Doping Scandals at the Winter Olympics
The Winter Olympics has had its fair share of scandals, from individual Olympians being barred from competition to elaborate state-run doping conspiracies.
Since drug testing began at the Olympics in 1968, there have been 89 positive doping cases at the Winter Olympics.
With the help of data collected and presented by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Procon.org, the above infographic created by Athul Alexander looks at all the doping scandals at the Winter Olympics from the past 50 years.
How it Began: A History of Doping at the Games
The first doping case at the Winter Olympics was noted at the 1972 Sapporo Games, when West German ice hockey player Alois Schloder tested positive for the banned substance ephedrine. He was eventually cleared of all his charges, and his suspension was lifted.
|Year||Olympic Games||# of Positive Doping Cases||# of Medals Lost|
|2002||Salt Lake City||10||9|
Doping scandals have accelerated in the modern era, with only six positive cases occurring in the first 30 years of the Winter Olympics.
Heightened drug testing, beginning with the 2002 Winter Olympics, has since seen the number of positive cases rise dramatically.
Notable Games Marred by Doping Scandals
Many of the Olympic Winter Games have been engulfed in doping scandals, including:
The first-ever gold medal in Olympic snowboarding went to Canadian Ross Rebagliati. He was stripped of his medal after failing a marijuana drug test, which at the time was a banned substance. However, the Court of Arbitration for Sport later overruled this decision.
This was the first case of athletes being stripped of medals due to their use of cannabis, which has since gone through a swath of legalization and has been taken off the list of banned substances by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Salt Lake City, 2002
As many as 100 drugs tests showed traces of the banned performance-enhancing drug erythropoietin (EPO). This was the first instance where all endurance athletes were tested for EPO during the games.
Skiing was hit the hardest with nine of the 10 positive doping cases coming from the sport.
To make matters worse, cross-country skier Johann Mühlegg, who had just won three gold medals at the games, tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance, darbepoetin. He was eventually stripped of all his medals from the games.
Six Austrian athletes were banned for life from the Olympics for their involvement in a doping scandal at the games. This was the first time the IOC punished athletes without a positive or missed doping test.
The Austrians were found guilty of possessing doping substances and taking part in a doping conspiracy. The Italian police found materials during a raid on the athletes’ living quarters. The Austrians also had their competition results annulled.
Dozens of Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, including at least 15 medal winners, were part of a state-run doping program, meticulously planned for years to ensure dominance at the games.
The most notable involvement in the scandal came from 14 members of Russia’s cross-country ski team and two veteran bobsledders, who won two golds. The IOC later banned 11 Russian athletes for life for their involvement.
Sochi had the most doping cases in the Winter Olympics history, with 55 total cases and 21 medals stripped from various athletes.
The entire Russian contingent was banned from participating due to their involvement in the state-run doping scandal at the Sochi games. Some Russian athletes, who were deemed clean, were still allowed to participate under the banner of Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR).
This unprecedented ban still had critics crying foul, saying the punishment wasn’t strict enough. They didn’t believe the ban would deter officials and athletes from performing the same tactics in the future.
Despite the strict scrutiny on the Olympic Athletes from Russia, two athletes were still caught using performing-enhancing drugs. This included curler Alexander Krushelnitskiy, who lost his bronze medal in the process.
This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.
Visualizing the Highest-Paid Athletes in 2021
Athletes pull huge sums of money from their on-field and off-field contracts. Here we rank the top 50 highest-paid athletes in the world.
Who Were the Highest-Paid Athletes in 2021?
The financial figures in sport are enormous. The highest-paid athletes in the world make tens of millions, or even hundreds of millions per year.
The global pandemic put a significant dent in the commercial aspect of many sports. Even though the teams and their owners earned significantly less during this period, individual athletes actually thrived.
According to the Forbes annual rankings of the world’s highest-paid athletes for 2021, the top 50 of them turned in a record-setting year and made nearly $2.8 billion in 12 months, beating 2019’s record total by more than $150 million.
Highlights of the Year
This year’s list had a multitude of names making the big bucks. Here are some of the highlights:
Connor McGregor is 2021’s highest-paid athlete
MMA fighter Connor McGregor tops the list with a whopping $180 million earned in 2021. According to McGregor, this has been a long time coming, who in 2016 infamously boasted to soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo that he’d overtake him one day as sports’ highest-paid star.
Roger Federer lands at the 7th spot
Roger Federer’s on-field earnings for 2021 were a mere $0.03 million, but he still lands in the 7th spot. Recovering from a knee injury, Roger Federer made nearly all of his $90 million in earnings from sponsorships.
Naomi Osaka is the only woman among the top 15 earners
Naomi Osaka is the highest-paid female athlete on this list and the only one to crack the top 15. Over the last year, she won her second Australian and U.S. Open titles, while also receiving media attention for her stances on mental health and racial equality.
Dak Prescott had the highest on-field earning
The highest on-field earning by any player was by Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott who earned $97.5 million in 2020. In March of 2021, Prescott signed a four-year, $160 million contract extension with the Cowboys, with a $66 million signing bonus.
Motor racing’s top earners
Seven-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton and newcomer and current world championship leader Max Verstappen are the only two from the sport of auto racing on the list.
Significance in Numbers
Let’s take a look at the most notable numbers in this year’s list:
What the Future Holds for the Highest-Paid Athletes
With contracts and endorsement deals growing bigger every year, the number of athletes breaking the $100 million mark will continue to increase.
While supermax contracts and weekly wages make the headlines, endorsement deals account for a significant portion of an athlete’s income. And that piece of the pie is growing steadily. The off-the-field earnings of the top 50 athletes reached $1.04 billion this year, compared with $556 million back in 2012.
If the last year has been any indication, socio-political messages and social media will likely play an essential part in how athletes are perceived and their endorsements are impacted as we go forward in the future.
Olympic Medal Count: How Did Each Country Fare at Tokyo 2020
After 17 days and 339 events, the Tokyo Olympics have come to an end. Here we visualize the final medal tallies for every participating country.
Olympic Medal Count: How Countries Fared at Tokyo 2020
Every four years, the Summer Olympics brings together thousands of athletes from around the world to compete in a global arena of sportsmanship and athletic excellence.
Tokyo hosted the 2020 Summer Olympics from July 24 to August 9, 2021, marking the second time Japan has hosted the Summer Olympics. The country was first given the honor back in 1964 becoming the first Asian nation to host the Olympic Games.
Even in this most challenging of climates where the games had to be pushed by a year, nothing stopped the athletes from exceeding their limits and breaking long-held records.
The Final 2020 Olympic Medal Count
In a complete show of dominance, the U.S. won the most medals at the Olympics, raking in 113 total with 39 gold medals. The U.S. beat out China to claim the top spot by a single gold medal. China finished the games with an impressive 88 medals in total. The host country Japan comes in at third with 27 gold medals and a total of 58 medals.
Here is the final Olympic medal count for each country that participated in the Tokyo Olympic Games:
|4||🇬🇧 Great Britain||22||21||22||65|
|5||🇷🇺 ROC (Russia)||20||28||23||71|
|13||🇳🇿 New Zealand||07||06||07||20|
|16||🇰🇷 South Korea||06||04||10||20|
|18||🇨🇿 Czech Republic||04||04||03||11|
|34||🇹🇼 Chinese Taipei (Taiwan)||02||04||06||12|
|49||🇭🇰 Hong Kong||01||02||03||06|
|52||🇿🇦 South Africa||01||02||00||03|
|63||🇵🇷 Puerto Rico||01||00||00||01|
|68||🇩🇴 Dominican Republic||00||03||02||05|
|72||🇸🇲 San Marino||00||01||02||03|
|77||🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||00||01||00||01|
|77||🇲🇰 North Macedonia||00||01||00||01|
|86||🇧🇫 Burkina Faso||00||00||01||01|
|86||🇨🇮 Côte d'Ivoire||00||00||01||01|
|86||🇲🇩 Republic of Moldova||00||00||01||01|
Of course, countries with larger populations have an inherent advantage, so it’s also interesting to look at the top countries by population per medal. By this measure, the European microstate of San Marino comes out on top. This was San Marino’s first ever medal showing at an Olympic Games. Turkmenistan and Burkina Faso also won medals for the first time at Tokyo 2020.
Here’s a look at the top 15 countries by population per Olympic medal:
|Country (population)||Olympic Medals in 2020||Population per medal|
|San Marino (33,931)||3||11,310|
|New Zealand (4,822,233)||20||241,112|
Among countries with a slightly larger population, the Netherlands and Australia had strong showings.
Other Facts and Figures About the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Despite a year-long delay and a slew of challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, this unprecedented Olympic Games went ahead. Here are 12 interesting things to note about the 2020 Tokyo Olympics:
1. The Olympic Torch
The Olympic Torch Relay traveled through all 47 of Japan’s prefectures over 121 days. It involved 10,500 torchbearers, who ultimately arrived at Japan’s Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.
2. The Stadiums
40 venues in and around the city of Tokyo hosted 33 Olympic Sports and 22 Paralympic Sports events. The two main areas were the Heritage Zone and the Tokyo Bay Zone.
3. Cost of the Games
The Tokyo Olympics were the most expensive Olympics on record. According to officials, the budget for the Games was $15.4 billion. On the other hand, Japanese government auditors have claimed the total spending topped $20 billion.
This is almost three times the original forecast of around $7.4 billion when Tokyo put together its bid for the Olympics. The postponement of the Games cost the country close to $2 billion, after initial speculation that the cost could be as high as $6 billion.
4. IOC Refugee Olympic Team
29 athletes qualified as part of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team for the Tokyo Olympic Games. Rio 2016 was the first time that an IOC refugee team had made an appearance at the Olympic games.
5. Age is Just a Number
Syrian table tennis player Hend Zaza and Japanese skateboarder Kokona Hiraki were the youngest athletes in Tokyo at 12 years old, while Australian equestrian Mary Hanna was the oldest at 66 years old.
6. Self Service Medalling
Athletes at the Tokyo Olympics put their medals around their own necks to protect against spreading COVID-19. After being presented medals on a tray, the athletes picked it up and medalled themselves. There would also be no handshakes or hugs at the podiums.
7. A Focus on Sustainability
To promote sustainability, this year’s Olympics repurposed a number of the venues used in the 1964 Games. Moreover, the podiums, uniforms, medals, and even the beds at the Olympic Village were all made from recycled materials.
While Japan is not the first to make Olympic medals from recycled materials, it is the first time that citizens of a host country proactively donated their electronic devices as materials for the medals.
8. Inclusion and Diversity
This year, the Games nearly reached gender parity. According to the IOC, of the almost 11,000 Olympic athletes in Tokyo, nearly 49% were women, marking the first “gender-balanced” games in its history. Nearly 85 years after the canoe sprint made its Olympic debut, the women’s sprint event was added to the Olympic games this year.
Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard from New Zealand was the first openly transgender woman competing in any event at the Olympics. She joined other elite athletes like footballer Quinn from Canada and U.S. cyclist Chelsea Wolfe to participate in this year’s games.
9. Mental Health Took Center Stage
Starting with four-time grand slam champion Naomi Osaka withdrawing from the French Open over mental health concerns, the conversation about an athlete’s mental preparedness was as important as their physical one at the games.
After Simone Biles stepped away from the U.S. women’s gymnastics team in the all-around contest earlier last week, numerous athletes worldwide have continued to elevate conversations surrounding mental health, especially in competitive sports.
10. Splitting a Medal?
Olympic high jumpers Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy mutually decided to share the top spot in their event. The last time the gold medal was shared among two athletes at the Olympics was 113 years ago.
11. Hot New Events
Four sports made their Olympic debuts at the Tokyo Games: karate, skateboarding, sport climbing, and surfing. Other sports added new disciplines, including men’s and women’s three-on-three basketball and the BMX freestyle event.
12. Tokyo’s Slick Olympic Technology
Humanoid Robots helped on the field for the first time, fetching hammers and javelins flung during field events and interacting with spectators. This was also the first time a host used facial recognition systems to provide athletes and officials venue access, helping to increase and speed up security.
Next Stop, Paris
The Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games will take place from 26 July to 11 August 2024. During those weeks, Paris will be at the center of the sporting world. The IOC is keen to set a new standard for inclusive, gender-balanced and youth-centered games.
The next Olympics are expected to see even more athlete and spectator participation—hopefully, one where they likely won’t have to work around COVID-19 restrictions. With numerous new sports added in Tokyo’s Olympic Games, we might even see breakdancing in the Paris version of events. Here’s to the next four years.
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