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Olympic Scandals, Ancient Times to Modern Eras

The first Olympic games were held in the year 776 BC. Humankind managed to keep the games nice and clean for pretty long, until a wretch Roman Emperor came along in 67 AD, committing the first-ever scandal in the history of the Olympic games. Ever since then, the games haven't been the same. Let's take a look at 8 of the most scandalous cheats of the Olympic games from ancient times to the modern era.

Emperor Nero, 67 AD.

The Roman Emperor Nero was one of the cruelest tyrants, not only of the Roman Empire but all history. His cheating involved bribery. He cheated his way into the games, as in the early games, only Greeks were allowed to compete. In the 4-horse chariot race, he bribed his way into racing with 10 horses, eventually falling off his chariot, but still being crowned winner thanks to another bribe.

Fred Lorz, 1904.

In the 1904 Olympic games held in St. Louis, USA, the marathon track was particularly challenging. In addition to the ‌clement high temperatures (89°F/ 32°C, no less!) and high humidity, there were physical obstacles like dust clouds, steep hills, and roaming wild dogs. It was aptly described by an official as "the most difficult a human being was ever asked to run over." Maybe driven mad by the heat and the physical toll, American runner Fred Lorz broke down after 9 miles (14.5 km) and hitched a ride by car for another 11 miles (17.7 km).
When the car broke down, he continued running until he won the race. Alas, his trick was soon uncovered, and Thomas Hicks was crowned as the new winner. These were wild times. During his run, Lorz was replenished by his team members with brandy, egg whites, and strychnine (a stimulant now known to be poisonous), all perfectly legal for the period.

Boris Onishchenko, 1976.

These Olympic games were held in Montreal. Onishchenko was the Ukrainian racer in the pentathlon, a 5-part racing match with a fencing portion. At the time, the swords were programmed to register a point when an opponent was hit. Onishchenko scored a point, even though he failed to touch his opponent. As it turned out, Onishchenko modified his sword to register a point by pressing a button - a dirty but clever trick!

German Female Swimming Team, 1976.

Seems like '76 was the year of scandals, but if you ask us, the following scandal is the bigger one of the two. The German Female Swimming Team won 10 of the 13 events, setting 8 world records, after having no victories at all in the previous games. No team member was tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Only decades later, in 1991, it was discovered that Germany had been running a doping program on its athletes. What makes the scandal even bigger is that, in most cases, the competitors weren't even aware that they were on stimulants.

A "Race-ful" of Steroids, 1988.

You may have noticed that there's no single name in the headline for this one, and that is because, although one cheater was caught and stripped from his gold medal, he wasn't the only one committing Olympic crimes. That year, the games were held in Seoul. At first, Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson won the medal but quickly lost it in favor of the runner-up American, Carl Lewis, due to the use of steroids.

Alas, Lewis also tested positive for steroid use but managed to avoid suspension. Another competitor of the same game was British Linford Christie who won Silver thanks to Ben Johnson. He also tested positive for steroid use, only to later be officially cleared by the International Olympic Committee, claiming that the results were wrong because he drank ginseng tea.

Marion Jones, 2000.

The first woman on the list is American sprinter Marion Jones, who competed in the 2000 Olympics games in Sydney. She was considered a gold medalist for being the first woman ever to win five track-and-field medals at a single Game. But for a long time, a cloud of suspicion had followed her. Finally, in 2007, she admitted to federal investigators that she was taking steroids. All of her results and Olympic titles were taken away, and she served 6 months in prison for the doping scandal.

Related: 7 Weird Sports That Shouldn’t Have Been in the Olympics

Tony André Hansen, 2008.

This cheater didn't technically ingest drugs. Hansen was representing Norway at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. He was competing in team jumping along with two other teammates, but his horse was the only one who tested positive for a stimulant called capsaicin. It is usually used topically for minor injuries, but taken internally, capsaicin can have stimulating effects. Hansen and his horse Camiro were stripped from the Bronze medal they won.

The Badminton Fraud, 2012.

Here's another original scandal that didn't involve substance use. In the 2012 Olympic games in London, four different teams didn't play nicely. Two South Korean, one Indonesian, and one Chinese team were all expelled from the games for match-fixing. Even the audience couldn't miss the pretense, reportedly booing at the competitor's dull play. They were all accused and disqualified for purposely trying to lose their matches in order to improve their draw in the next round.

H/T: Britannica

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