Top 10 Times Athletes Had Their Medals Stripped Away

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Top 10 Times Athletes Had Their Medals Stripped Away

VOICE OVER: Callum Janes WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
Sports were never the same after these athletes were stripped of their honors. For this list, we'll be looking at the most famous cases of Olympic athletes losing their medals due to controversial actions. Our countdown includes Lance Armstrong, Ben Johnson, Jim Thorpe, and more!
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Top 10 Times Athletes Had Their Medals Taken Away


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 times athletes had their medals taken away.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most famous cases of Olympic athletes losing their medals due to controversial actions.

Think any of these decisions were unfair? Let us know in the comments!

#10: Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall

A few beers proved to be this pentathlete’s downfall. The modern pentathlon is a varied sport that consists of fencing, freestyle swimming, equestrian show jumping, pistol shooting, and cross country running. Swedish pentathlete Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall competed at the 1968 Summer Olympics, where his team won bronze. However, the team was disqualified when it was discovered that Liljenwall had consumed two beers to calm himself prior to the event. The International Olympic Committee had introduced anti-doping legislation in 1967. Liljenwall was the first Olympian to be disqualified for doping and the only one to be disqualified for alcohol use.

#9: Ibragim Samadov

Representing the Unified Team of the Soviet Union, Chechen weightlifter Ibragim Samadov competed in the 1992 Barcelona Games. He was fresh off a win at the World Weightlifting Championships. At the Olympics, Samadov placed third and was awarded the bronze medal, but the weightlifter refused to accept it. Instead, he dropped it on the podium in disgust. The act of protest was met with loud boos, and while Samadov would later apologize, the damage was done. He was disqualified and stripped of the medal, banned from both the Olympics and the International Weightlifting Federation, and made ineligible for the Weightlifting Hall of Fame.

#8: Marika Kilius & Hans-Jürgen Bäumler

Pair skaters Marika Kilius and Hans-Jürgen Bäumler made their native Germany proud, winning six European Championships, two World Championships, and two Olympic silver medals. They came second to Canada at the 1960 Squaw Valley games and the Soviet Union at the 1964 Innsbruck games. Unfortunately, the latter medal was stripped when officials discovered that they had violated International Olympic Committee rules. Between 1960 and 1964, Kilius and Bäumler became professional skaters working for a popular European ice show known as Holiday on Ice. Their contracts as professional skaters officially voided their amateur status and the duo lost their medal. However, the IOC had a change of heart two decades later, re-awarding the medals in 1987.

#7: Rick DeMont

At just 16 years old, California native, competition swimmer, and world record holder Rick DeMont qualified for the 1972 Munich Games. He began the games with incredible promise, scoring gold in the men’s 400-meter freestyle. Unfortunately, a post-race urinalysis showed ephedrine in DeMont’s system, disqualifying him from the competition. The ephedrine was actually just the result of DeMont’s prescription asthma medication, which he’d officially disclosed to the U.S. Olympic Committee in pregame medical forms. But they failed to notify the IOC. The USOC has admitted that they bungled the situation, but DeMont’s ban was never overturned.

#6: Ingemar Johansson

Swedish boxer Ingemar Johansson went 26-2 throughout his professional career, was the world heavyweight champ from 1959 to 1960, and won silver at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. Just 19 years old at the Helsinki Games, Johansson was largely inactive throughout his fight with Ed Sanders, and the referee disqualified him for passivity. Johansson claims that he was trying to tire Sanders, as his coach told him not to be aggressive. The performance was deemed poor and unsportsmanlike, and Johansson’s silver medal was withheld. It wasn’t until 1982 - 30 years after the fact - that he was officially recognized and awarded the medal.

#5: Lance Armstrong

Arguably the most popular cyclist in history, Lance Armstrong famously came back from cancer to win the Tour de France seven consecutive times and a bronze medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. At the time of the Olympics, Armstrong was the subject of very public doping allegations. Years later, he was caught in one of sporting’s biggest scandals, as the United States Anti-Doping Agency declared that Armstrong had been using performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career. He was subsequently banned for life from all sports under the World Anti-Doping Code’s umbrella and stripped of his medals, including his bronze Olympics win.

#4: Ara Abrahamian

The story of wrestler Ara Abrahamian shares much in common with that of Ibragim Samadov. Abrahamian was a successful wrestler throughout much of the 2000s, winning back-to-back World Championships and a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics. He looked to continue his success at the 2008 Beijing games, but a controversial call from the judges left him in third place. Believing that the judges had been bribed, Abrahamian refused his bronze medal and left it in the center of the wrestling mat. His discarded medal was stripped, and Abrahamian was banned from the Olympics. He was also banned by the governing body of wrestling, but this was successfully overturned in 2009.

#3: Dong Fangxiao

Talented Chinese gymnast Dong Fangxiao helped her team win bronze medals first at the 1999 Artistic Gymnastics World Championships, then at the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics. There was just one problem - Dong was 14 years old. The International Federation of Gymnastics requires Olympians to be at least 16. In fact, Dong was still underage when she retired from gymnastics due to bone necrosis in her leg in 2001, as she was just 15. The ruse was only brought to light in 2008 when Dong was made a technical official at the Beijing games. Her birth year was registered as 1986, when before it was 1983. An investigation followed, and the Chinese team, including Dong, were stripped of their bronze medals.

#2: Ben Johnson

This Canadian sprinter was the Usain Bolt of his time. He broke the world records for both the 60 meter and 100 meter events and won two bronze medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. In 1987, Johnson was made a Member of the Order of Canada. And then everything collapsed at the Seoul games in 1988. Johnson won gold in the 100 meter event and beat his own world record in the process, but a urinalysis revealed the presence of a banned steroid known as stanozolol. Both his gold medal and prior world record were revoked. It also launched a massive inquiry in Canada known as the Dubin Inquiry, which revealed that Johnson had been taking steroids for years, as did many athletes competing at a professional level.

#1: Jim Thorpe

One of the most versatile athletes of his day, Jim Thorpe played football, baseball, and basketball, and competed in Olympic pentathlons and decathlons. At the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, Thorpe won two gold medals in both of these latter events. However, later media investigations found that Thorpe had played professional baseball with the Eastern Carolina League in 1909 and 1910. At the time, paid professionals were not allowed in the Olympics, and Thorpe’s medals were taken away by the IOC. However, the committee broke their own rules, as they only had 30 days to contest an outcome, and this stripping occurred well after the 30 day grace period. As such, Thorpe’s medals were reinstated ... in 1983, 30 years after his death.
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