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Olympic controversies

Tom Walker
August 3, 2012
Marion Jones was sentenced to six months in prison for lying about using steroids and a check-fraud scam © PA Photos

After eight badminton players were thrown out of London 2012 for "not using one's best efforts to win a match", we've trawled through the archives to serve up 10 other examples of Olympic storms...

Marion Jones, 2000
Jones starred in Sydney, becoming the first woman to claim five medals in a single Games, three of them gold. What later transpired shook the world of athletics to its core. The American, who entered the 2000 Olympics a double world 100m champion, was dogged by claims of being a drugs cheat throughout her career - something which she always strenuously denied. However, a day after winning her first gold in the 100m final, it came to light that shot putter CJ Hunter, Jones' husband, had tested positive on four occasions for banned steroid nandrolone. Hunter and Jones' marriage quickly broke down, with the three-time Olympic gold medallist going full steam ahead with her career. In preparation for the 2001 World Championships, Jones was taking substances provided by Victor Conte's Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) - revealing later she initially thought she was taking flaxseed oil. It wasn't until 2007 that Jones pleaded guilty to lying about her use of performance-enhancing drugs to US investigators, leading to the IOC stripping her of her five Olympic medals. She confessed: "I have no-one to blame but myself for what I've done. Making the wrong choices and bad decisions can be disastrous."

Boris Onishchenko, 1976
Boris, seriously! This man had no shame. The 1976 Games arguably came too late for the revered athlete: by the time Montreal came around the three-time world champion was 38, certainly past his prime. Despite being a multiple medal winner (silver and team gold in 1972), Onishchenko wasn't satisfied and it turned out he would go to great lengths to land another gold four years later. During the fencing section of the modern pentathlon, he was credited with hits against one or two opponents, including Britain's 'Jim' Fox, who were adamant they hadn't been touched. Lo and behold, Boris was discovered to have wired his épée with a circuit-breaker so he could 'register' a hit whenever he wanted. He, along with the entire male Soviet pentathlon team were disqualified and Britain went on to grab the gold. Cheers Boris.

Roy Jones Jr, 1988
There could only have been one winner in the 1988 light-middleweight final in Seoul, and it wasn't South Korea's Park Si-hun. Jones, 19 at the time, had lit up the boxing tournament with a series of eye-catching displays en route to the gold medal clash. Park, meanwhile, had not delivered the same knockout performances, with some even commenting he deserved to lose all four of his fights on the way to the final. By hook or by crook he somehow made it, but what ensued was as one-sided a boxing clash as you will ever likely witness. Jones, so dominant he discarded with using a guard for the majority of the contest, landed 86 punches to Park's 32. The Korean survived two standing eight counts and was warned twice by the referee. NBC's Count-A-Punch recorder had the three rounds reading 20-3, 30-15 and 36-14 in Jones's favour, and yet somehow Park's fist was the one raised at the end. Referee Aldo Leoni sheepishly whispered to Jones: "I can't believe they're doing this to you", while Park is claimed to have apologised to the American afterwards. One of the judges, Hiouad Larbi, later admitted he awarded the fight to Park so as not to "embarrass the host country" but an official IOC investigation in 1997 found no wrongdoing.

Angel Matos, 2008
Few in attendance will remember this unsavoury incident with any fondness, even if they were given more for their money. Cuba's Angel Valodia Matos was disqualified from his bronze medal fight with Kazakhstan's Arman Chilmanov in the taekwondo men's +80-kg tournament at the Beijing Games for taking more than the allocated time to have treatment for a foot injury. The referee subsequently awarded the contest to Chilmanov, prompting a raging Matos to seek an explanation on the mat. After pushing the match referee the unlucky Swedish judge Chakir Chelbat was in the wrong place at the wrong time as he found himself on the receiving end of a high kick. Disgusted with the officials, Matos spat on the floor before his team managed to haul him away before he could do any more damage. His antics saw him slapped with a lifetime ban from all future World Taekwondo Federation championships.

Angel Matos took his frustration out on Swedish judge Chakir Chelbat © PA Photos

Fred Lorz, 1904
Lorz, reported to have got all his long-distance training done at night due to his work as a bricklayer, made headlines when he got a lift in a car during the marathon at St Louis Olympic Games. The hilly course was always going to test the 32-strong field, and so it proved with only 14 starters completing the course. Lorz packed up after nine miles, citing exhaustion. Cheekily he hopped in his manager's car for the next 11 miles, taking it easy while his fellow competitors melted in the blazing heat. When the car broke down it was time to get back on foot, running as if nothing had happened into the Olympic Stadium and breaking the finishing tape to finish in first place. The gold medal was almost around his neck before news of his foul play emerged. He claimed it was a practical joke but he found nothing funny about being handed a lifetime ban.

Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall, 1968
It's hardly surprising athletes like to unwind with a few drinks after they've competed at the Olympics - either to drown their sorrows or celebrate a personal triumph. But sinking a few cold ones before doing your thing? Surely unheard of, unless darts is the sport in question. Not so for Liljenwall. The Swedish modern pentathlete opted for something slightly stronger than tea before going in the pistol shooting, and was later left to regret his "two beers" when forced to return his bronze medal. New anti-doping laws meant Mexico was the first Games where athletes were tested for performance-enhancing substances. Unfortunately for Liljenwall, "excessive quantities" of alcohol were discovered in his system and his misdemeanour saw him become the first-ever Olympian to be disqualified from a Games for drug abuse.

Ben Johnson, 1988
Ominously, Johnson said he could have gone even faster in the 100m final in Seoul had he not raised his arm in the air in celebration before the race had finished. Then again, it's not surprising he was so confident of running even faster than 9.79s when he had his performance enhanced by drugs. Johnson's urine samples contained stanozolol, an illegal steroid, and he was disqualified three days later. After kissing goodbye to his gold medal, he refuted the claims aimed against him, only to later confess to taking drugs. Johnson's argument was that drug use was by now endemic among top-level athletes. He ma y have had a point but that doesn't make it right. Far from it.

Zola Budd-Mary Decker, 1984
Whether Budd deliberately tripped Decker remains one of the great Olympic mysteries. On the start line for the much-anticipated 3000m final in Los Angeles were two contrasting characters: you had golden girl Decker, the home favourite tipped for glory, and alongside her was the controversial figure of bare-footed Budd from Bloemfontein. We will never know if eventual winner Maricica Puica would have been overhauled, and that's because of what followed shortly after the half-way mark. With Budd marginally in front, her and Decker made contact with each other twice. In the second tangle, Decker's spikes caught Budd's heel and, as she lost balance her trailing left leg brought down Decker, ending her race and hopes of winning gold. Budd carried on but was rounded on by the partisan crowd, who booed her from the stands. After finishing down the field in seventh spot, Budd wrote in her autobiography, published in 1989: "I had to finish the race. What I couldn't endure, however, was the thought of facing all those people on the rostrum. It sounds easy to say, but I knew once the race had started that I was good enough to win a silver or bronze medal. Deep inside me, though, was now a dread of standing on a rostrum, and I began running slower and slower. People passed me and I didn't care - everything had collapsed and I just wanted out." Decker was unyielding, "Zola tripped me" she declared. The pair have exchanged letters but haven't spoken since 1992.

Mary Decker fell after clashing with Zola Budd © Getty Images

Jim Thorpe, 1912
Poor old Thorpe. Here was a man punished for being good at lots of things. Regarded at the time as one of the most naturally gifted athletes around, Thorpe won Olympic gold in the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Games. However, he was stripped of his titles after he owned up to being paid for playing two seasons of semi-professional baseball prior to competing at the Games, something that went against the amateurism rules. It was widely accepted that other athletes were doing the same, but Thorpe was punished for his own honesty. In 1983 the IOC restored his Olympic medals, 30 years after he passed away.

USA-Russia basketball, 1972
No American team had ever lost an Olympic match prior to the 1972 Games. Munich was about to play host to some serious history-making. In a controversial final against the Soviet Union, whom were in the middle of a Cold War with the United States, America trailed 49-48 with only seconds to run on the clock. The Soviets had the ball but the US team harried them into a mistake, the ball spilling and US guard Doug Collins collecting to give the favourites a glimmer of hope. As he honed in on the basket, a red jersey stopped him in his tracks. "He got into a position to flip me so I knew I was take a nasty fall," said Collins. "I hit my head on the basket and was knocked out for a while. [US] coach [Hank] Iba said: "If Doug can walk he's shouting these free throws.' It was like someone sending a bolt of electricity through me." With three seconds left on the timer, Collins sunk both of his free throws for glory, or so you would have thought. The Soviets were awarded a time-out with one second remaining, and then more controversy: Dr William Jones, the British secretary of FIBA, intervened, leading to the clock being reset to show three seconds. A Soviet pass went long, only for the clock to be reset once more as the game had restarted the last time it was altered. Alexander Belov then went and sunk a lay-up to stun a broken US team. The US appealed the result but it was rejected 3-2 by the jury.

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