The 10 worst scandals in Olympics history

Marion Jones was an Olympic idol ... until steroids became her downfall. (AP)

While it makes for farcical conversation, I just can't imagine this badminton banning story is one of the worst scandals in Olympic history ... or is it?

This shuttlecock scandal is causing a stir at the Olympics and on the Web today not because we all take our 'minton so seriously -- but because the sport is so obscure. Us 'mericans don't think too much of that lightweight racquet activity, so when teams are throwing games in a serious effort to fix the bracket, we cackle and mock.

In the eastern world, it's a big deal though. Got me to thinking about the Olympics' biggest scandals ever. And you know what? There aren't dozens to choose from. Plenty of things come to mind, yeah, but if you look closer, you'll see a lot of those negative headlines of Games' past were more controversy or tragedy than downright scandal.

There is a difference between the Black Panther salute (controversy), the Munich massacre (tragedy) and Nancy Kerrigan taking a pipe to the bone (scandal!).

Without further ado, here's's 10 biggest true scandals in Olympics history.

10. Badminton's bad behavior (2012). Eight tanked matches. That's more than a handful -- that's the sport's darkest moment. Enough's been said already, and I think it's just be we all try to move on. I just hope we can teach our children to value of true competition in our backyards and at our barbecues in the years to come.

Jim Thorpe lost his medal under arcane ideals. (AP)

9. Jim Thorpe's a pro (1912). Lame scandal here, but at the time it was huge and so it deserves inclusion. One of the greatest American athletes of all-time was actually stripped of his 1912 pentathlon and decathlon medals once it was discovered he -- gasp! -- played pro baseball. Thorpe also played baseball at the Games, and in 1913, at the urging of the Amateur Athletic Union -- yes, AAU, the same group associated with premier teenage basketball talent these days -- Thorpe had his records officially stripped from the Olympics. All because he was deemed a professional, having played for a little money on the side while playing hardball.

8. The first juvenile gymnast (2000). There's still no proof that those two Chinese gymnasts from the '08 Games were below the required age of 16, but have you forgotten about the one who broke the age barrier for China originally? Dong Fangxiao took a bronze team medal with the team at the Sydney Games. The team lost its medal following an investigation into Dong's age, which turned out to be 14. Because of that, the U.S. took the bronze in '00. 

7. Salt Lake City's bribery (2002). The second you bring in bribery, the second we've got scandal. And Salt Lake City, that Mormon mecca of the United States, was given the '02 Winter Games despite/because of the city's officials/representatives for the Games buying off IOC officials. We're talking ski trips and Super Bowl tickets and cash bribes. The city had failed four previous times to earn the Games, so naturally the alleviation to their failure was to buy off the organizers. The investigation went international. Eventually it was discovered that IOC officials were on the take for previous games as well. New standards were put into place, and basically no one went to jail over this, but plenty of people lost their jobs. It was one of the most shameful moments for IOC brass ever.

6. The infamous "fragile" French judge (2002). When your entire scoring system has to be restructured, you know the problem is transcendent. All because of a "fragile" French judge. Canadians Jamie Salé and David Pelletier were clearly seen as the superior pair on the ice in free skating to Russians Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, but Marie-Reine Le Gougne rated the two in reverse. She eventually had a tear-filled breakdown in a hotel lobby, claimed she was involved in an elaborate plot to give the Russians gold in one event (free skating) and the French gold in another (ice dancing). For those of us who couldn't care less about figure skating, it provided the first bit of excitement in the sport since another predictable scandal on this list, which you'll see in just a moment.

5. Marion Jones' juicing (2000). One of the most famous American track athletes of all time, Jones won five golds at the 2000 Games but eventually had her legacy bulldozed in the following years, once she was outed and tearfully admitted to her cheating. That admission came more than seven years later, in 2007. Jones had her defenders for a good, long while. And that's because she was adamant for so long that she wasn't a cheat. Eventually Victor Conte's insistence that he gave Jones drugs prior to and during the 2000 Games brought the track star down. She was convicted on perjury charges, to boot. She is the most recent and arguably most infamous American Olympian associated with cheating.

4. Ben Johnson's juicing (1988). That dirty Canadian. Johnson defeated Carl Lewis in the 100-meter dash at the '88 Games, which initially meant Lewis couldn't defend his title as Fastest Man in the World. Oh, but how things changed so very quickly. Within three days, Johnson's world record run of 9.79 was toast, as he tested positive for steroids, specifically a steroid named Stanozolol, which is too appropriate, since American's were lol'ing all over themselvs after the arrogant Johnson had to rescind his accomplishments, giving Lewis the gold after all.

Taken just days before Tonya Harding's bounty was taken out on Kerrigan's knee. (AP)

3. Tonya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan, and you know the rest (1994). To me, it remains one of the most bizarre stories in the history of sports. Forget the Olympics. Can we circle back to this and just say out loud what actualy happened here? An ex-husband of an American figure skater took out an emotionally fueled bounty on a fellow American figure skater just weeks before the Olympics were to begin in '94. Jeff Gillooly, which now seems the perfect name for the type of guy who would carry out this act, slugged Nancy Kerrigan's knee with a pipe, prompting one of the most popular soundbytes of the '90s. Harding was eventually banned from the sport for life once her involvement in the pipe-job became known. Kerrigan wound up winning silver at the '94 Games.

2. Hitler's fixation (1936). Adolf Hitler's refusal to acknowledge or meet Jesse Owens at the Berlin Games is the most notable incident of the 1936 Olympics, but in fact the scandal here stems from the fact Hitler hoped the Olympics could spread Nazi Germany propoganda and ideals to the rest of the world. Think about it. Would any country in today's modern world be allowed to host the Games if it had such arrogant, brutal, heartless regimes? (Well, let's not underestimate the IOC entirely, then.)

Hitler was outspoken over his anger that Jews and blacks were able to compete. Many athletes boycotted the Games because of Hitler, and in fact, some believed certain competitions would be rigged from the start. Had it not been for the united power of Olympic and world officials at the time, the '36 Games would undoubtedly have been something altogether very different, and perhaps viewed today as an asterisk of sorts. Fortunately, Hitler lost in this case, and Owens' four golds on the track served as one of most groundbreaking athletic performances in the history of the world.

1. U.S. basketball robbed of gold (1972). Oh, forget all the talk of controversy with this one. Those crooked refs screwed us. To this day, the U.S. men's basketball team's medals sit in a storage room of sorts in Germany, never to be picked up. They took silver in the gold medal game against the Soviets, and it only happened because of an infamous foul-up with the clock and an incredulous do-over, the likes of which had never been seen before in international play. So much has been written about this game, and it's legend only grows with each passing year. The team recently organized a get-together to talk old times. The decision will never be reversed, and because of that, it's hard to see how we could see another Olympic decision so blatantly disturbing and outside protocol in our lifetime. Then again, the IOC ...

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his seventh season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics and... Full Bio

Show Comments Hide Comments
Our Latest Stories