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At Least 120 Athletes at the Rio Olympics Have Previously Been Suspended for Doping


Of the approximately 11,000 athletes competing in Rio, at least 120 have served suspensions or had to return medals for doping and were reinstated in time for this year’s Games. This is about one out of every 100 competitors.

As of Friday, 28 of the 773 medals that had been awarded were won by athletes who had served suspensions for doping.


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Some of these athletes have been openly criticised by their fellow competitors in Rio. In the swimming competition, Yulia Efimova of Russia and Sun Yang of China were the targets of pointed comments.

Efimova, 24, won silver medals in the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke events in Rio.

She has served a 16-month suspension for doping, and she tested positive again this year, for the newly banned substance meldonium.

Initially, Efimova had been barred from Rio, along with six other Russian swimmers who either had positive tests on their records or had been named in an investigation of a massive state-sanctioned doping scheme. But a last-minute ruling allowed them to compete.

Efimova was booed every time she raced in Rio and was the object of public derision from the American swimmer Lilly King.

Sun, 24, was called a “drug cheat” by the Australian swimmer Mack Horton before the men’s 400-meter freestyle. Horton, 20, won the gold medal, and Sun placed second. Horton called it “a win for the good guys.” Sun later won a gold medal in the 200-meter freestyle.

Doping medals: Sun Yang's is just one of 25 athletes with doping history to have won medals in Rio.
Doping medals: Sun Yang’s is just one of 25 athletes with doping history to have won medals in Rio. Photo: AP

At least 63 of the 205 national delegations at the 2016 Olympics have athletes who have served suspensions for doping. The United States has the second most, with seven, after Ukraine, which has eight.

One of the more prominent Americans in this group is the sprinter Justin Gatlin, this year’s silver medallist in the 100 meters. He has been suspended for doping twice, once for four years. Fans booed him as he took the track ahead of his race.

Another American, Tyson Gay, was caught doping after the 2012 Olympics and cost the United States team its silver medal in the 4×100-meter relay. Gay is running with Gatlin in the same event in Rio.

Doping past: Russia's Yulia Efimova cries after placing second in the women's 100m breaststroke final.

Doping past: Russia’s Yulia Efimova cries after placing second in the women’s 100m breaststroke final. Photo: AP

It is worth noting that the United States has one of the largest delegations at the Games. The percentage of the team that is on this list is less than 2 percent.

More suspensions are not necessarily an indication that a country has more athletes who are doping. They can also be a gauge for how strong a given country’s drug-testing program is.

Russia would most likely have had more athletes on this list if its full delegation were competing in Rio. Nearly one-third of the Russian team was barred by various sports federations after investigations revealed an extensive state-run doping program.

The analysis by The New York Times matched names of athletes who had served suspensions for doping with the official roster for the Rio Games. The names of suspended athletes came from the Anti-Doping Database and from official statements from national and international sport federations.

Because the rendering of names from the various sources was inconsistent, the names presented here are for athletes whose circumstances could be confirmed. This leaves open the possibility that there are other athletes at the Games who have served suspensions for doping and are not listed here.

Athletes who have previously been suspended for doping and have won medals in Rio:

Lasha Talakhadze (Georgia): Weightlifting

Gabriel Sincraian (Romania): Weightlifting

Sarah Robles (United States): Weightlifting

Farkhad Kharki (Kazakhstan): Weightlifting

Alexandr Zaichikov (Kazakhstan): Weightlifting

Sohrab Moradi (Iran): Weightlifting

Nijat Rahimov (Kazakhstan): Weightlifting

Gor Minasyan (Armenia): Weightlifting

Kim Kuk Hyang (North Korea): Weightlifting

Aurimas Didzbalis (Lithuania) Weightlifting

Yulia Efimova (Russia): Swimming

Sun Yang (China): Swimming

Isabell Werth (Germany): Equestrian

Luvo Manyonga (South Africa): Track and field

Sukanya Srisurat (Thailand): Weightlifting

Gregory Bauge (France): Cycling Track

Sandra Perkovic (Croatia): Track and field

Lashawn Merritt (United States): Track and field

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (Jamaica): Track and field

Justin Gatlin (United States): Track and field

Martina Hingis (Switzerland): Tennis

Ludger Beerbaum (Germany): Equestrian

Christian Ahlmann (Germany): Equestrian

Shane Rose (Australia): Equestrian

Aliaksandra Herasimenia (Belarus): Swimming

The New York Times



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