Australia and the U.S. rather than a return home. "Try to imagine the situation," Dezso Gyarmati, captain of the 1956 team, told CNN. "A superpower destroys your country with weapons and tanks — a county that has never asked that for that power to be there. And after that revolution is crushed you have to face the representatives of that superpower."