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5 Shocking Scandals That Rocked Obscure Sports

badminton
Michael Regan, Getty Images

The Olympic Games were rocked by their first big scandal amid revelations that eight female badminton players were deliberately losing their matches in hopes of earning more favorable late-round matchups.

As a result, the Olympic committee disqualified all four teams.

Some fans found it funny that so much attention and controversy surrounded such a low-key sport, more commonly known as a lawn game. But this isn’t the first time that scandal has brewed inside lesser-followed sports. Here’s a look back at five of the most memorable:

MARATHON

Back in 1980, Rosie Ruiz made headlines for her performance in the Boston Marathon — or considerable lack thereof. When she came in as the first woman through the finish line with a time of 2:31:56, some people were suspicious — she didn’t look like someone who had just finished a long race. It turned out that Ruiz had simply re-entered the race with a half mile to go. Since then, marathon courses have put in video surveillance and other methods to catch cheaters.

FIGURE SKATING

Jamie Salé and David Pelletier, a Canadian figure skating duo, appeared to have bested their Russian counterparts for a gold medal in the long program at the 2002 Winter Olympics. But when the results came in, the Canadians got the silver medal. Many cried foul. A French judge admitted afterward that she was pressured to vote for the Russians in exchange for a first-place vote for the French ice dancing team. Eventually, Salé and Pelletier were named co-winners of the gold.

PARALYMPIC BASKETBALL

There’s cheating that can be justified, and then there’s the story of the 2000 Spanish Summer Paralympics basketball team. It turned out that a majority of the team didn’t really suffer from any disabilities at all. The story was blown open by an undercover journalist who penetrated his way onto the team and later exposed the lies. The reporter also claimed Spanish participants in other sports wouldn’t have met qualifications, either. Spain was forced to give back their gold medals.

AUTO RACING

Renault F1 team member Nelson Piquet, Jr. deliberately crashed his vehicle during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix so that his teammate Fernando Alonso could win. At the time, Piquet Jr. claimed that it was a mistake, but a subsequent investigation revealed race fixing and charges of conspiracy. The team was sentenced to a two-year suspension and some team staffers faced even stiffer punishments.

SUMO WRESTLING

Sumo wrestling might seem to be all fun and games at first glance, but in 2007 a deeper, darker story emerged. A coach worked a 17-year-old young wrestler so hard that the wrestler died in a hazing incident. Takashi Saito, died after “being hit on the head with a bottle by his master and struck with a metal bat by wrestlers during practice,” according to CNN. Hazing rituals like this one were considered par for the course as part of prep work for a lifetime of brutality and ferocity in the ring. Junichi Yamamoto was charged with manslaughter and was sentenced to six years in prison.

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