There is, perhaps, no accomplishment more stirring for any athlete than winning an Olympic medal. Not only do these participants get to shine on the world’s biggest stage, but they also get the incredible feeling that goes along with representing your own country.
Some of these athletes, though, feel so much pressure to do well that they try to rig the competition. Over the years, hundreds of athletes have been punished for trying to cheat through performance enhancers or other methods. Here are some of the most memorable Olympians who have been stripped of medals.
Jim Thorpe – 1912 Gold Medals
The first athlete to have their medals stripped is also among the greatest in American history. Jim Thorpe competed in multiple events during the 1912 Olympics and won gold in both the pentathlon and decathlon.
The medals were stripped from Thorpe once it was discovered that he had made money playing professional baseball. There was little controversy over the issue, but the Olympic Committee took the matter very seriously. The medals were eventually reinstated in 1982.
Ingemar Johansson – 1952 Silver Medal
Swedish fighter Ingemar Johansson went on to become one of the greats of the sport, winning the World Heavyweight Championship in 1959. He finished his career with a record of 26-2 and defeated other boxers like Floyd Patterson and Eddie Machen.
The 1952 Olympics were another story, though. Johansson was disqualified during his gold medal match against Ed Sanders for passivity. The Swede said he was trying to tire the other fighter and hadn’t had much time to prepare. The medal was given back to Johansson in 1982.
Marika Kilius And Hans-Jurgen Baumler – 1964 Silver Medals
Kilius and Baumler were a figure skating pair who hailed from West Germany. They were a popular duo on the ice during the 1950s and ’60s and captured the silver medal during the 1964 games in Innsbruck, Austria.
Like Jim Thorpe, though, it was revealed that the duo had signed a professional contract with Holiday on Ice prior to the start of the games and had their medal stripped. The medals were returned to the pair in 1987.
Rick DeMont – 1972 Gold Medal
Of all of the medals that have been stripped from athletes, the one taken from Rick DeMont is arguably the most unfair. The swimming prodigy was only 18 years old when he won a gold medal at the Munich games.
DeMont took medication for his asthma and this medication contained a drug that was banned by the IOC. Despite the fact that he properly declared the medication, he was still stripped of his medal and not allowed to swim in the other events.
Valentin Khristov – 1976 Gold Medal
It is not unusual for steroids to be rampant in the world of competitive weightlifting. One of the very first powerlifters to lose a medal over their use of anabolic steroids was Valentin Khristov.
Today, Olympic athletes who have been caught cheating cannot compete in future games. That was different, however, during the 1970s. So after being stripped following the 1976 games, the Bulgarian returned to the 1980 games where he won a silver medal.
Martti Vainio – 1984 Silver Medal
Martti Vainio was a member of Finland’s famed line of distance runners known as the V-line. Along with fellow long-distance experts Juha Vaatainen, Lasse Viren and Pekka Vasala, Vainio helped the country to dominate the sport in the 1970s and 1980s.
The runner, however, had some serious issues with doping. Vainio failed drug tests on multiple occasions including the 1984 Olympic games. The positive test resulted in Vainio being stripped of the silver medal he had won there.
Ben Johnson – 1988 Gold Medal
In the 1980s, Carl Lewis seemed like an unbeatable force in the sport of running. That is until Canadian Ben Johnson beat the American in the Men’s 100 meters. The world was shocked at the incredible upset.
The story for Johnson, though, turned out too good to be true. The sprinter failed a drug test and was subsequently stripped of his gold medal. Johnson did keep the two bronze medals he had won during the 1984 games.
Alexander Leipold – 2000 Silver Medal
By the time German wrestler Alexander Leipold competed in the 2000 Olympics, he was an experienced veteran in the sport. The 2000 games were his 4th time competing and he had won the German championship 11 times.
Leipold had the tournament of his life in 2000 and swept his matches. Following his gold medal victory, though, the results of his drug test came back positive. Due to the mishandling of his urine sample, Leipold was only banned from international competition for one year.
Marion Jones – 2000 Multiple Medals
Every couple of Olympics, a track and field athlete completely dominates the rest of the field. That was American Marion Jones in 2000 as she laid waste to the world’s best athletes. She was the toast of the games and later played professional basketball.
In 2005 and 2006, though, the sprinter became caught up in the BALCO steroid scandal. In 2007, she admitted that she had been using steroids during the games and was stripped of her multiple 2000 games medals.
Lance Armstrong – 2000 Bronze Medal
It’s strange to think that Lance Armstrong, the most dominant cyclist of all time, only won a bronze medal during the 2000 Olympics. The bicyclist also won the Tour de France seven times in a row from 1999-2005.
Like his Olympic bronze, though, those Tour de France wins have been scrubbed from the record books. After years of fights and denials, Armstrong finally admitted to doping in 2012. All of his honors, save for some pre-cancer Tour de France stage wins, have been stripped.
Tyler Hamilton – 2004 Gold Medal
Tyler Hamilton was an upper-level cyclist who rarely got the opportunity to shine. He was a member of Lance Armstrong’s team and frequently used his talents to make sure Armstrong crossed the line first.
The 2004 games gave him a chance to shine, though, and Hamilton took home a gold medal in the time trials. That medal was subsequently stripped when it was revealed that Hamilton had been doping. He later wrote a book about his experience using performance enhancers and how he got away with it.
Ara Abrahamian – 2008 Bronze Medal
Ara Abrahamian, an Armenian-born wrestler who competed for Sweden, had plenty of success during his wrestling career. He won gold at the World Championships in 2001 and 2002. He also received a silver medal during the 2004 games.
He had won a semifinal match in the 2008 games against Andrea Minguzzi, but the win was reversed after the ref ruled that he had a hand in the blue zone. The officials refused to review the call and Abrahamian refused his medal. He was then banned for life by the IOC.
Cao Lei – 2008 Gold Medal
Cao Lei is a 165-pound weight lifter who hails from China. She was a prominent competitor in the sport who took home the gold during the 2008 games in Beijing. After failing a drug test following the Olympics, though, she was stripped of the medal.
Lei wasn’t the only Chinese powerlifter to lose her honor. She was joined by fellow Chinese weight lifters Chen Xiexia and Liu Chunhong who also lost the golds they had won at their home country games.
Yulia Chermoshanskaya – 2008 Gold Medal
Russia has a history of trying to create better odds in their favor during the Olympics. The 2008 games were no exception. Yuliya Chermoshanskaya was a successful runner for the country who had won a number of gold medals at various European championships.
During the 2008 games in Beijing, Chermoshanskaya helped to lead her relay team to the gold medal in the 100 meters. She got to hold onto the medal for a while but was eventually stripped of the honor in 2016 after multiple failed doping tests.
Besik Kudukhov is one of the rare athletes who had won a medal at the games, failed a drug test, but was not actually stripped of his medal. The reason he wasn’t stripped, however, is as bad as it gets.
Kudukhov won bronze in 2008 and silver in 2012. He passed away in a car accident in 2013, prior to his sample testing positive in 2016. His opponent in the match, India’s Yogeshwar Dutt refused to accept the silver, saying the medal should remain with Kudukhov’s family.
Russian Bobsled Teams – 2014 Gold Medals
The 2014 Olympic games took place in Sochi, Russia. President Vladimir Putin took the games as an opportunity to show the strength of his athletes on the world stage. Some of those athletes aimed for a little more help in their events.
The Russian bobsled team dominated the events, winning both the two and four-man events. Both athletes in the two-man, Alexandr Zubkov and Alexey Voyevoda failed their tests. The two offenders were also on the four-man team.
Mikhail Aloyan – 2016 Silver Medal
There are a number of Russian athletes on this list. It would be impossible to create it without them. The country has had 43 medals stripped from its athletes, 30 more than any other country.
One of the latest Russians to lose their medal was Mikhail Aloyan, who won a silver medal during the 2016 Rio games. Following the win, though he tested positive for performance enhancers. Aloyan now fights professionally as a bantamweight throughout Europe.
Russian Mixed Curling Team – 2018 Bronze Medal
The vast majority of athletes who fail their drug tests participate in sports like boxing or weightlifting. That doesn’t mean, though, that steroids couldn’t aid athletes who compete in any other sport.
Russia’s mixed curling team took home the bronze medal during the most recent Winter Olympics which took place in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The male member of the team, Alexander Krushelnitskiy tested positive for the drug meldonium. He was stripped of the medal in February of 2018.
Bakhvain Buyadaa – 1972 Silver Medal
Bakhvain Buyadaa hailed from Mongolia, not necessarily a country known for its Olympic medalists. And despite the fact that he had no experience in the sport of Judo, he was able to win a silver medal in the sport in 1972.
The glory was short-lived, however, as the athlete tested positive for the steroid Dianabol and was disqualified from the games. Buyadaa did return to participate again in the 1976 games, but only finished in 10th place.
Ibragim Samadov – 1992 Bronze Medal
Almost every athlete that has been stripped of a medal has lost their honor due to either doping or issues with their amateur status. During the 1992 games, though, powerlifter Ibragim Samadov lost his medal in a whole new way.
Following a three-way tie in the final round, the Russian lifter was awarded 3rd place due to his body weight. A disgusted Samadov threw his bronze medal on the ground, was stripped of the honor and was banned for life.