The 2016 Summer Olympics will no doubt feature its share of scandals. After all, we’ve already got an entire country (Russia, because of course it’s Russia) banned because its entire sports program is dirty and probably filled with weird experimental shit like crossbreeding sprinters with horses, and there is approximately a 168% chance that everyone headed to Rio will bring back the Zika virus and spawn mutant babies, ushering in an age of global pandemic.
What I’m saying is that chances are, uh, pretty good that we’ll have some new things to add to this list in the future. But for now, the following nine scandals remain the biggest in Olympic history.
Roy Jones, Jr. Screwed by Judges
1988 Summer Olympics: Seoul, South Korea
Boxer Roy Jones, Jr. beat the shit out of some poor, overmatched South Korean, landing 86 punches to the Korean’s 32. So, naturally, the judges awarded the decision to the South Korean. Wait… what?
Yes, the five judges gave the 3-2 split decision to Jones’ opponent, robbing him of the gold and setting off a huge controversy that ended up forcing the IOC to change the way the fights were scored. The “winner”, Park Si-Hun personally apologized to Jones, which had to have sucked. I mean, he can’t even enjoy winning a gold medal. One of the judges admitted it was fucked up, and an investigation that followed revealed that the three judges that boned Jones had partied with South Korean officials. So, basically, a total shit show.
Jones would go on to become an all-time great professional fighter, and he even was chosen as the best boxer in Seoul even though he didn’t win the gold. But still, even though everyone knows he won, he can’t say he’s a gold medal winner, and that’s because of three corrupt judges who fucked it all up for everyone.
Ben Johnson Doping Scandal
1988 Summer Olympics: Seoul, South Korea
The 100-meter dash is pretty much the glory race of the Olympics. It’s the one everyone watches, it’s the one with the most famous champions (Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis, Usain Bolt, etc.) and basically, it’s the golden ticket to being a track and field immortal. That’s why it was such a big deal when the 100m gold medal winner, Ben Johnson, was busted for roiding up.
Before the Games even started, Carl Lewis basically came out and said “Uh, these dudes are on some shit,” which everyone took as whining because Ben Johnson was out there beasting, but after the games, Johnson tested positive for roiding and became a household name for all the wrong reasons.
The aftermath saw Johnson suspended for years. He didn’t make his return until 1991, and even though he managed to (barely) qualify for the 1992 Summer Olympics, he finished dead last in his heat, further embarrassing himself and making everyone think all his success was because of the juice. He later went on to become a trainer (because that’s exactly the sort of person you want overseeing your health, I guess) and even trained the son of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who was trying to make it as a soccer player. Under Johnson’s tutelage, the son made a big Italian team… and was promptly banned for testing positive for drugs. Oh, Ben.
Jean Claude-Killy and the Man in Black
1968 Winter Olympics: Grenoble, France
This one is just really, really weird.
French skiing legend, Jean Claude-Killy, was doing what he did best, winning gold medals, when one of his competitors, an Austrian by the name of Karl Schranz, realized that visibility was so bad that no one could really tell what was going on, so he decided to claim that a man in black ran onto the course during his run, forcing him to stop, which lol come on, bro.
So, after somehow convincing everyone that the Dread Pirate Roberts inexplicably streaked the course during his run, Schranz was given a do-over… where he promptly posted the fastest time, giving him the gold and boning Jean Claude-Killy.
But wait! An official reviewed the tape of Schranz’s do-over and concluded that he missed a gate, and promptly disqualified him, which is fucking hilarious.
Killy went on to be a legend, while Schranz was kicked out of the 1972 Winter Olympics for a separate controversy involving eligibility rules and a feud with the IOC President. Go big or go home, I guess. Or just blame the man in black.
Underage Chinese Gymnasts
2008 Summer Olympics: Beijing, China
This one never really got resolved, mostly because the allegations were basically impossible to prove, especially since the Chinese government wasn’t about to cooperate and admit they were anything other than perfect.
The allegations were simple: China was loading up its gymnastics team with little girls, who were lighter and I guess more flexible. Look, I don’t know how the science works here, and to be honest I am too creeped out to go looking, which would probably just get me put on a list somewhere, so let’s just establish that this was a bad thing, okay?
Anyway, China had a history of this sort of thing, as one of their gymnasts at the 2000 games had been caught for being a baby and stripped of her medal. This time, though, the controversy played out in real time, over social media, with everyone getting all creepy and analyzing everything from the girls’ “youthful” bodies to the shape of their facial features (!) for evidence.
The controversy pretty much tainted gymnastics, both in terms of sport and in terms of not being a totally creepy-ass thing that you could enjoy without feeling like Jared from Subway. Thanks a lot, China.
1994 Winter Olympics: Lillehammer, Norway
You all know this one, right? Tonya Harding, white trash princess, won the US Olympic figure skating trials, but only after a “mysterious” attacker showed up and worked over her rival Nancy Kerrigan with a baton to the legs, which was some real street shit.
Of course, the attacker ended up being Tonya’s husband and his bro, and Kerrigan was added to the team because everyone felt bad.
If you’re old enough to remember this, I don’t need to tell you how ridiculous this shit was. It was basically what you’d expect to happen if the Kardashians got involved in figure skating, which… no, please. Madame Kris, forget I said anything.
Anyway, everyone involved basically had their lives ruined, Tonya and her dude ended up having a sex tape leaked because of course, and we all were dumber and more debased for having experienced any of it. The glory of the Olympics, everyone!
US Men’s Basketball Team Gets Screwed
1972 Summer Olympics: Munich, Germany
The United States had dominated men’s basketball pretty much from the start, which of course meant that the Soviets made it their mission the dethrone the Americans no matter what. And they did, winning 51-50. Of course, they only managed to do it by cheating outrageously.
To start, the Soviets basically thugged it up because, I mean, come on, they weren’t about to go heads up with the best of the best from the Americans in basketball. But that was just a prelude to the real dickery. The Soviets tried to inbound the ball down 1 with only 3 seconds left. They tried calling a timeout a la Chris Webber, didn’t have one, and yet somehow managed to get the refs to accept it.
They then finally ran the play, didn’t get it done, and the Americans began to celebrate. And then the refs ruled that the clock hadn’t been properly reset, and gave the Soviets another chance – their third – and this time the Soviets managed to score amidst all the confusion, pandemonium ensued, and the Soviets were declared the winners even though everyone watching agreed it was complete bullshit.
Given that this happened in the middle of the Cold War, was the first time ever that the Americans were beaten in basketball, and that the American players refused to accept their silver medals and boycotted the ceremony, I’d say this qualifies as probably the biggest pure sporting scandal in Olympic history. Notice I said “sporting.” That’s because things are about to get fucked up.
Black Power and Massacres
1968 Summer Olympics: Mexico City, Mexico
The 1968 Summer Olympics are perhaps best remembered for the infamous black power salutes from Tommie Smith and John Carlos, which is one of the most controversial and iconic moments both in Olympic history and in 20th century American history. But it’s nothing compared to the true controversy of the 1968 games.
1968 was a wild year all across the world, and it was no different in Mexico. Just before the Olympics started, students decided to use the moment to protest, and were promptly massacred by the government. Up to 300 students were shot and killed in what came to be known as the Tlatelolco Massacre.
Look, say what you will about sporting scandals and power to the people salutes or whatever, but this is a whole different ballgame. Somehow, the games went on, even as families buried their massacred children, and… just, Jesus Christ, you know?
The Hitler Games
1936 Summer Olympics: Berlin, Germany
It was an Olympics hosted by fucking Nazis. What is there to really explain?
It was also the Jesse Owens show, which made the whole thing all the more ridiculous. I mean, here you had a black American athlete destroying everyone else while Hitler and his Stormtroopers watched. It would be funny if it wasn’t so… well, you know.
Two U.S. sprinters, Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller, were pulled from the games, which wouldn’t be a big deal except for the fact that they were the only two Jewish athletes on the American team. I mean, sure, it probably sucked for them, but on the other hand… well, you know.
In the end, it’s yet another “colorful” chapter in the Hitler story, and was so controversial that if it were any other leader, it might have ended up being the most colorful of all the chapters, but… well, you know.
The Munich Massacre
1972 Summer Olympics: Munich, Germany
Look, we already talked about the U.S. basketball team getting robbed at the ’72 Games, but that’s nothing compared to, uh, a country’s Olympic delegation getting kidnapped and murdered by terrorists, which is exactly what happened to 11 Israelis.
The culprits called themselves Black September, which was related to Fatah, the Palestinian group infamously led by Yasser Arafat. They stormed the Olympic Village, took the Israelis hostage, and demanded the release of over 200 political prisoners, some dating back to the initial Israeli-Palestinian conflict (well, at least in the modern sense) of 1948. Yes, this was some old-school blood-feud shit.
After they didn’t get their way, Black September executed the Israelis, and in the aftermath, it was revealed that they were aided by German Neo-Nazis because of course they were, and the whole fucked up affair just hardened attitudes on every side, caused reprisals and reprisals to reprisals that are still being felt today and left the world worse than it was before. As Olympic scandals go, that’s, uh, that’s pretty tough to beat. Fucking Germany, man.
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