31 Athletes Who Had Been Suspended for Doping Won Medals in Rio

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Outspoken American swimmer Lilly King said that anyone who had been caught doping in the past should not be at the Rio Olympics. As it turned out, according to this New York Times report, 120 Olympians had been caught and had served suspensions. Since there were 11,000 athletes in Rio, that’s a ratio of one of every one hundred.

As the article went on to state, of those 120, 31 athletes bagged a total of 34 medals at the Rio Olympics. With so much attention on the 270+ Russian athletes ruled eligible, despite a WADA report recommending the ban of all Russian athletes, one might expect to see the list of dopers peppered with Russians. But that wasn’t the case.

31 Athletes Suspended and Awarded Medals_NYT
From the New York Times. Click on image to go to article.
Those 31 athletes came from 21 different countries. Russia had only one, Lilly King’s foil, Yulia Efimova, who finished second to King in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke finals. There were countries who had three each: Germany, Jamaica, Kazakhstan and the United States. For the United States and Jamaica, the athletes caught were primarily in track, including big names like Lashawn Merritt, Justin Gatlin, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Asafa Powell and Yohan Blake. I was also surprised to learn that the famed Swiss Miss, tennis great, Martina Hingis, who won silver in women’s doubles in Rio, was also on the list.

The sport that seemed to be the most riven with doping cases, or perhaps the best at monitoring and catching dopers, was in fact track and field, in which 9 of the 31 athletes caught in the past had won 13 of the 34 medals. The next most riven/best monitored is the sport of weightlifting, of which 11 lifters won 11 medals. Seven of those weightlifters – three from Kazakhstan, and the others from Georgia, Romania, Iran and Armenia – had all completed their suspensions this year. I’m not sure whether that means they were potentially the cleanest or not, but it certainly means the cloud of suspicion hangs heavily over that sport.

Unexpectedly, I learned that the sport of equestrian has a doping problem as four horsemen (and horsewoman) had served suspensions.

Or maybe it was the horses. It’s all very complicated.