7 Athletes Who Had Their Olympic Medals Revoked

Jim Thorpe // Image courtesy of Agence Rol, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Jim Thorpe // Image courtesy of Agence Rol, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons / Jim Thorpe // Image courtesy of Agence Rol, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

While winning a medal is the ultimate goal of any athlete competing during the Olympic Games, sometimes their victories are short-lived. Here are seven athletes who had their Olympic medals revoked, denied, or occasionally returned.


Jim Thorpe is considered one of the best athletes of all time. He excelled in football, baseball, basketball, and track and field, and won gold medals for the pentathlon and decathlon during the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. But the International Olympic Committee (IOC) later revoked Thorpe's medals when it was discovered that he played semi-professional baseball before the Summer Games began, which violated his amateur status and eligibility.

However, in 1983, 30 years after Thorpe's death, the IOC reinstated his two gold medals due to numerous pleas from the United States Olympic Committee.



During the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, Swedish wrestler Ara Abrahamian came in third place after a highly-contested semi-final match with Italian Andrea Minguzzi, who ended up winning the gold medal. Abrahamian and his coach disputed the outcome, but ultimately the judges' ruling stood. During the medal ceremony, when Abrahamian was given the bronze, he placed his medal down on the wrestling mat and stormed off. "I don't care about this medal," Abrahamian said. "I wanted gold. This will be my last match. I wanted to take gold, so I consider this Olympics a failure."

The IOC later stripped Abrahamian of his medal and the wrestling federation banned him for two years due to unsportsmanlike conduct and violating the spirit of fair play.


Jed Jacobsohn/Allsport/Getty Images

In 2010—a full decade after she had competed in the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia—Chinese gymnast Dong Fangxiao was stripped of her bronze team medal for falsifying her age. Fangxiao was only 14 years old when she competed, two years shy of the age of eligibility. As a result, the Chinese national team was disqualified and, in 2010, had their bronze medal revoked. The Olympic medals were later awarded to the United States team, who came in fourth place during the competition.  


In 1992, Russian weightlifter (competing for the Unified Team) Ibragim Samadov refused to lean forward to accept his bronze medal during the Barcelona Summer Games. He later threw the medal to the ground in disgust after finishing in third place on a technicality. The top three weightlifters in the Clean & Jerk had cleared the same amount of weight, 370.0 kg (about 815 pounds), throughout competition. As a tiebreaker, judges examined the athletes' complete body weight and Samadov came up weighing about one-tenth of a pound more than the other two, so he automatically received the bronze medal. The IOC later stripped Samadov of his third place ranking, saying he violated the spirit of fair play and he was banned from competition for life.


By Pot, Harry / Anefo - Nationaal Archief, CC BY-SA 3.0 nl, Wikimedia Commons

During the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, German pair figure skaters Marika Kilius and Hans-Jürgen Bäumler won the silver medal. However, it was discovered that the pair signed a contract with the Holiday on Ice show before the games began, which meant they were not technically amateurs. The IOC revoked their medals, only to re-award them nearly a quarter-century later, in 1987. The committee deemed the couple as "rehabilitated."


By Linda Sandgren (Swedish Olympic Committee) - Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In 1952, Swedish boxer Ingemar Johansson was denied a silver medal after finishing in second place when he lost to American Ed Sanders in the gold medal match during the Games of the XV Olympiad in Helsinki, Finland. Johansson was disqualified for passivity after two rounds of evading and not throwing punches. Johansson and his coach later explained that he was trying to wear down his opponent. Sanders went home with the gold medal, while Johansson returned to Sweden empty-handed. However, 30 years later, the IOC forgave Johansson; in 1982, they finally awarded him a silver medal.