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Visualizing 50 Years of Doping Scandals at the Winter Olympics



Doping Scandals at the Winter Olympics

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, 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.

YearOlympic Games# of Positive Doping Cases# of Medals Lost
1980Lake Placid00
2002Salt Lake City109

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:

Nagano, 1998

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.

Turin, 2006

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.

Sochi, 2014

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.

Pyeongchang, 2018

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.

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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.

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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.



Ranking the Highest-Paid Athletes in 2021.

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.

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