Wednesday's scandal over the women's badminton games that were thrown — first by a Chinese pair and then by three others from South Korea and Indonesia, leading to the disqualification of all eight players — overshadowed much of the day's events. But it was far from the first scandal to hit the Olympics in recent history. The following is a brief tour through six of the most scandalous.
The Attack on Nancy Kerrigan
On Jan. 6, 1994, during a practice session for the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, American ice skater Nancy Kerrigan, a gold medal favorite, was clubbed in the knee as part of a plot to foil her Olympic ambitions.
Her competitor, Tonya Harding, admitted to attempting to cover up the attack, which was carried out by Shane Stant, who was hired by Harding's ex-husband to break Kerrigan's leg in order to prevent her from competing. She avoided jail time by accepting a plea bargain that included three years of probation, 500 hours of community service and a $160,000 fine, but the scandal became the most publicized in Olympic history.
Her leg wasn't broken, and Kerrigan was able to compete in the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. When the two faced off, it was one of the most watched telecasts ever. Kerrigan won the silver medal in the competition, while Harding, who threatened legal action to keep her spot on the Olympic team, placed eighth.
Figure skaters Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze's minor error in their long program in the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics and the clean program of their opponents, Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, did not seem to be reflected in the competition's outcome.
When the judges' scores appeared, nearly everyone expected to see the Canadians get the gold medal, but five judges gave it to the Russians, while only four favored the Canadian pair. Sale and Pelletier accepted the silver medal amid an outcry from Canadian and American media.
But the next day a French judge, Marie-Reine Le Gougne, admitted she had been bought off. The Russians had promised her a first-place vote for the French ice dancing team if she handed a first-place vote to Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze.
Her vote was later discarded, and the two pairs shared the gold medal.
Speedskating Gold Medal Stolen?
Also in the Salt Lake City Games, the speedskating competition generated heated controversy as the South Koreans alleged that their gold medal had been stolen.
Kim Dong Sung finished first in the 1,500-meter short-track speedskating final. He took a victory lap with the South Korean flag.
But suddenly, his celebration came crashing down — it was announced that the gold would go to his American opponent, Apolo Ohno, and that Kim was disqualified for blocking Ohno on the last lap.
Australian referee James Hewish ruled that Kim had moved into Ohno's path on the race's penultimate turn, when Ohno was seen gesturing with his arms as though to get out of Kim's way. The head of the South Korean delegation alleged that the referee had made the call solely based on that gesture, and that there was no actual cross-tracking.
In reaction to the news of Kim's disqualification, Ohno was trashed in the South Korean press. His gesture was dubbed a "Hollywood action" by the country's state news agency, Yonhap.
Ben Johnson's World Record Too Good to Be True
Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson was having a brilliant career. In 1987, his 100-meter world record time of 9.79 seconds drew cheers back home and earned him the nickname "Benfastic."
But just three days after he set that record, Johnson was stripped of both the record and his gold medal. His urine samples contained the steroid stanozolol, and Johnson admitted to having used steroids when he set the 9.79-second record.
Johnson and coach Charlie Francis testified that Johnson only used performance enhancers to stay on an even footing with other athletes who were also using them.
In a book titled "Speed Trap," Francis claimed all top athletes in the late 1980s were using steroids.
Marion Jones's Fall From Grace
Track star Marion Jones was sentenced to six months in prison in 2008 for lying to federal prosecutors who were investigating her use of steroids.
Accusations of steroid use had followed Jones throughout her track career, beginning in high school. She firmly denied any connection with performance-enhancing drugs until 2007, when she admitted to lying to federal agents about her use of steroids before the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics. At a press conference, she publicly admitted that she had, in fact, taken them, and lied not only to investigators but also to two grand juries.
"I stand before you and tell you that I have betrayed your trust ... and you have the right to be angry with me ... I have let my country down and I have let myself down," she said at the press conference.
In December 2007, the International Olympic Committee stripped Jones of her five Olympic medals. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in October 2008, Jones claimed that she could have won the gold in Sydney without having taken steroids.
Roy Jones Jr. Robbed of Gold
Fourteen years before South Korea claimed its Kim Dong Sung had been robbed of his speedskating gold medal in Salt Lake City, it was found guilty of its own Olympic misdemeanor.
After the boxing final in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, in which American Roy Jones Jr.dominated South Korean fighter Park Si-Hun with 86 punches to Park's 32, the judges awarded the victory to Park. The referee was speechless, and so was Jones.
Before long, though, one judge admitted that the decision was a mistake. Finally, in 1997, an International Olympic Committee investigation determined that South Korean officials had wined and dined the three judges, all of whom were suspended.
Still, the decision stood, and Park retained the gold.
- Sports & Recreation
- Ice Skating
- Nancy Kerrigan
- Nancy Kerrigan
- South Korea
- Tonya Harding
- Apolo Ohno