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3 of the Weirdest Cheating Scandals in Olympic History

August 15, 2016

While the history of the Summer Games is littered with stories of athletes who took performance-enhancing substances and got caught, these are about people who cheated at the Olympics in bizarre ways…and still got caught.

Double Trouble

Track and field star Madeline de Jesus represented Puerto Rico in the 1984 Summer Olympics. She was scheduled to compete in multiple events—the long jump and the 4-x400-meter relay. But de Jesus came down wrong during the long jump competition and injured herself. Unable to run in the relay, what was she to do? She brought in her twin sister, Margaret de Jesus, to run in her place. Margaret ran in a qualifying heat of the relay, helping the Puerto Rican team advance to the next stage. But then the Puerto Rico track and field coach heard about the ruse, and pulled the entire team out of contention. As for the de Jesus twins, both of them were banned from competing in any International Olympic Committee-sanctioned event.

Electric Boogaloo

In the 1970s, Russian athlete Boris Onischenko was one of the best fencers in the world. In the 1968 and 1972 Olympics, he competed for the Soviet Union, winning two silver medals and a gold in the Modern Pentathlon—a disparate collection of five sports, including shooting, swimming, running, horse jumping, and fencing. He entered the 1976 Olympics in Montreal as a favorite to take the fencing portion of the Modern Pentathlon, but he took some measures to ensure a victory. Fencers are rigged with electrical equipment to register a “touch” from an opponent, but during a match against Jim Fox of England, Onischenko scored a touch despite clearly not touching Fox. After Fox protested to judges, they examined Onischenko’s weapon and found that he’d rigged a high-tech electrical system in his sword that at the push of a button would electrically signal a touch. Onischenko was ejected from the Pentathlon (and physically removed from the Olympic Village), and Fox’s team went on to win the gold medal.

Masking the Issue

Onischenko was foolhardy to cheat in the fencing portion of the Modern Pentathlon, as a scandal in the event at the 1960 Olympics was still relatively recent. That year, nothing seemed to be going right for the Pentathlon squad from Tunisia—everyone fell off their horses during the equestrian part, a swimmer almost died during that section, and a Tunisian shooter nearly grazed one of the judges. And in the fencing event, the team straight up cheated. Rather than sending out multiple fencers for each of the individual bouts, they just sent out the same athlete every time. The reasoning: Since he was wearing one of those thick, face-obscuring fencing masks, nobody would notice. Judges noticed after the same fencer went up for three straight bouts.

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