Top 5 Athletes Who Lost Their Olympic Medals

With the fiercely competitive nature of the Olympic Games, it’s not surprising that some athletes will do anything to win, including taking performance-enhancing drugs. Drug tests have unearthed many Olympic cheats, whose gold medals subsequently were stripped away. The top five Olympic athletes stripped of their gold medals also include a couple that tried to play by the rules and still got the shaft.

5 Rick DeMont

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The 1972 Munich Games are remembered by many because of several unbelievable events, including Arab terrorists murdering 11 Israeli athletes, American swimmer Mark Spitz winning seven gold medals, and the United States losing its first Olympic basketball game. These events overshadowed U.S. swimmer Rick DeMont’s injustice. He was stripped of his 400-meter freestyle gold medal after traces of ephedrine were found in his post-race urine test. Fast-forward 29 years to December 2001, when the U.S. Olympic Committee admitted to making a mistake in its handling of DeMont’s case. It turns out that DeMont had disclosed that he was taking medications that contained ephedrine for his allergies. Despite admitting that a mistake was made, the IOC never reinstated DeMont’s gold medal.

4 Jim Thorpe

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American athlete Jim Thorpe won gold in the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. In 1913, the IOC established rules that disqualified any athlete who taught sports, competed against professional athletes or received monetary compensation for athletic competitions. Thorpe had played professional baseball for the Eastern Carolina League in 1909 and 1910, so his gold medals were taken away. It was later proven that Thorpe wasn’t the only athlete to compete professionally at the time, and that the IOC its obey their own rules, which state that complaints had to be made within 30 days of the ending of the Olympic medal ceremony. Thorpe’s medals were taken away six months after being awarded. He died without his medals, but in 1982, the IOC reinstated his wins and gave the medals to his children.

3 Yuriy Bilonog

Ukraine’s Yuriy Bilonog’s gold-medal stripping occurred amid a massive doping scandal at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Several athletes at the Athens Games were stripped of their medals for using anabolic steroids. One of these was Bilonog, who lost his gold medal for the shot put. His teammate, Ivan Tsikhan, was stripped of his silver medal. Discus thrower Irina Yatchenko of Belarus and shot putter Svetlana Krivelyova of Russia were ordered to give back their bronze medals. Several urine samples were reanalyzed and the total doping tally at the Athens Games was 31—the most in any Olympics.

2 Ben Johnson

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After winning the gold in the 100-meter final at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Canadian runner Ben Johnson was on top of the world. He “earned” the title of fastest man alive and had endorsement deals flying all over the place. But then a little thing called a drug test happened. Johnson was banned and stripped of his gold medal for testing positive for the banned steroid stanozolol. Johnson’s fall from grace sparked some heated debate on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports.

1 Marion Jones

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Marion Jones broke records at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, winning gold medals in the 100-meter, 200-meter and the 1,600-meter relay, and bronze medals in the long jump and 100-meter relay. These wins made her the first female track and field athlete to win five medals at a single Olympics. Jones denied using performance-enhancing drugs for a long time, but finally admitted to using steroids in federal court in October 2007. The International Olympic Committee, or IOC, took away her medals and banned her from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She was also sentenced to six months in prison and two years of probation for other charges, which included perjuring herself by denying the charges. Ouch.

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