The Olympic Games, as we know them, have been taking place every 4 years since 1896. Over that time, thousands of medals have been awarded and countless athletes have become the heroes of their home nations.
But sometimes, athletes attempt to take unfair advantage in the games through performance enhancers or other means. Despite rapid advances in testing, many Olympians lose medals thanks to positive doping tests. There are also other reasons medals are lost, which are explained below.
Russia – 43 Medals
When it comes to countries that have been stripped of their Olympic medals, no one comes close to Russia. The nation has had a startling 43 medals taken away, 32 more than the next closest country.
The reason for most of the medals lost is the use of performance-enhancing drugs. The first Russians to lose medals were Olga Danilova and Larisa Lazutina during the 2002 Winter games. The 2008 Summer Olympics were especially notable with 14 medals being taken from Russian athletes.
Ukraine – 11 Medals
The 2008 Olympic games were especially unkind to nations that were caught doping. The Beijing games had more medals won by individual countries than any other. Many of those medals, however, were stripped after a number of failed drug tests.
Ukraine was hit especially hard. The county lost a total of 6 medals, 3 silver, and 3 bronze. The stripped honors were in a number of sports including the pole vault, wrestling, weightlifting, and the pentathlon.
Belarus – 11 Medals
Despite its relatively small size, the country of Belarus has had the second most medals stripped away. Like it was for many other countries, 2008 was especially bad for Belarus as 6 medals were stripped from the nation.
The numbers could be worse for Belarus if it wasn’t for Vadim Devyatovskiy and Ivan Tsikhan. The duo initially had their 2008 silver and bronze medals taken away for doping. Upon appeal, though, it was found that the samples weren’t handled properly and the medals were returned.
Kazakhstan – 9 Medals
Kazakhstan is another tiny nation that has lost a fair share of medals. The small country has had quite a bit of success in powerlifting and wrestling. Unfortunately, a lot of the medals won have been stripped from the athletes.
2008 was a bad year for honors as the country lost 5 medals, all in weightlifting and wrestling. 2012 may have been even rougher, as Kazakhstan lost four weightlifting medals, all of them being gold.
United States – 8 Medals
Many of the athletes who have been stripped of medals are not necessarily household names. It’s a much different story when it comes to the United States, though. The American Olympians who have lost medals are major stars.
Lance Armstrong, who lost all of his Tour de France wins, also was stripped of a bronze medal he had won during the 2000 games. Sprinter Marion Jones, who won 3 medals in those same games was also stripped of those honors.
Bulgaria – 7 Medals
All of Bulgaria’s stripped medals have had to do with weightlifting. And unlike many of the other nations on the list, the country didn’t fall victim to the doping tests from the 2008 Olympics.
Bulgaria has one of the longest histories of stripped medals. The country first lost hardware all the way back in 1976 during that year’s Montreal games. The first Bulgarian athletes to lose medals due to Blagoy Blagoev and Valentin Khristov were penalized for anabolic steroid use.
Turkey – 5 Medals
Turkey has lost 5 medals in the last 12 years. The first time the country’s athletes were stripped was in 2008. Track star Elvan Abeylegesse had won two silver medals in those games and she was disqualified after a positive doping test.
The country lost two more medals following the 2012 games. Turkey had been taken the top two spots in the Women’s 1500 meters that summer. Runners Asli Çakır Alptekin and Gamze Bulut both failed their tests and lost their medals.
China – 4 Medals
For a large country that is often very successful in the Olympic games, China has not lost many of its medals. It’s only happened 4 times for the Asian nation.
The 2000 Women’s gymnastics team was stripped of its All-Around Bronze medal after it was revealed that Dong Fangxiao had competed at only 14 years of age. Then in 2008, the country lost 3 weight lifting gold medals when Liu Chunhong, Cao Lei and Chen Xiexia all failed doping tests.
Spain – 3 Medals
The country of Spain is another large nation that has had good luck when it comes to athletes losing medals. 3 of the medals lost were golds that were initially won Johann Mühlegg. All of Mühlegg’s wins came in cross country skiing and were lost in 2003.
The other Spaniard to lose their medal was cyclist Jaime Huelamo who competed in the 1972 games as a cyclist. Huelamo lost his bronze medal after he failed a drug test.
Hungary – 4 Medals
Weight lifting has always been a sport besieged by doping scandals. That is certainly true for the country of Hungary which lost 2 medals after powerlifters utilized performance enhancers. These athletes were Andor Szanyi in 1988 and Ferenc Gyurkovics in 2004.
The year 2004 was a rough one for Hungary as two of its track and field athletes lost medals that year as well. Adrian Annus was stripped of his gold in the hammer throw and Robert Fazekas lost his gold in the discus.
Uzbekistan – 4 Medals
Uzbekistan is a tiny nation that just started competing at the Olympic games in 1994 as it didn’t exist before 1992. The country has had an impressive run on the global scene winning a total of 31 medals in its history.
The nation has been especially successful in wrestling and all of its stripped medals come from that sport. Following the 2008 games, Artur Taymazov lost his gold medal and Soslan Tigiev lost his silver. After 2012, Taymozov again lost a gold and Tigiev lost a silver.
Sweden – 3 Medals
Sweden, a dominant force in the Winter Games, has had 3 medals stripped from athletes. Hans Gunnar Lijenwall lost his 1968 pentathlon medal. Tomas Johannson lost his 1984 wrestling silver and Ara Abrahamian lost his 2008 wrestling bronze.
NHL Star and Swede Nicklas Backstrom was stripped of his 2014 silver medal after testing positive for pseudoephedrine. After an appeal, though, the IOC decided to punish Backstrom with a reprimand and the medal he won was returned.
Armenia – 3 Medals
Armenia, who once competed under the Soviet Union banner, began competing as a country during the 1994 games. Armenia has been more of a middle of the pack country, good for a handful of medals during each Olympics.
Three Armenians have been stripped of their honors. Ashot Danielyan lost a weightlifting medal following the 2000 games. Tigran Gevorg Martirosyan forfeited his bronze from the 2008 games. Most recently, Hripsime Khurshudyan lost her weightlifting medal from 2012.
Moldova – 3 Medals
Moldova is another country that has only been participating in the games since the 1990s. There hasn’t been a ton of success for the small nation as it has only won a total of 5 medals.
That number is pretty low when you consider that Moldova has actually had 3 stripped medals. The first of these came in 2012 when Anatolie Ciricu and Cristina Iovu lost their weightlifting prizes. In 2016 Serghei Tarnovschi lost his bronze for canoeing.
Germany – 2 Medals
Germany has been one of the most successful nations ever to participate in the Olympics games. A competitor from in the first games in 1896, the European nation has taken home 855 medals in the games. Only 2 of these medals have been taken from athletes.
The first German to lose their medal was Alexander Leipold who forfeited his wrestling gold after failing a drug test. The second was Ludger Beerbaum, who won a gold medal in equestrian show jumping.
Romania – 2 Medals
Romania is another country that has been competing in the games since the very start. A participant since the 1900 games, the nation has been quite successful winning a total of 307 medals throughout the years.
With so many games participated in, Romania has done well to only lose 2 medals. The country lost its first honor in 2000 when gymnast Andreea Raducan failed a drug test and forfeited her gold medal. The second stripping was more recent when Gabriel Sincraian lost his weightlifting bronze.
Azerbaijan – 2 Medals
Azerbaijan did not become an actual country until 1996. And it made its first appearance during the Summer Games in Atlanta. There has been quite a bit of success for the nation as it has taken home 42 medals with the total going up each year.
The first Azerbaijanian to lose a medal was Vitaliy Rahimov, who forfeited his 2008 silver medal in wrestling due to a failed drug test. 2012 weightlifting bronze medalist Valentin Hristov also lost a medal due to a failed test.
North Korea – 2 Medals
While North Korea may have difficult relationships with a number of the other countries in the games, it still chooses to compete in the Olympics. And it is quite an honor for the nation when it takes home medals.
Two of these medals have been lost thanks to doping. The honors were both lost by Kim Jong-su, who won a silver and a bronze in pistol competitions in 2008. He lost the medals after testing positive for propranolol which helps shooters by restricting trembling.
Greece – 2 Medals
No country may be more important to the history of the games than Greece. The very first games took place in Athens in 1896. The nation was chosen to host again during the 2004 games.
Greece has won a total of 116 games throughout its history and has been stripped of two medals. The first of these was Leonidas Sabanis, who lost his 2004 weightlifting bronze. Triple jumper Hrysopiyi Devetzi was stripped of her 2008 bronze when she refused to submit a sample.
Canada – 1 Medal
Canada, a dominant force during the Winter Games, has won a total of 501 medals. Only one medal has been stripped from the country, but it one of the most famous lost medals ever. It belonged to Ben Johnson who, in 1988, defeated the unbeatable Carl Lewis with the help of steroids.
The nation briefly lost a second medal when Ross Rebagliati was stripped of a snowboarding gold due to a positive test for marijuana. After the board determined THC wasn’t a performance enhancer, he was given his medal back.