16 Of The Most Controversial Olympic Athletes Of All Time

Olympic athletes are known for their amazing achievements.

Most competitors train their entire lives for a shot at one or more at the games. But for some, their athletic talents are outshone by big controversies.

From cheating scandals, to illegal substances, to what they do with their spotlight, take a look at these famous athletes and the ordeals keeping them in the public eye.

1. Bode Miller

Wikipedia | Christian Jansky

An accomplished alpine skier, Miller grew in the public eye during his five Olympic games. However, he stirred the pot in 2006 when, in an interview with 60 Minutes, he referenced his love of partying including "skiing wasted."

2. Ángel Matos

vrzone | vrzone

In 2008, Cuban boxer Ángel Matos let his anger get the best of him when he attacked officials calling the end of a round. He and his coach were banned from future games...forever.

3. Marion Jones

YouTube | HLN

After a long investigation, Marion Jones admitted to using steroids to enhance her performance. She was stripped of her gold medals from the 2000 Olympics and banned from competing in the 2008 games.

4. Madeline de Jesús

YouTube | Sportskeeda India

After an injury, Puerto Rico's Madeline de Jesús sent her twin sister (also an athlete) to run a qualifying round in her place. Her coach noted the difference ended up pulling his team out of the finals of the event.

5. Věra Čáslavská

Wikimedia Commons | Kroon, Ron / Anefo

Back in 1968, Czechoslovakia was being overtaken by the then-Soviet Republic. As their national anthem played during gymnastic ceremonies, Czech athlete Věra Čáslavská looked away and kept her head down to show disapproval. The move forced her into retirement.

6. Karl Schranz

Wikipedia with permission from karlschranz.com

Back when athletes were not allowed to be pros, skier Karl Schranz was disqualified from the games after wearing a shirt with a coffee logo on it. The logo implied he was sponsored and no longer an amateur, therefore he couldn't compete.

7. Tonya Harding

YouTube | Mintaka Alnilam

Before the 1994 winter Olympics, Harding allegedly had her ex-husband hire an assailant to break the leg of her main competition Nancy Kerrigan. Kerrigan recovered in time and ended up with a silver medal, while Harding finished eighth.

8. Greg Louganis

Instagram | @greglouganis

What's a concussion when you've got the gold? The American diver hit his head and earned himself a concussion while practicing in the 1988 Games. The injury didn't stop him, though. He won two gold medals that year.

9. Olga Korbut

Giphy | Giphy

How many Olympians can say their signature move was banned? In 1972, U.S.S.R's Olga Korbut performed the Korbut Flip, where she stood on top of the high uneven bar, did a backflip and grasped the bar again.

The impressive move was eventually made off limits for Olympic athletes. 

Wikipedia | Public Domain

Korbut did it again in 1976, before the move was deemed too dangerous and banned from future competitions. In fact, today, gymnasts cannot stand on the high bar at all!

10. Dong Fangxiao 

YouTube | dionnewarwick

When competing in the 2000 Summer Games, Chinese athlete Dong Fangxiao was just 14 years old (the legal age minimum is 16). After it was discovered documents were falsified in order to compete, she and China were stripped of the fourth place award.

11. Nadia Comăneci

Wikipedia | Public Domain

In 1976, she broke records by being the first to ever score a perfect 10. However, scoreboards weren't equipped, being programmed only to 9.99; controversy ensued within the arena and media in trying to correct the Romanian's score.

12. Tommie Smith and John Carlos

Wikipedia | Public Domain

Perhaps the most famous political Olympics controversy of all time, in 1968 they won first and third in the 200-meter spring. On the podium, both raised a gloved fist to promote human rights.

Their protest still holds strong today

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While many saw their move as specifically for African American rights or power, Tommie Smith has said in his book Silent Gesture that the move was a human rights salute.

13. Michael Phelps

Wikipedia | Agência Brasil Fotografias

Phelps is the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time with 28 metals. However, even that couldn't save him from negative feedback after twice being arrested for driving drunk, and then photos of him smoking from a water bong surfaced online.

14. Shin A-Lam

Unsplash | Eugene Lim

Her 2012 match comes with controversy and a clock glitch that likely cost her a win. Fencing rules state that once you leave, you accept the match result, which led to a sit-in and her eventually being escorted out by officials.

15. Abebe Bikila

Wikipedia | Wikipedia

He made Olympic history in 1960 at the summer Olympics in Rome when he won the marathon without any shoes on. As if that wasn't impressive enough, in 1964 at the summer Olympics in Tokyo, he was the first athlete to successfully defend his Olympic marathon title.

16. Władysław Kozakiewicz

Wikipedia | Wikipedia

He was a Polish pole vaulter who won gold at the 1980 summer Olympics in Moscow. Kozakiewicz jumped 5.78 meters, breaking a record that hadn't been challenged since 1920. But that wasn't what marked his name in the history books.

While competing, he made sure to show the booing Soviet crowd exactly what he thought of their opinions. 

Tumblr | historicaltimes

He made the "bras d'honneur" gesture without hesitation to the crowd. While the Soviet ambassador demanded he be stripped of his medals, the Polish government stated that it was simply a muscle spasm and nothing to worry about.

Who do YOU think is the most controversial Olympic athlete of all time? COMMENT and let us know! 

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