Olympics

08.13.12

7 Unsolved Olympic Mysteries: Pot Brownie, Bottle Thrower & More

The torch has been extinguished in London, and the Olympic flag handed over to Rio, but we’re still scratching our heads over some unanswered questions from the last two weeks—from an alleged stabbing to a potentially fixed boxing match.

1. Did Caster Semenya lose on purpose?

After a world-title win in 2009 brought an embarrassing scandal to South African runner Caster Semenya, observers are wondering whether she deliberately came in second to avoid attention. Three years ago, after an impressive 800-meter win, the then-18-year-old Semenya was kept from competing for 11 months as South Africa’s sports authorities investigated her gender. The results were never released, but she reportedly has a sexual-development disorder that gives her traits of both genders. After a restrained performance in her 800m final in the London Olympics, Semenya’s second-place finish led some to question whether she was holding back. Was she worried about further scrutiny and scandal? Sports Illustrated writer David Epstein summed up the athlete’s worries in a piece a few days before the race: “If Semenya wins the gold, she is likely to be accused of having an unfair advantage. If she runs poorly, she is likely to be accused of sandbagging the race so as not to be accused of having an unfair advantage.” Looks like Semenya might have pulled a strategic silver.

2. Can racewalkers have two feet off the ground?

Racewalking may not be the most watched Olympics event, but for those tuning in, it seems as though many athletes are breaking the rules. The main regulation of the sport is that racewalkers must keep one foot on the ground at all times, and with the eagle-eye camera, many TV viewers are able to see when participants have both feet off the ground. This would be grounds for disqualification, but one of the many complex judging rules confuses things a bit. According to the rule book, “racewalking is a progression of steps so taken that the walker makes contact with the ground so that no visible (to the human eye) loss of contact occurs.” This means walkers are eliminated only if the judges themselves notice that both feet are in the air; no help from television cameras is allowed. The rule often infuriates viewers who call for racewalking to be eliminated from the Olympics. “Our job is not to catch the bad guys gaining an unfair advantage, but to protect the good guys complying with the rules,” said Pierce O’Callaghan, an Olympic judge. “Judging with the human eye is the worst form of judging, except for all the others.”

3. Did the steeplechase gold medalist stab someone?

The Olympic Games often include some debauchery on the part of the athletes, but one participant is being accused of something much more serious. Kenya’s Ezekiel Kemboi, the winner of the steeplechase, is being investigated for allegedly stabbing a woman during a date a week before coming to London. The woman says he made advances on her and then attempted to stab her. Kemboi is a policeman himself, and he says he was not given a fair hearing and is a victim of attempted extortion.

4. Will the gold medalist who admitted to cheating be penalized?

“But everyone’s doing it!” might not be a valid excuse for cheating in school, but it could be at the Olympics. South African swimmer and gold medalist Cameron van der Burgh thinks it is. In an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald, he admitted to throwing in a few extra illegal dolphin kicks to boost his performance in the 100-meter breaststroke. “If you’re not doing it, you’re falling behind,” van der Burgh said. “It’s not obviously—shall we say—the moral thing to do, but I’m not willing to sacrifice my personal performance and four years of hard work for someone that is willing to do it and get away with it.” The Olympic authorities are unlikely to penalize van der Burgh—no action was taken against gold medalist Kosuke Kitajima when two American swimmers accused him of cheating in the 2004 Athens Games.

5. Who threw the bottle during the men’s 100-meter dash?

Just as runners were about to take off for the race, a slight distraction landed on the track behind them. Someone had thrown a bottle right behind the starting line of one of the most highly anticipated events at the 2012 Olympics. Security guards arrested Ashley Gill-Webb, who police say was seen in video clips yelling abuse at the runners and then chucking a bottle onto the track. But the 32-year-old Englishman claims he didn’t throw the bottle. He was released on bail, but banned from entering any Olympic venues. Dutch judo competitor Edith Bosch was sitting next to the bottle thrower and threw a punch at him after seeing the incident. She later posted on Twitter in Dutch: “a drunk guy threw a bottle on the track in front of me—I hit him....Unbelievable! # angry # disrespectful.” Winner Usain Bolt says he didn’t notice the bottle, and it certainly didn’t affect his gold-medal, 9.63-second performance.

6. Did this guy really accidentally eat a pot brownie?

If what he says is true, then judo fighter Nick Delpopolo will be double-checking his food from now on. The 23-year-old American was disqualified from the Olympics after testing positive for a banned substance following his competition July 30. Delpopolo says he accidentally ate a something that had been baked with marijuana in it and apologized for the mistake. Big oops.

7. Was the Iran-versus-Cuba boxing match fixed?

After being disqualified, Iranian heavyweight boxer Ali Mazaheri said his match was fixed. Calling it “a fix,” “a setup,” and a “conspiracy,” Mazaheri stormed out of the ring without shaking his Cuban opponent’s hand and wasn’t shy with his opinions on being disqualified after a final warning for persistent holding. The Iranian authorities took his side and appealed the decision, but the International Amateur Boxing Association says that his three warnings necessitated disqualification. This fixing mystery may never be solved.