Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan aren’t the only Olympians who have been involved in scandals throughout the years.
Less-remembered is a French plot to rig the 2002 competitions, a behind-the-scenes romances that broke up teams and a Cold War brinksmanship among the judges. Olympic figure skating may trade on its graceful and artistic image, but off the ice, it’s sometimes dirty.
German champion bares all for magazine
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Katarina Witt could never be called a shrinking violet. The four-time world champ from Germany retired from amateur competition in 1988, but still had something to prove. Ten years later, at the age of 34, she posed in “Playboy” and shattered the conventional image of a female figure skater as a prim, demure ice princess. The 10-page spread -- in which Witt cavorted under a waterfall, sans costume -- remains one of the magazine’s most popular issues. And she still autographs copies, 16 years later.
Baiul behaves badly
Oksana Baiul came out of nowhere to win the ladies’ gold medal at the 1994 Games in Lillehammer. The Ukrainian teen struggled with her sudden fame -- letting her training schedule slide, withdrawing from professional competitions and turning to alcohol to cope. In 1997, she crashed her Mercedes while going 100 miles per hour and was arrested for driving under the influence and being reckless. She entered rehab and kept a lower profile. Today, she’s kicked the booze and runs a successful clothing and accessories company.
The Russian love triangle
The 1992 Olympic ice dancing competition in Albertville was more than a test of skill for two top Russian teams. It was also a tug-of-war in love between Oksana “Pasha” Grishuk and Evgeny Platov and their biggest rivals, married team Maya Usova and Alexander Zhulin. The real sparks flew off the ice when the media revealed a torrid affair between Grishuk and Zhulin, prompting Usova to grab Grishuk’s hair and smash her face into a restaurant’s bar after the 1992 Games. The tryst continued through the 1994 Games, where Grishuk/Platov scored gold and Usova/Zhulin got the silver. Incredibly, after Usova and Zhulin divorced, she began skating with Grishuk’s former partner Platov, and Grishuk paired up with Zhulin. Ain’t love grand?
Judges pressured to cheat
Rivalry is par for the course among skaters, but judges? They go even further. In the 1998 Games in Nagano, ice dance judges from countries fielding the top competitors allegedly made deals to ensure their athletes won big. The backroom bargaining came out in the open in the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, when a French judge claimed she had been pressured to vote with her Russian counterpart to secure a good score for a French ice dance team. As a result, Russian pair Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze earned gold despite mistakes in their free skate, and the Canadian pair, Jamie SalÃ© and David Pelletier, won silver though they performed flawlessly. Officials eventually decided to upgrade SalÃ© and Pelletier’s silver to gold and let Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze keep theirs.
Nancy Kerrigan v. Tonya Harding
The biggest, boldest and most bizarre figure skating scandal of all time happened 20 years ago, but the sensational details are impossible to forget. It all started when U.S. champ Nancy Kerrigan, the favorite for gold in Lillehammer, was clubbed in the knee by an unknown assailant following a practice session. Tonya Harding, the former U.S. national champ, claimed to know nothing about the crime. While Kerrigan rehabbed her knee for the Olympics and questions swirled around her rival, Harding’s then-husband Jeff Gillooly and three other men admitted orchestrating the attack. Just two weeks later, the skaters competed in the Olympic short and long programs in front of thousands of fans and reporters, making the event one of the most-watched sports telecasts in history. Kerrigan placed second, Harding seventh. The takeaway? Crime doesn’t pay.