Tyson Gay, a member of the 4X100 US men’s relay team, had returned his silver medal from the 2012 London Summer Games a year ago. And yet, two years later, the cloud from his drug-enhanced achievement continued to hang over the rest of his teammates. Yesterday, the hammer came down from the International Olympic Committee and the entire US 4×100 relay team were stripped of their silver medals.

Tyson Gay_second from left_Hassan Ammar AP
Tyson Gay_second from left_Hassan Ammar AP

As this NY Times article reported, there is a silver lining, at least for Trinidad and Tobago men’s 4X100 team, which could eventually be recognized as second place winners, while France’s team could end up with bronze.

This wasn’t the first Olympic disqualification, nor will it be the last. As this link – Top 10 Athletes Who Lost Their Olympic Medal – shows, history abounds with the fallen and disgraced, including:

  • Ben Johnson: The Canadian sprinter set the world record in the 100 meter race in Seoul in 1988, but only 3 days later failed a drug test for the steroid, Stanozolol, and was forced to surrender his gold medal.
  • Andreea Raducan: The Romanian gymnast won two gold medals as well as silver in various individual and team events in the Sydney Games in 2000, but gave them up after testing positive for pseudoephedrine.
  • Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall: The Swedish pentathlete was found to have consumed alcohol – two beers to be exact – which was classified as a drug at the time in 1968. Though Sweden won a medal for the Men’s Pentathlete Team competition in Mexico City, they had to return their medals.
  • Marion Jones: The American sprinter was found to have taken steroids, resulting of being stripped of 6 Olympic medals won at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney.
  • Jim Thorpe: The star of the Stockholm Games in 1912, Thorpe was disqualified and relieved of his gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon. His crime? He had played professional baseball, earning a pittance to play.
Japan Times, October 8, 1964
Japan Times, October 8, 1964

Nicola Zappeti, recently released from prison, found himself in Tokyo in the late 1950s with nothing but a notion that Japan needed a pizzaria. And so he cajoled enough friends and acquaintances to provide him with funds to start an Italian restaurant, despite the fact that the only thing he knew about the restaurant business was that he liked Italian food. From nothing, Zappetti created a culinary icon, explains author and old Japan hand, Robert Whiting describes in his book, “Tokyo Underworld – The Fast Times and Hard Life of an American Gangster in Japan“.

“Nicola’s was still the attraction. It now occupied an entire newly constructed three-story concrete building with forty large tables, two blocks from its original location and a stone’s throw from the opulent new Hotel Okura, modeled after an ancient Kyoto palace and adjudged to be the finest hotel in the world. The restaurant had made Roppongi synonymous with pizza.

tokyo underworld“Although Crown Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko had subsequently curtailed their pizza-eating excursions to concentrate on the task of producing an heir to the throne, Nicola’s remained a Who’s Who of Tokyo and international society. On any given night,

Life Magazine, 11 September 1964
Life Magazine, 11 September 1964

“Bowling is the hottest new sports fad in Japan, and Tokyo has the biggest bowling center in the world, with 120 lanes. This monster, the Shinagawa Bowling Center, is open until 3 in the morning. It attracts, in addition to serious bowlers, a good many beatniks and nightclub hostesses after the clubs have closed. Other bowling lanes where a little English is spoken include the Tokyo Bowling Center, right next to Meiji Olympic Park, Tokyo Bowl at Tokyo Tower and the Korakuen Bowling Arena in Korakuen Park. Reservations are necessary, especially at night. All of these places have restaurants and bars, but the food is not recommended. Bowling costs a steep 60ยข to $1 a line.” Sports Illustrated – July 6, 1964

I went to a birthday party at this bowling alley last April. I bowled one of my best games ever – 158.

Family Weekly, September 6, 1964
Family Weekly, September 6, 1964

Judo was first introduced to the Summer Games in Tokyo in 1964, with an obvious nod to the host country, Japan. But judo was already an established international phenomenon by that time, across America and Europe.

According to the Family Weekly article, “few sports are growing as swiftly in America today as judo. At the close of WWII, there were perhaps 10 judo clubs in the US and no more than 100 wearers of the black belt. Now there are at least 1,200 clubs, more than 2,000 black belts, and 300,000 people participating in the sport.”

Prince Bernhard at the 1956 Melbourne Games
Prince Bernhard at the 1956 Melbourne Games

There are many stories of Japanese going beyond expectations in helping foreigners in need, but this story was above and beyond the call of duty. Prince Bernhard of Holland lost his Dunhill tobacco pouch while observing equestrian events in Karuizawa. That’s when a platoon of Japan’s Self Defense Forces sprung into action, combing the entire 33 kilometer equestrian course, finding the royal pouch in under 60 minutes. “They are quite wonderfully organized,” he said, referring to the Japanese Self-Defense Forces men. “They are really worthy of a gold medal.” (Did he really say that?)

Japan Times, October 22, 1964
Japan Times, October 22, 1964

Prince Bernhard was not a man of insignificance. He established the World Wildlife Fund in 1961. Unfortunately, he was forced to step down from the WWF after being implicated in the notorious Lockheed scandals, accepting a million dollar bribe in exchange for influencing Dutch aircraft purchases. Lockheed also helped bring

Brian Sternberg
Click on photo for another great story about Brian.

No one had soared higher than Washington native, Brian Sternberg, pole vaulting to a world record height of 16ft 8 inches (5.08 m) on June 7, 1963. A sure lock to compete in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Sternberg’s plan for glory went awry. As part of his training, Sternberg was working out on a routine technique on the trampouline, one he had done many times before. This time he landed awkwardly on his neck, resulting in paralysis and leaving him a quadriplegic.

Texan, Fred Hansen eventually went on win the gold medal in pole vaulting in Tokyo, jumping only three quarters of an inch higher than Sternberg’s best jump. Not only were he and his fellow pole vaulting teammates beneficiaries from a special fund of $2,500 contributed by the Washington Athletic Club in Sternberg’s honor, which paid for their expenses to Tokyo, Hansen said he learned how to be a better pole vaulter from Sternberg. “Brian helped me out with several things I was