Poor Ethics at 2012 London Olympic Games: Penalizing the Dark Side of Sports

Gil Imber@RefereeOrganistAnalyst IIAugust 3, 2012

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 26:  Luis Suarez of Uruguay talks to the referee during the Men's Football first round Group A Match of the London 2012 Olympic Games between UAE and Uruguay, at Old Trafford on July 26, 2012 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

International competition is intense—with the best athletes from around the world competing for just three medals, it simply has to be.

Yet while such rivalry often inspires perseverance and dedication, sometimes the lust for success provokes the shattering of moral codes, a destruction of ethics.

Athletes and those involved with competition have long proven problematic for the International Olympic Committee, from men competing as women in the first half of the 20th century to various doping scandals in the century's second half and the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan "Whack Heard Around the World" in advance of the 1994 Lillehammer Games.

After a high-profile scandal in which several IOC members were accused of taking bribes from the Salt Lake Organizing Committee in exchange for selecting Salt Lake to host the games, the IOC instituted its Ethics Commission, bestowing the committee with the responsibility of serving as "guardian of the ethical principles of the Olympic Movement."

The IOC additionally continued to work with various sports' governing bodies to root out unethical activity, including cheating, corruption, doping and other immoral behavior.

Though while the IOC and the various sports have taken great steps to deter, prevent and discipline ethics violations and rule infractions, that zeal for gold sometimes inspires driven athletes to perpetrate outrageously outlandish schemes.


In advance of their respective competitions, athletes Mariem Alaoui Selsouli, Luiza Galiulina, Tameka Williams and Hysen Pulaku were banned from the 2012 London Games for testing positive for various banned substances.

  • Mariem Alaoui Selsouli of Team Morocco recently ran the fastest women's 1500-meter race since 2006, but the International Association of Athletics Federation disqualified Selsouli after she tested positive for furosemide, a prohibited diuretic. Selsouli had previously served a two-year suspension for doping from 2009-2011, meaning that she is now in jeopardy of receiving a lifetime ban from track & field.
  • Uzbekistan gymnast Luiza Galiulina was disqualified after also testing positive for furosemide. The drug is a water pill used primarily to reduce fluid retention and swelling, though the sports world is most familiar with furosemide as a masking agent for other performance-enhancing drugs.
  • St. Kitts and Nevis sprinter Tameka Williams was sent home after admitting she had taken an illegal substance. Prior to her admission, Williams proclaimed innocence, stating, "I was sent home due to false accusations."
  • Albanian weightlifter Hysen Pulaku tested positive for a prohibited steroid, which, in the sport of weightlifting, can make all the difference between last place and a gold medal.


After a China vs. South Korea match took on an uncanny resemblance to a first-grade scrimmage, the Badminton World Federation disqualified eight female players from China, South Korea and Indonesia after a BWF investigation found that the women had schemed to purposely lose matches to gain advantageous seeding in later rounds.

The BWF additionally discovered that the Chinese team had decided to purposely lose to avoid having to face another Chinese team in the next round of the tournament, so as to maximize the country's chance of medaling in the sport. After the sanctions, China's Yu Yang announced her retirement.


After Japanese boxer Satoshi Shimizu lost in a 22-17 decision to Azerbaijan's Magomed Abdulhamidov despite six Shimizu-initiated knockdowns that left Abdulhamidov barely able to walk much less continue the fight, Shimizu appealed to the sport's governing body, the AIBA.

After review, the AIBA not only overturned the result of the match, it kicked referee Ishanguly Meretnyyazov of Turkmenistan out of the Olympics, citing Meretnyyazov's conduct as blatantly disgraceful.

The AIBA also reviewed a match in which Iranian heavyweight Ali Mazaheri was disqualified by German referee Frank Scharmach. Though Mazaheri accused the German official of fixing the match—"it was a fix... a set-up"—the AIBA elected not to overturn the bout's result, though it did suspend Scharmach for five days.


Early in the Olympic tournament, Swiss footballer Oliver Buff took a dive, faking a foul and resulting in a booking from Columbian referee Wilmar Roldan. The yellow card was Buff's second, translating to a red card and ejection from the contest.

Flopping is often considered a cheap, unnecessary and disgraceful tactic, with MLS and FIFA both taking great steps to eliminate the tactic, such as FIFA's instruction to its officials to call more fouls and issue more cards for players who clearly dive.

In May, Premier League referee Howard Webb likened flopping to "crying wolf," claiming that players' overuse of acting could be fatal when an athlete really becomes hurt: "If players cry wolf too many times...then referees might be inclined not to stop the game."

Though flopping is not as severe as doping or match-fixing, it remains a rules infraction that can, and already has resulted in disqualification.

The IOC's Code of Ethics prominently feature the values of dignity and integrity, citing a need for transparency, fair play, equity and accountability.

Though an ideal Games surely must encompass all these tenets, the unfortunate reality is that at athletics' highest level of competition, it does not, meaning that the IOC and all sports' governing bodies must remain vigilant, ready to respond to the next instance of unethical conduct. 


Gil Imber is Bleacher Report's Rules Featured Columnist and owner of Close Call Sports, a website dedicated to the objective and fair analysis of close or controversial calls in sports.