5 Major Olympics Scandals of the Past Decade

With the 2020 Olympics fast approaching, we feel compelled to take a walk down memory lane. In this list, Newsweek counts down some of the biggest scandals that have sullied the proceedings of the biannual international athletic competition in the past decade, spawning headlines, legal battles, and even ethical debates. In the interests of brevity, we've decided to omit doping and doping-related scandals; there are simply too many of them to fit into a single article. Without further ado, here are five major events and issues that have cast a shadow over their respective Games. For ease of reading, they're organized in chronological order.

1. Jackie Chamoun's (Nearly-)Nude Photo Scandal

Shortly before the 2014 Winter Olympics began, Lebanese skier Jackie Chamoun was censured by a surprising entity: her home country. In 2011, Chamoun was photographed and filmed modeling for a calendar in ski boots and a thong. When the footage resurfaced, it went viral on Lebanese social media, prompting then-Caretaker Minister of Youth and Sports Faisal Karami to denounce Chamoun for allegedly damaging the Middle Eastern country's "reputation," according to Time. Ultimately, however, Chamoun was permitted to compete.

2. Caster Semenya's Right to Compete Debated

For nearly as long as she has been running competitively, Caster Semenya, who produces more testosterone than the average woman, has been facing accusations that she has a biological advantage over her opponents. Following the South African's win at the 2016 Summer Olympics, Sebastian Coe, the president of World Athletics, then known as the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), announced that the organization would challenge the ruling. In 2018, IAAF instated a new set of rules that required female athletes to reduce their testosterone levels to five nanomoles per liter before entering competition, according to The Guardian. In response, Semenya sued IAAF, alleging discrimination.

3. Egyptian Martial Artist Islam al-Shehaby Snubs Israeli Opponent

Political tensions between Israel and its neighbors reached a fever pitch at the 2016 Summer Olympics when Egyptian judoka Islam al-Shehaby refused to shake hands with his Israeli opponent Or Sasson after Sasson bested him in the over-100-kilogram category, according to Egypt Independent.

When the two were finished, Sasson bowed to al-Shehaby and extended his hand. Rather than shake it, however, al-Shehaby took several steps back and simply nodded his head before walking away. His allegedly poor sportsmanship spurred the International Olympic Committee to open an investigation. "The Olympic spirit should be about building bridges, never about erecting walls," the committee stated, according to The Independent. In a subsequent interview with the magazine L'Esprit du Judo, al-Shehaby stood by his actions. "Shaking hands with your opponent is not an obligation written in the judo rules. It happens between friends and he's not my friend," he said in reference to Sasson.

4. Ryan Lochte and Swimming Teammates Allegedly Vandalize Rio Gas Station

American swimmer Ryan Lochte's reputation took a nosedive (or a swan dive) when Rio de Janeiro authorities contended that he had lied about being robbed at gunpoint at the 2016 Summer Olympics. In actuality, surveillance footage revealed that Lochte and fellow Olympians Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz and Jimmy Feigen had been confronted by security guards after they vandalized a gas station bathroom on their way back from a party on the night of August 15. In the wake of the report, Lochte was charged with filing a false police report and lost high-profile sponsors such as Speedo USA and Ralph Lauren.

5. Tokyo Soldiers On With the 2020 Summer Olympics

Coming on the heels of a pandemic that has claimed millions of lives worldwide so far, Japan's decision to move forward with hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics has commentators asking: "Is this a situation in which the show shouldn't go on?" In mid-May, the country saw a significant spike in COVID-19 infections, though new daily case rates have since fallen, according to ESPN. Furthermore, citizens have voiced concerns about the safety of local conditions for athletes, according to The Independent.

As if that wasn't enough, Japanese Olympic Committee President Yoshiro Mori resigned in February when he made derogatory comments about women. "Board of directors meetings with many women take a lot of time. When you increase the number of female executive members, if their speaking time isn't restricted to a certain extent, they have difficulty finishing, which is annoying," Mori said at a committee meeting.

A sign advertises the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The logo of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed until the summer of 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images