Top 5 Crazy Scandals in Olympic Swimming

by | Feb 12, 2022 | Swimming | 0 comments

sDo you know what Citius, Altius, Fortius is?

It is the motto of the modern Olympics. Do you know what these three Latin words mean? “Swifter, Higher, Stronger.” Baron de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, took the motto from his father.

The Olympic Games specially Olympic Swimming highlight determination, respect, and friendship. It’s all about competing with others as well as yourself.

Baron de Coubertin’s vision led to the establishment of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894, which aimed to foster global harmony and nurture the youth through the power of sports.

Baron de Coubertin regarded the slogan as a compelling symbol of the athletes’ commitment to push their boundaries and strive for excellence. 

While trying to prove themselves, the athletes uphold their character and integrity by competing with the utmost respect for the rules and regulations of the game, promoting fair play and honourable conduct…!!!

But humans have a natural inclination toward competitiveness and always want to be on the victory stand. Some athletes cross all the boundaries. This leads to the occurrence of scandals, which we will be telling you about in this blog.

Oh, Wait! Before that, let’s briefly examine the history of the Olympics and swimming in the Olympics.

The History of the Olympics:

When we look back through the pages of history, the Olympics’ origins date back to 776 B.C. 

But the history of the modern Olympics dates back to 1984, when Baron de Coubertin established the International Olympic Committee (IOC) with a vision to use sports to educate young individuals and foster a more peaceful and improved world.

Baron de Coubertin Baron de Coubertin had a firm conviction that the development of mental energy could be achieved through sports.

The first Olympic games were held in 1896 in Athens, and from then onwards, the Olympics were held every four years. 

This was Baron’s devotion, which led to the creation of the five-ring Olympic symbols, the Olympic Charter and protocol, the athletes’ oath, and the main components of the Games’ opening and closing ceremonies. 

He always said, “The important thing in life is not the triumph but the fight; the essential thing is not to have won, but to have fought well.”

But fighting well is the most challenging task for those who believe in shortcuts.

Top 5 Crazy Scandals in Olympic Swimming

History of Swimming in Olympics

The world’s first swimming organisation was formed in London in 1837, and it was the very first time swimming was recognised as a sport. Swimming became an officially competitive sport in 1846 when the first tournament was held in Australia.

Swimming has been a part of the Olympics since the first Modern Olympic Games was held in 1896. 

At first, Olympic swimming was only for males. In 1912, women were introduced to compete in swimming events in Stockholm.

Until the 1908 London Olympics, Olympic events were held in open water, which left the swimmers vulnerable to weather and waves. 

However, after World War II, things improved due to the introduction of modern technology, better facilities, and training approaches. 

Competitive pools also transitioned from outdoor to indoor events. The addition of drainage to Olympic swimming pools, designated lanes in 1924, and pool depth guidelines all led to a higher overall level of competition in the subsequent years.

Butterfly stroke made its debut in 1956 in the Melbourne Games. 

In the early years, swimmers wore swimsuits, which increased resistance and slowed them down, but later suits were made from materials that reduced drag, reducing lap times.

Swimming Scandals In Olympics:

Like all the other games, swimming has its fair share of scandals and controversies. Here are some juicy scandals that sent shockwaves to swimming fans and tarnished the image of our sport.

Ryan Lochte’s infamous Rio de Janeiro robbery story (2016):

Ryan Lochte's infamous Rio de Janeiro robbery story

Who will forget “Lochtegate”? Certainly not Ryan Lochte, the 12-time Olympic Gold-winning American swimmer at the centre of this scandal.

Back in 2016, at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Lochte and his fellow swim team members – Jack Conger, Jimmy Feigen, and Gunnar Bentz – alleged that they were victims of an armed robbery at a Shell gas station in the early hours of the morning. 

Lochte said that a taxi carrying him and his teammates was stopped by a group of men carrying fake police badges and that one of the men cocked his gun and put it up against Lochte’s forehead to demand money. The widely publicised event questioned the security standards and measures for Olympic participants.

However, it was later discovered that the swimmers had fabricated their story.

 Lochte admitted that he spun the tale to cover up an offensive act he and his teammates committed at the gas station.

In their inebriated state, the competitive swimmers had urinated around the gas station bathroom, broke a soap dispenser, damaged a door, and tore down a framed poster.

The “armed robbers” the swimmers talked about were, in fact, the security guards at the gas station, who detained the intoxicated group and made them pay compensation of 100 Reais and $20 for the damaged objects.

After these revelations, each athlete released statements admitting their mistake of falsely reporting a crime and apologising for the commotion at the gas station. 

The U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Swimming suspended all of them. Due to the controversy, Lochte’s sponsors, Speedo and Ralph Loren, also stripped him of his contracts.

2.Micheal Phelps Marijuana Pipe Scandal (2009):

Micheal Phelps Marijuana Pipe Scandal

Who doesn’t know Michael Phelps? He is an iconic name in the swimming world. His remarkable career and record-breaking feats have solidified his status as one of the greatest athletes of all time. 

He started his Olympic career in Athens in 2009 by winning five gold and two bronze medals. 

The 2008 Beijing Olympics witnessed Phelps’s unprecedented dominance in the pool. He won eight gold medals in either world or Olympic record time.

But in 2009, a photograph appeared in Media showing Michael inhaling from a Marijuana pipe at a student party in South Carolina.

The photograph generated controversy and sparked extensive debate. This photo was taken several months after the 2008 Olympics. However, Phelps did not test positive for marijuana.

Even Phelps was negative for marijuana, even though this photograph made a major dent in his reputation and sponsors.

He lost his prominent sponsors and was suspended from U.S. swimming for three months, which affected his training and competition schedule.

While the punishment was brief, it was a massive setback to his career.

The incident tarnished his image, especially considering his status as one of the most decorated athletes in Olympic history. The scandal also led to debate about athletes’ drug usage and the expectations put on Olympic winners.

Despite the setback, Phelps made a comeback and continued to shine at the London Olympics 2012, adding four gold medals and two silver medals to his collection.

In the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Phelps’ last one, he secured five gold and one silver medal.

Except for this controversy, Phelps’s legacy extends beyond his 28 medals, including 23 golds. His devotion, endurance, and influence on swimming made him iconic in Olympic history. 

3. China’s suspiciously fast Olympic swimming performances (1990s):


The Chinese women’s swim team erupted onto the international stage from complete obscurity, netting four gold medals at the 1992 World Championships and 12 gold medals at the 1994 World Championships, having never won any before that. This dramatic transformation raised several eyebrows. Did they deserve praise, or was there something fishy?

In the run-up to the Asian games of 1994 in Hiroshima, seven members of the Chinese Women’s swim team tested positive for DHT or dihydrotestosterone – a performance-enhancing drug. 

After this revelation, several people suspected that China had a state-sanctioned doping program, but Chinese leaders denied this and blamed racist sports officials in Japan for manufacturing test results.

However, many remained unconvinced, and sports officials from Australia, America, Canada and Japan voted against Chinese participation in the 1995 Pan-Pacific Swimming Championships. 

In response, China proclaimed an official prohibition on performance-enhancing substances. However, this wasn’t enforced, and in 1998, a much bigger and humiliating scandal for China came to light.

At the 1998 World Aquatics Championships in Perth, four more Chinese swimmers tested positive for banned substances. Even worse, it was discovered that one of the swimmers, Yuan Yuan, was carrying 13 vials of human growth hormone (enough to supply her entire team for the championships) in her swimming bag. 

Only Yuan Yuan was sanctioned for the incident, leading to speculation that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had given China a free ride since the IOC president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, had been nominated by China for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

Overall, between 1990 and 1998, 28 Chinese swimmers tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs—that’s almost half the world’s total of drug offenders in sport! It seems that things are changing in China, though, after the embarrassment of 1998: in 2004, none of the swimmers from China tested positive, and they brought home one gold medal for their country.

4. German’s Swimming In Steroids(1976):

In the 1976 Montreal Olympics, East Germany’s women swimmers surprised everyone with their victories. They dominated their opponents in 10 of the 13 events and set 8 world records. 

Everyone was astonished by their exceptional performance, as they had won no gold medals in the previous games. Allegations of steroid usage grew widespread, but none of the swimmers tested positive. 

In 1991, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, it came to light that East Germany had run a state-operated doping programme for its athletes, with the female swimmers giving the most outstanding results. 

It was a government-run programme, and many athletes were unaware they were being given medicines. These medicines produced significant health issues for the athletes, even after they had ceased competing. So, while they achieved glory at the Olympics, it came at a high cost to their health.

5. Dawn Fraser, stealing Olympic Swimming victories and… flags!? (1964):

Dawn Fraser, stealing Olympic Swimming victories and… flags

Fraser was caught stealing the Olympic flag from a flagpole outside Emperor Hirohito’s palace, the Kōkyo. She tried to outrun the police and escape on a bike but slipped as she jumped into the moat surrounding the palace from an 8-foot height, twisting her leg. She was arrested but released without charge – and was even given the flag as a souvenir. 

Despite her apologies for the act, Fraser was handed a 10-year swimming ban. She had already angered her sponsors enough by marching in the Olympic opening ceremony against their wishes and wearing an older and “more comfortable” swimming costume than the one they supplied in competition – and this was the last straw. She chose retirement at the ban’s start, ending a highly illustrious swimming career.

Swim Coaches are a Great Help to Keep Swimmers ob Track

Swim coaches have several possibilities to improve their teams’ chances of winning, ranging from high-tech swimsuits to hidden doping to win gold. And the better their teams perform, the more comfortable their jobs become. They’re in more demand as coaches, are less likely to be dismissed, and may even receive increases. 

Financial incentives, such as endorsements, can also drive swimmers. It is critical to have a clean record and not take any endorsements or bribes from other parties since if officials find out, the swimmer would be banned from competition!

Bottom Line:

The Olympics, epitomising “Swifter, Higher, Stronger,” symbolise global unity through sports. Swimming’s Olympic journey since 1896 showcases progress and challenges. Yet, scandals tarnish its image, including Ryan Lochte’s Rio incident, Michael Phelps’ marijuana controversy, and doping allegations against China and East Germany. Dawn Fraser’s flag theft further highlights ethical breaches. 

Despite advancements, integrity remains crucial. Upholding Olympic values amid temptations underscores the essence of fair play. Pursuing excellence should align with integrity, ensuring the Games’ legacy endures. The resilience of the Olympic spirit perseveres through challenges, promoting unity and sportsmanship worldwide. Embracing integrity safeguards the Games’ ethos for future generations to cherish and uphold.

Do you remember – or have you witnessed – any other swimming scandals?
Feel free to share with us!


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