When it comes time for the Olympics, many people take the time to watch athletes compete in some of their favorite sports. No matter if it’s the winter or summer Olympics, people always find time to tune in to watch and cheer. In fact, 2010’s Vancouver Winter Olympics pulled in 190 million viewers across the world; earning the second spot on the most watched winter Olympics. The first goes to the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics with 204 million viewers. The Olympic Games date all the way back to the 5th century in Ancient Greece. Of course over time rules have changed, new sports have been added, but the fierce competition has always stuck around for centuries.
The best part of the Olympics is getting to see some of the finest athletes compete. Whether you like the triathlon, weight-lifting, gymnastics, swimming, or some other sport, the fact is that everyone wants to see their country’s athletes succeed. Success is marked by a medal in the Olympics; winner gets gold, runner-up gets silver, and the second runner-up earns the bronze medal. Each athlete gets to keep them, and crazily enough some medals have been misplaced along the way. On the other hand, other athletes have lost their Olympic medals not due to misplacing or losing track of them, but for violating the rules set by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). This committee is responsible for investigating any infractions that may occur during the game.
Below is a list of 10 athletes who lost their Olympic medals. Some have been quite controversial while others were well deserved.
10. Ben Johnson – Canada
Though born in Falmouth, Jamaica, Ben Johnson, during the Olympic Games, represented Canada as he migrated there during the 1970s. After living in Ontario, Johnson came into contact with Charlie Francis, a track and field coach, and eventually Johnson joined the Scarborough Optimists track and field team. With an Olympic coach behind him, Johnson was able to succeed and in 1982 was able to win 2 silver medals at the Commonwealth Games in Australia. In the 1984 Summer Olympics Johnson earned a bronze medal as well as another bronze medal at part of the Canadian 4x100m relay team. His first top success came in the 1986 Goodwill Games when he won first place. Johnson’s success continued as his endorsements continued to grow. In 1987 he was invited to be a member of the Order of Canada because of the fact that he had broken multiple records held by Canadians.
The Losing Point
Throughout his career, Johnson had a long time competition with another runner named Carl Lewis. Lewis originally held many of the records that Johnson smashed, and Lewis often pointed out how some of these new runners were on drugs; little did people know he was correct. In the 1988 Olympic Games, the competition between the two was sky-high. In the first 100m run, Lewis won, but at the 100m final run, Johnson was able to earn a gold medal. However, 3 days after his win, Johnson failed his drug test as Stanozolol, an anabolic steroid, was found in his urine. Because of this he was suspended from the sport and his medal was taken. Johnson attempted his comeback in 1991, won various races, but was again busted for doping.
9. Olga Medvedtseva – Russia
Olga Medvedtseva was born and Russia and found great interest in becoming a biathlete. Medvedtseva competed in various world championships and in the 2000 Biathlon World Championships in Oslo, she took home the gold medal in the 4 x 7.5km relay. In 2001 at the same championship held in Poklijuka, she scored another gold medal in the same sport. Two years later in Oslo she won silver in the 12.5km mass start and in 2004 she was able to pull off a gold and silver win at the championship in Oberhof. Medvedtseva’s career as a biathlete really took off, and soon enough she found herself at the top spot in the Olympics.
The Losing Point
Her first huge win came at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City when she won the gold medal for the 10km pursuit. At the same Games she also won the bronze medal the team 4 x 7.5km relay. After the 2002 games, she also took part in the 2006 Turin Olympics. Here she was awarded the silver medal in the women’s 15 km individual race. However, she failed a drug test that same year after carphedon, a stimulant, was found in her system. She was banned for 2 years from the competition. However, the Russian Anti-Doping Committee stated that she tested positive for the stimulant because she was given an over-the-counter drug to treat an ankle injury. This was proven to be true, but the manufacturer did not have a complete list of the compounds used so technically the failed drug test was not her fault. Her doctor was suspended for 2 years and the manufacturer warned. Medvedtseva still waited out her 2 year suspension but came back into the sport at the 2010 Vancouver Games and won gold in the 4 x 6km relay.
8. Andreea Raducan – Romania
Born in Romania, Andreea Raducan began her career as a gymnast. Ever since she was 12, she had been learning and improving upon her gymnastic skills and many were often shocked by her talent when it came to dance and presentation, as well as the fact that she was doing such difficult stunts at such a young age. In 1998 at the Junior European Championships, she won silver on the balance beam. Her first top win came at the 1999 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Tianjin where her team won a gold medal and she earned 2 on her own in the floor competition. In 2000 at the European Championships in Europe she won silver in her floor routine and her team won bronze.
The Losing Point
The 2000 Sydney Olympics proved to be horrible. Not only was the gymnastics equipment set up improperly, various other gymnasts were hurt. Somehow Raducan was able to complete her routines unharmed. However, after winning a silver and gold medal as well as gold from a team win, Raducan tested positive for pseudoephedrine, a stimulant but also a decongestant. Her coach supported her, stating that she was underage and the chemical was found because she was given Nurofen for a cold. Raducan even stated that the pills made her feel dizzy and did not help her. In the end she lost her god medal despite the appeals and the doctor was placed on 2 years suspension. Despite all of this controversy, in 2001 at the Artistic Gymnastics Championship in Ghent, she earned a bronze in vault and all-around, as well as a gold medal in floor, balance beam, and her team also won gold. Today she is retired and works as a sportscaster, model, and other jobs.
7. Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall – Sweden
Born on July 9, 1941, Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall trained throughout Sweden to become a pentathlete. Though his solo career never really flourished, he often did well when he was put on a team with other qualified pentathletes. However, in the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Liljenwall was able to reach the third spot ranking in the modern pentathlon. In equestrian he placed 29th, 13th in fencing, 24th in shooting, and 11th in running.
The Losing Point
In the 1968 Summer Olympics, the Men’s Pentathlete Team from Sweden couldn’t catch a break. Despite being able to overcome various other teams and earn a spot on the podium, the team eventually had to return their medals. This was because Liljenwall was found to have alcohol in his body during a drug test. This means this he was quickly disqualified, which not only disqualified him but the entirety of the team as well. He stands as the first Olympic athlete to be disqualified for drug use after the IOC was created in 1967. Liljenwall did admit to having alcohol, but explained that he only had 2 beers which were meant to calm his nerves during the pistol shooting part of the competition. As crazy as it sounds, Liljenwall was disqualified for drinking beer while 14 other athletes tested positive for tranquilizers; though they were not banned at the time.
6. Rashid Ramzi – Bahrain
For years, Rashid Ramzi has been representing Bahrain in the Olympics while running the 800, 1500, and 5000 m races. He is a well known track and field athlete, though before his disqualification, he was widely supported. Before coming to Bahrain, Ramzi competed in games for Morocco, but in 2002 he joined the Bahraini army and gained his citizenship. Ramzi’s first win came at the 2002 Asian Games in Busan where he won gold in the 1500 m run. Three years later he won 2 gold medals in the 800 m and the 1500 m at the IAAF World Championships in Helsinki. This made him the first track and field star to be able to win 2 gold medals at the same competition. A year later he won silver at the same competition in Osaka. Ramzi’s career was continuing to grow and eventually he qualified to play in the Olympics.
The Losing Point
Ramzi’s first, and possibly only, appearance at an Olympic game happened in 2008. The 2008 Summer Olympics were hosted in Beijing and Ramzi was most successful in the 1500 m race. During this competition he was able to earn gold. However, this celebration would be short lived. In April 2009, the Olympic Committee in Bahrain said that Ramzi’s blood tested positive for CERA, which is a blood-boosting drug. The committee tested both of his blood samples, and both tested positive. That November Ramzi lost his gold medal and has yet to compete again.
5. Marion Jones – United States
Out of all of the athletes on the list, Marion Jones is definitely one who took the hardest fall, but it was entirely her fault. She had a blossoming career that was as successful as ever. Ever since high school she was racking up titles after her success in track and field. A very notable success was her win at the 100 m sprint at the CIF California State Meet; however, even at such a young age, Jones was accused of doping, though this time she had a great attorney. In 1992 at the age of 17, she was invited to compete in the Olympic trials, but she declined the invitation to be an alternate. Instead she competed in the IAAF World Junior Championships in Seoul, but didn’t place. She continued to compete in high school and then college competitions, earning various other titles. In 1997 she went to the World Championships in Athens and was able to score gold in the 100 m sprint. In 1998 at the IAAF World Cup she won gold in the 100 m and 200 m and silver in the long jump event. In 1999 she had continued success at the IAAF World Championships in Spain, earning a gold and silver medal.
The Losing Point
After years of success, Jones’ career would crash suddenly in 2000. Though she was highly successful at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, her past definitely came back to haunt her. Though she was able to get out of doping before, this time she was unsuccessful. Her husband, CJ Hunter, a shot putter, admitted to using steroids and confused that Jones had injected steroids during the 2000 Olympics. Jones continued to deny the accusations, but through careful look of her past, including her coaches, she was obviously guilty by association. After failing a drug test, Jones was forced to give up all of her earned titles from the 2000 Olympics and on. Total, she lost 6 medals. After the doping scandal, she was found to be involved in even more crime, including check fraud and perjury. In 2008 she was sentenced to 6 months in jail for her activities. Today, Jones has not returned to the field.
4. Ara Abrahamian – Sweden
Focusing on Greco-Roman wrestling, Ara Abrahamian was a highly successful wrestler during his time. He started to wrestle at the young age of 8 in Armenia. Here was able to earn the title of Armenian junior champion 3 times. In 1994 he went to Stockholm to compete in the Stockholm Junior Open. He left the Armenian team but eventually became part of the team located in Sweden. He first competed in the Olympic Games in 2000, but was unable to earn a medal as he placed 6th. However, the next year in 2001 he went to the European Championships and was able to win second place. His first gold medal win came in 2001 at the World Championships in Greece. He earned his last gold medal in the 2002 World Championships in Russia. Before and after this competition, he only won silver or bronze medals, or didn’t place at all.
The Losing Point
Unlike many other athletes on the list, Abrahamian wasn’t found to be doing illegal things. He wasn’t using steroids to enhance his performance or breaking any other serious offense like most athletes on the list. At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Abrahamian was up against tough opponents. After the judges finalized their scores, Abrahamian only came in third. However, he and his coach both disputed the scores and claimed the judges were being corrupt and unjust. The two called for a review of the match but this was declined. Come time for the awards ceremony, Abrahamian attended, but when he was handed his bronze medal, he shook the hands of the others, stepped off the podium, and placed it on the wrestling mat. He then chose to leave without his medal. Because of the incident, the IOC held a conference and decided that Abrahamian needed to be suspended for violating the spirit of fair play. He and his coach were to be banned for 2 years, but this was overturned in 2009.
3. Lyudmyla Blonska – Ukraine
Some people just don’t learn the first time and Lyudmyla Blonska is the perfect example. Born in the Ukraine, Blonska became well known as a long jumper and a pentathlete. From age 5 to 10, she practiced gymnastics, then basketball, and then judo and cycle racing. When she was 14 she was introduced to athletics and since then, never looked back. At the age of 16, she entered the Ukrainian Youth Championships in Odessa and competed in the heptathlon event and was able to win a silver medal. In 1995 she moved to Kiev where she began to really focus on her athletic career. She eventually went to college and became a certified teacher of physical culture and trainer. In 2000 she got married and in 2001 she became a mother.
The Losing Point
After such life-changing events, Blonska decided to get back into her sport. She was able to win the National Championship in May 2002 and was then invited to the European Championships in Munich, but she was unable to place. Despite only coming in 13th, Blonska, soon after the race, tested positive for steroids, and even though she wanted to appeal her two year ban, she did not have the money to do so. Before her ban was over she had another child, but again returned to the sport. At the 2005 Universiade in Turkey, she won gold but didn’t place in the 2006 European Championships. That same year she won the pentathlon event at the 2006 World Indoor Championships. At the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Blonska ran her way to a second place win and then trained to enter the Beijing Olympics in 2008. At the Olympics, she was able to win another silver medal in the heptathlon. However, she was found guilty of doping for the second time. Because this was her second offense, she was quickly banned and was thrown out of the Games entirely. Today she is banned, for a lifetime, from any type of competitive athletic sports.
2. Alain Baxter – United Kingdom
Alain Baxter is a very successful and well known skier from Scotland. He is especially great when it comes to the slalom. Both of his parents were British Ski Team members, so it seems he definitely took after their skills. In 1991 at just 16, he was chosen to be on the British Alpine Ski Team. Despite his young age, he was able to climb the ranks and make his way up, breaking records and setting his own. Just 7 years after making the ski team, Baxter was able to rank in the top 100 times during the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. However, the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics proved to be both successful and horrible for Baxter.
The Losing Point
At the Olympics in 2002, Baxter was able to make British history by becoming the first skier from Britain to earn a medal in alpine skiing. Despite it being a bronze medal, the country had never placed in this sport. To show his pride, Baxter spray-painted the flag of Scotland into his hair, but the Olympic Association out of Britain asked him to remove it since he was representing the U.K., but the dye was still visibly seen. After his win, Baxter returned back home to crowds celebrating his success. After returning home Baxter was notified that he had failed a drug test and that a small amount of methamphetamine was found. The IOC of course disqualified him from the sport and had him return his medal, which was eventually returned to him by Raich, the original 4th place winner.
Baxter did state that he used a Vicks inhaler in the U.S. to use and he was unaware that the ones made in the U.S. had different ingredients. The IOC accepted his explanation and only banned him for 3 months. Since the controversy Baxter has returned to the sport, but has yet to break his Salt Lake City record.
1. Jim Thorpe – United States
During his time, Jim Thorpe was said to be one of the best athletes. He seemed to be all-around good at anything and everything he played. When Thorpe participated in the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden he participated in the pentathlon and the decathlon. Both were relatively new sports but he was entirely fitted for them. He also participated in the long jump and high jump. Despite being new to the sport, Thorpe earned a gold medal in the pentathlon and then the same day went on to quality for the long and high jumps, but did not earn a medal in these competitions. His last event was the decathlon and here he won gold as well. He even received to challenge prizes from Kings Gustav V of Sweden and Nicholas II of Russia.
The Losing Point
However, despite his obvious success, Thorpe wouldn’t be keeping his medals. During 1913, there were rules set that said those who were sports teachers, once competed against professionals, or received money prizes for competitions were not amateurs, therefore not allowed to compete. Somehow news came out that Thorpe had played professional baseball, making his wins disqualifiable. Thorpe did in fact play professional ball for the Eastern Carolina League in 1909-1910 and made very little money, probably about $47 a game in today’s dollar terms. But, it’s been proven that Thorpe wasn’t the only one to play professionally; many of the athletes did, they just used aliases.
In the end Thorpe’s medals were taken away, despite the fact that the IOC did not obey their own rules, which stated complaints had to be made within 30 days of the ending Olympic ceremony. Thorpe wasn’t brought up until 6 months after. Thorpe died without his medals, but in 1982, the IOC gave his 2 children commemorative medals, as the originals were stolen and have yet to be found.
By Ash Ley