7 Olympic Scandals That Came Before Ryan Lochte's Rio Robbery Probe

What would a race to the medal stand be without a little controversy?

By McKenna Aiello Aug 18, 2016 6:00 PMTags
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What would a race to the medal stand be without a little controversy? 

In case you missed it, Ryan Lochte and three of his teammates are currently under investigation for claims that put the Team USA swimmers at the center of an alleged robbery during the 2016 Rio Olympics. With Brazilian officials raising speculation that there is little evidence to corroborate the athlete's accounts, the four stand to be embroiled in yet another history-making Olympic scandal. 

From physical assaults to doping allegations and even bribery, it's hard to pinpoint a Summer or Winter Games that has come and gone without at least one headline-stealing hiccup along the way.

Here are seven of those scandals that rocked the sports world for years to come: 

Celebrity Olympic Torchbearers
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Nancy Kerrigan vs. Tonya Harding: Known as "The Whack" heard 'round the world, these two figure skating arch-rivals turned the sport of figure skating into a full blown soap opera when Harding was found to have organized an attack on Kerrigan in hopes of smashing (quite literally) her chance at competing in an Olympic-qualifying competition. The Olympian recovered in time for the 1994 Winter Games and went on to secure a silver medal while Harding finished a disappointing eighth. As a result, Harding was banned from the U.S. Figure Skating Association for life and her two conspirators involved in the assault served time. 

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Lance Armstrong: In light of doping allegations that completely discredited his seven Tour de France titles between 1999 and 2005, the International Olympic Committee revoked the bronze medal Armstrong won during the 2000 Sydney Games. The cyclist and cancer survivor long maintained his innocence amid the investigation, until a 2013 interview with Oprah Winfrey where he came clean, admitting, "I will spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust and apologize to people."


Lilly King vs. Yulia Efimova: The Team USA swimmer delivered the ultimate coup de grâce when she wagged her finger after winning the 100m breaststroke in Rio. Why is that such a big deal? Well, it all starts with Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova, who faced doping allegations ahead of the global competition.  "I hope I did [make a statement], that we can still compete clean, and do well at the Olympic Games, and that's how it should be," King said in an interview. When Michael Phelps won the 200m butterfly event, he followed his teammate's lead with his own disapproving finger wag.  

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Tommie Smith and John Carlos: Now considered one of the most iconic images in Olympic history, the gold- and bronze-medal winning sprinters raising their black-gloved right fists in Black Power solidarity during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Games was met with criticism for its political extremity.

Despite the IOC banning the athletes from the Games, Smith and Carlos' demonstration has since been memorialized as a milestone contribution to the civil rights movement. 

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USA Gymnastics: An IndyStar investigation ahead of this year's Olympics uncovered that USA Gymnastics, the sport's primary filter in developing the U.S. Olympic team, turned a blind eye to sexual abuse allegations by coaches. Records show the organization filed complaint documents on at least four and upwards of more than 50 cases that allegedly were not reported to authorities. One specific case in Georgia detailed seven years of sexual abuse by a coach, despite USA Gymnastics receiving—and subsequently dismissing—the first four warnings about him.

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Marion Jones: The former track and field athlete and basketball star was stripped of the three gold and two bronze medals she won during the 2000 Sydney Olympics after admitting to steroid abuse in 2007. Jones was also linked to a check-counterfeiting operation, a crime, along with her drug use, that delivered a six month jail sentence. 


2002 Salt Lake City Games: In 1998, several members of the IOC were accused of taking bribes from the Salt Lake City, Utah Olympic organizing committee in hopes of securing a bid for the 2002 Winter Games. On the receiving end were payoffs amounting to more than $1.2 million in free medical treatment, lavish vacations, shopping sprees, real estate deals and Super Bowl tickets. As a result, investigations were launched into the bid process for previous Olympics that later found IOC officials were given gifts ahead of the 1998 and 2000 games. 

—Reporting by Sara Kitnick

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