9 Winter Olympic Scandals That Would Make Tonya Harding Blush
The Olympics have always brought viewers a hefty dose of inspiration, be it from the grit, perseverance, and hard work of the athletes or from the numerous "Cinderella" success stories. But there's more to the games than those heartwarming tales: there's also drama, intrigue, and more often than not, scandal. There have been a lot of juicy Winter Olympics scandals over the years, many of which have faded from public memory.
In telling the story of American figure skater Tonya Harding, the Hollywood biopic I, Tonya has renewed interest in one of the most dramatic and well-known scandals to ever hit the Winter Olympics: the attack on Nancy Kerrigan. As the 1994 Winter Games drew closer and a rivalry between Harding and Kerrigan heated up, Kerrigan was clubbed in the knee as she left the ice following a public training session in Detroit. Kerrigan's attacker was later found to have been hired by Harding's ex-husband in an attempt to clear away her competition. Both women ultimately went on to compete, with Kerrigan winning silver and Harding placing eighth. While Harding denied any knowledge of or involvement in the attack on Kerrigan, she was ultimately hit with a lifelong ban from competition and coaching.
Few Winter Olympic scandals have captured the public's attention quite like that attack on Kerrigan, but there has been a slew of them. From allegations of poisoning to pot-smoking athletes, here are nine Winter Olympics scandals you may have forgotten about.
1. The Man In Black
During the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble, France, Austrian skier Karl Schranz claimed a mysterious figure in dark clothing threw off his slalom race time by darting across his path. Although Schranz was initially given a do-over that allowed him to submit a time good enough for him to take home the gold, a jury of appeal later disqualified that time and named French skier Jean-Claude Killy the gold medalist.
Schranz was involved in another scandal four years later, when he admitted to earning $50,000 a year as a sponsored athlete. That made him a professional rather than an amateur, and Schranz was expelled by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as a result of his "professional activities." A photograph of Schranz wearing a shirt advertising a coffee brand snapped ahead of the 1972 Winter Games also led to changes in sponsorship rules.
2. An Ice Dancing Fix
An IOC member argued ice dancing should be removed as an Olympic event after a judge recorded another judge attempting to fix the results of the ice dancing competition at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan.
Ice dancing is certainly one of the Winter Games' more subjective competitions, given that scores are awarded based on originality, artistry, technical skill, and even costumes. Still, the IOC demanded ice dancing clean itself up. New regulations regarding the number of points a judge must deduct for falls were introduced to the sport as a result of what happened in Nagano.
3. A Pot-Smoking Snowboarder
The allegations of corrupt ice dancing judges weren't the only scandal to rock the 1998 Nagano Games. Shortly after winning the first gold medal for snowboarding in Olympic history, Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati was disqualified and stripped of his medal after testing positive for marijuana. Rebagliati, who later had his medal reinstated, has remained an advocate for marijuana.
4. Sore Losers Cause Big Damage
The U.S. men's hockey team got a little too rambunctious after being eliminated in Nagano, damaging walls, floors, and chairs in the Athletes' Village. According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, the team used fire extinguishers to damage two apartments in the Athletes' Village before throwing one down into a courtyard from five stories above ground. Amid cries of poor sportsmanship, Chris Chelios, the team's captain, paid officials in the country $3,000 to cover the damages.
5. Poisoning And Doping
In 1993 Johann Mühlegg, a mercurial German-born cross-country skier, accused the German skiing federation of poisoning him after he fell ill. According to BBC News, he was said to have been cured of this illness by a prescription of holy water, provided by a local medicine woman; "that strained his relationship with German officials," said the news source.
In 1999, Mühlegg become a Spanish citizen and competed his adopted country at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. However, after testing positive for the performance-enhancing drug darbepoetin, Mühlegg was disqualified and stripped of the three gold medals he had won for Spain.
6. Speed Skating Trickery
The 2002 Winter Games also saw South Korean speedster Kim Don-sung disqualified for "cross-tracking," or cutting off another competitor during the men's 1500m short track final. With Kim's disqualification, the gold was handed to American speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno.
Oddly, Ohno was involved in a scandal of his own during the 2002 Games — fellow skater Tommy O'Hare accused Ohno and Rusty Smith of attempting to conspire against him at the U.S. short-track speedskating trials by fixing the race. An arbitrator ultimately found no evidence of that, however.
7. A Bid Scandal In Salt Lake City
The 2002 Winter Games were rocked by scandal outside of its sporting events, too. Allegations that members of the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee had shelled out $1 million in an attempt to influence the votes of 12 delegates to the International Olympic Committee resulted in an investigation and then legal charges.
Although a federal judge ultimately dismissed the charges due to insufficient evidence a number of IOC members were forced to resign over allegations they'd accepted "gifts" in exchange for their votes.
8. Controversy Over A Quadruple Jump
Men's figure skating at the 2010 Vancouver Games brought viewers what has since been dubbed "the quadruple jump controversy."
This controversy essentially boils down to U.S. skater Evan Lysacek being awarded the gold medal, despite not having performed the most difficult jump in figure skating. It was the first time in nearly 20 years of Olympic history that the gold had gone to someone who had not performed a quadruple jump.
9. When Olympians Go Topless
As Lebanese skier Jackie Chamoun prepared to competed in the 2014 Sochi Games, a scandal erupted back in her home country as photographs of the Olympian posing topless surfaced. Chamoun had posed topless — albeit with her breasts strategically covered — for an Austrian calendar shoot three years earlier. Upon seeing the photographs, the Lebanese government said that Chamoun had ruined the country's reputation. Others jumped to Chamoun's defense, questioning how boobs — and not terrorism, human trafficking, unemployment, or economic and political instability — had ruined the nation's reputation.
While the Winter Olympics has undoubtedly seen its fair share of scandals over the years, this year's games could add a few more to the list — so keep an eye out for rebellious athletes, interrupted races, or allegedly compromised judges.