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The 5 Most Bizarre Summer Olympics Disqualifications Ever

Olympic Rings
Oli Scarff, Getty Image

During its illustrious history, the Olympics has been a hotbed for controversy. It can be countries pulling out in some form of protest, the IOC banning athletes or competitors who will cause a storm of controversy.

While some disqualifications come from cheating or use of banned substances, other times the Olympic committee must intervene under questionable and sometimes strange circumstances. Here’s a look back at five of the oddest reasons Olympians have been tossed from the Summer Games:

BERTIL SANDSTROM – 1932

Horse
Quinn Rooney, Getty Images

The Swedish horseman was ejected after judges found he’d violated a rule when he was found “clicking” at his horse, Kreta. This act was labeled a deliberate means to encourage Kreta; judges sent Sandstrom to last place. Sandstrom was a heavy favorite after he won the silver medal in 1920 and 1924. He maintained his innocence at a panel later on, claiming that the noise they heard was his polished leather saddle creaking. They didn’t buy it, but Sandstrom was permitted to reenter the team event, where Sweden finished second.

BORIS ONISHCHENKO – 1976

Fencing
Paolo Bruno, Getty Images

A past medal winner, the Soviet Onishchenko was considered one of fencing’s best. During a one-touch épée tournament, the British team protested that Onishchenko’s épée had gone off without contact. Judges took a look at his sword and found illegal modification to the grip. The match went on, but Onishchenko was disqualified afterward. That’s not where his punishment ended though: The other Soviets admonished him, he was dismissed from the Red Army and fined. At last report, he was a cab driver in Kiev.

DONG FANGXIAO – 2000

The  International Gymnastics Federation announced a decade after the Sydney games that the Chinese gymnast was actually too young to compete. She falsified her age to appear to be 16 (when she was, in fact, 14) to reach the minimum age to compete. “There still is what I believe to be unanswered questions about this issue, but there is only so much you can prove when it comes to falsified documents,” said the president of USA Gymnastics. The issue of gymnasts’ real ages remains a sensitive and hot-buttoned issue at the Olympics.

ARASH MIRESMAEILI – 2004

The Irani judoist was a favorite to win, but was disqualified in the first round after he turned out to be above the allowable weight limit for his class. Reaction was mixed as some believed that Miresmaeili had deliberately sat out the match because he didn’t want to face an Israeli opponent. Some Iranian politicians even praised him for his actions. But the International Judo Federation, after an investigation into the matter, concluded that Miresmaeili had not in fact planned it.

ANGEL MATOS – 2008

Who knew taekwondo could be so wicked? In the bronze medal match, Matos was injured and hadn’t returned to the match in the allotted time to continue fighting. He reportedly had a broken toe and sustained other injuries that prevented him from continuing. After the Cuban learned of his fate, he kicked the referee in the face, pushed a judge, and spat on the floor. Matos was subsequently banned for life by the World Taekwondo Federation. “Our fighters…had hopes of winning, despite the judges, but it was useless. They were condemned beforehand,” said Fidel Castro about the disqualification.

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