Ryan Lochte may be one of the best swimmers in the world, and one of the worst thugs, but he’s only mediocre when it comes to generating Olympic scandals. The event has a long, tawdry history of making the world gasp in shock, raise its collective eyebrows, and grab its pearls. Someone at E just compiled a lurid collection of some of the strangest scandals and it’s an absolute must read for anyone who loves drama and dirt.
Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding are of course top of mind — you may be old enough to recall the weird situation when Harding arranged to have someone hit Kerrigan’s legs before the games. Alas, the hit man wasn’t as good as Harding hoped, and Nancy wound up winning silver. Tonya is banned from the professional figure skating organization for the rest of her life.
Then there’s Lance Armstrong with the whole drug-taking issue, along with Marion Jones, and Yulia Efimova who is alleged to have done the same. Tommie Smith and John Carlos delivered black-power salutes back in the 60s, and were banned. And various olympic officials took bribes throughout the late 90s (and probably for much more time) by people hoping their city would be selected for the games.
But of course the dark past of the Olympics goes much further back. Prior to the rise of Hitler, Germany was a fairly accepting place for LGBTQs, and sent gay Olympian Otto Pelzer to compete in 1928. Rather than working for the Nazis, he was arrested for homosexuality and imprisoned at a concentration camp for years. Following the war, he fled to India, coached there for several years, then died of a heart attack in 1970.