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Athletes Don't Always Honor Olympic Spirit

  • Charles Recknagel

The discarded bronze medal of Swedish wrestler Ara Abrahamian after it was refused during the awards ceremony following the men's Greco-Roman 84 kg wrestling category during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

The discarded bronze medal of Swedish wrestler Ara Abrahamian after it was refused during the awards ceremony following the men's Greco-Roman 84 kg wrestling category during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Drunken celebrations, trick swords, and obscene gestures are definitely not what the Olympics are supposed to be about. But they, too, have provided some of the Olympics' most unforgettable images.

In May, the Russian government announced publicly that its team will be forbidden from drinking any alcohol during the London competitions. Not just its athletes, but all the members of the delegation accompanying them, too.

Moscow isn't saying why.

But the Russian team hugely disappointed its countrymen two years ago at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. It brought home just 14 medals when it was considered good enough to win 50.

Where the team reportedly did excel was in hosting wild parties. One night, it even used two imitation petrol pumps to serve vodka and whiskey to guests.

Not what you are supposed to do at the Olympics.

High-Powered Mistake

But drinking is hardly the only bad behavior being discussed ahead of London.

So, too, is posing inappropriately for the cameras.

This month, Australia's Olympic Committee said it would punish two of its top swimmers by making them return home as soon as they finish their races.

Why? Swimmers Nick D'Arcy and Kenrick Monk recently posted photos on Facebook showing themselves brandishing high-powered weapons. The officials said the bad-boy image was not the role model athletes should present.

PHOTO GALLERY: The bad boys (and girls) of the Olympics

Over the years, the list of unsporting things athletes have done at the Olympics has grown long enough to comprise its own mini-Olympics of notorious behavior.

In Athens in 2004, Iranian judoist Arash Miresmaili went on an eating binge the night before his match and was disqualified for being overweight. He said it was in protest at being scheduled to fight a competitor from Israel, a state Iran does not recognize.

That recalls Polish pole vaulter Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz. In 1980, at the Moscow Olympics, he made an obscene bras d'honneur gesture to the hostile crowd, which was rooting for Soviet jumper Konstantin Volkov. The gesture, hailed in Soviet-satellite Poland, almost cost him his gold medal.

Foiled Again

Sometimes, bad behavior comes with props.

During the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Soviet fencing star Boris Onishchenko astonished his British competitor by registering a point without even touching him with his foil.

Judges discovered that Onishchenko's weapon was equipped with a button which, when pressed, caused the electronic scoring system to record a hit. After that, he and the entire Soviet team competing in the event were disqualified.

Other ways some Olympians have become notorious range from using performance-enhancing drugs to showing ingratitude when receiving awards.

Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson became instantly famous -- and then infamous -- when he won a gold medal for the 100-meter race in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, then lost it by testing positive for drugs after the event.

New Meaning To Doping

And it isn't only performance-enhancing drugs that have gotten Olympic athletes in trouble.

At the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, Canadian Ross Rebagliati made history by becoming the first-ever gold medal winner in men's snowboarding. Hours later, he was stripped of his medal after testing positive for marijuana.

Rebagliati later had his medal restored because, at the time, marijuana was not a banned substance under Olympic rules. It has, however, since been added to the list.

And Swedish wrestler Ara Abrahamian achieved notoriety at the Summer Games in Beijing in 2008 when he deliberately dropped his bronze medal onto the floor seconds after it was placed around his neck. His gesture -- to protest his disputed loss to an Italian rival -- got him disqualified by the International Olympics Committee.

And that is not to mention perhaps the most dramatic example of sore losers. That was in 1998 when members of the U.S. men's hockey team trashed their rooms in the athletes' village in Nagano after being eliminated from the tournament.

All these unexpected moments have gone down in Olympic history.

They may not be the inspiring moments the world looks to from the Olympics, but the event would not be complete without them.