12 Disgraced Olympians

12 Disgraced Olympians

Tyson Gay


One of America’s best hopes to beat Usain Bolt in 2012 Olympics couldn’t quite pull it off, but he did help the men’s 4 x 100 meter relay bring in a silver. But now the fastest man in the U.S. is in hot water: Gay announced his withdrawal this week from the upcoming world track championships in Moscow, citing a positive test for an unnamed banned substance.

Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall


In 1968, this Swedish modern pentathlete became the first Olympian in history to lose a medal for doping. His drug of choice? Beer. Liljenwall was stripped of his bronze after it was discovered that he downed a couple pints to calm his nerves before the shooting portion of the event.

Marion Jones

The stand-out of the 2000 Summer Olympics was also a central figure in the BALCO investigation, one of the biggest doping scandals in American history. Two years after the track star won five medals at the Sydney games, her former coach turned over a steroid-laced syringe to investigators, setting off a chain of events that would bring down Jones, Olympic shot putter C.J. Hunter (her ex-husband), and baseball legend Barry Bonds. Jones finally admitted to doping in 2007 and surrendered her medals.

Tonya Harding

Wikimedia Commons/Andrew Parodi

Although this figure skater landed a respectable fourth-place in the 1992 Olympics, it was an incident in 1994 that made her an overnight celebrity. Only a month before the 1994 Games in Lillehammer, Norway, Harding arranged to have her American rival, Nancy Kerrigan, clubbed in the knee during practice at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Kerrigan was able to recover in time for the Olympics and even won a silver medal. Strangely, Harding was also allowed to compete, but her career was ruined and her name has been a tabloid fixture ever since.

Ben Johnson

The pride of Canada going into the 1988 Summer Games, this world-record sprinter reached new heights of fame when he broke his own record and defeated Carl Lewis for the gold in the 100 meters. The glory didn’t last long, though: three days later Johnson was stripped of his medal after testing positive for steroids.

Larisa Lazutina

The most decorated athlete in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, Russian cross country skier Larisa Lazutina ended her celebrated, 18-year career at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics with a positive drug test. She and her teammate Olga Danilova, who also tested positive, had to return a combined two golds and three silvers.

Credit: Jon Nelson

Ross Rebagliati

Wikimedia Commons/Roland Tanglao

Alcohol isn’t the only unexpected drug that can get your medal taken away. Only a day after winning the first ever Olympic gold for snowboarding in the 1998 Nagano Games, Canadian Ross Rebagliati tested positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Although his medal was returned because cannabis wasn’t officially on the banned substances list, the World Anti-Doping Agency added it soon thereafter and Rebagliati left snowboarding, eventually landing in the weed dispensary business.

Johann Mühlegg

This four-time Olympic cross country skier had already earned his fair share of notoriety when he was busted at the 2002 Winter Olympics for doping. Having competed in three Olympics for Germany, his eccentric behavior and spats with his teammates twice got him kicked off the team (he was reinstated once) before he finally moved to Spain, where he was granted citizenship. Competing for his adopted country in 2002, he won two golds and was even congratulated by King Juan Carlos before testing positive late in the games for a substance that boosts red blood cell count. After an investigation, he was forced to give up the medals.

Boris Onishchenko


Called “Boris the Cheat” by contemporary headlines, this Soviet modern pentathlete (not pictured) had medaled in two prior Olympics before his fall from grace during the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal. During the fencing portion of the event, his opponent protested that Onishchenko’s electronic épée was registering hits that had failed to land, which led to the discovery that he was using a rigged sword. Onishchenko was expelled from competition and sent back to the USSR, where it’s reported he was personally chewed out by the premier Leonid Brezhnev.

Ortrun Enderlein

Wikimedia Commons/German Federal Archive

One of the biggest Olympic embarrassments of its day, defending women’s luge gold medalist Ortun Enderlein of East Germany, and two of her teammates, were disqualified after a judge claimed that they had heated the runners of their sleds prior to racing. Coming at the height of the Cold War, it was especially scandalous that the three DQs led to a West German winning silver. The East Germans cried foul on the judge, who had administered a supposedly dubious “snow test,” in which he melted snow on the hot runners. Enderlein and teammates maintained their innocence, but neither of the stripped medals—gold and bronze—was ever reinstated.

Ángel Matos

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Arguing with a referee may get you disqualified, but as Cuban taekwondo fighter Ángel Matos found out in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, kicking one in the face will get you banned for life. Angry over being disqualified for taking too long a medical timeout, Matos argued with the Swedish ref Chakir Chelbat and then delivered a swift foot to the face when he didn’t get his way. The former gold medal winner and his coach refused to apologize and were both handed lifetime bans by the World Taekwondo Federation.