Olympic scandals remain long after the torch goes out

Thousands of athletes are about to take center stage in Tokyo for the delayed 2020 Summer Olympics, but a flurry of off-field scandals persist. Here are some of the most noteworthy events of the past few years.

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Sports

July 22, 2021 - 8:56 AM

The emblems of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games are displayed. Photo by Issei Kato / POOL / AFP / Getty Images / TNS

TOKYO (AP) — From doping to demonstrations to dirty officials, the Olympics have never lacked their share of off-the-field scandals and controversies that keep the Games in the headlines long after the torch goes out. The five-year gap since the last Summer Olympics has been no different. A brief look at some of the most notable news to hit the Olympic world since it last convened for the Summer Games:

SEX ABUSE — Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of hundreds of gymnasts in the U.S. opened a window into an abusive culture that permeates throughout the sport and in all corners of the globe. Since Rio de Janeiro, the U.S. Center for SafeSport opened to investigate complaints about abuse in sports. It took the decision-making process of these cases out of the hands of organizations such as USA Gymnastics, which for years had been forced to pit members (gymnasts) against members (coaches) when abuse allegations arose. Other abuse allegations in taekwondo, water polo and figure skating were among those that came to light in the United States, and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee rewrote its own bylaws to, in part, prioritize the mental and physical well-being of its athletes instead of the chase for Olympic medals.

RUSSIA DOPING — In Rio, the IOC rejected a World Anti-Doping Agency recommendation to ban all Russian competitors from the Olympics as punishment for a wide-ranging scheme the country designed to help its athletes dope without getting caught. As a result, around 270 Russians were permitted to compete in 2016. Possibly emboldened by the IOC move, Russia continued to cover up its misdeeds. In 2019, WADA investigators determined that Russia had manipulated 23 gigabytes of data that could have been used to pursue cases related to the original cheating. WADA suggested a four-year ban with heavy restrictions on which Russians could compete, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport watered it down. The end result: Some 335 Russian athletes will compete in Tokyo, though not wearing team uniforms and not under the Russian flag. They officially will be competing as members of the “ROC,” or Russian Olympic Committee. Only 10 of those athletes will be in track and field; that sport’s governing body, whose former leaders enabled some of the cheating (see below), has since taken a much harder stance on the Russia case than most.

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