5 most controversial moments from London

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Not everything goes smoothly during the Olympics. From simple errors to questionable actions by athletes and officials, these five controversial moments from London 2012 will go down in Olympic lore.

5. ‘Sick’ Algerian runner quits race, wins gold
A day before he was to run the 1500m, Algerian middle distance runner Taoufik Makhloufi was thrown out of the Olympics for not trying to win an 800m qualifying heat, a race he didn’t want to compete in but that team officials didn’t withdraw him from in time. So he dogged the race from the start, then quit it altogether. Initially kicked out of the Games for that lack of effort, he was reinstated when he got a doctor’s note saying he wasn’t well enough to compete in the 800m. He won the 1,500m the next day.

4. Which Korea is it?
The first (competition-related) scandal of the Games happened before the Olympics had officially begun. During the introductions of a preliminary soccer game, held two days before the Opening Ceremony, the image of a South Korean flag was displayed next to a North Korean player during introductions. That didn’t go over well with the North Koreans (global politics lesson: North Korea and South Korea aren’t best buds). The North Korean team refused to take the field for mroe than an hour but the game was eventually played.

3. One long second
With :01 left in overtime of her semifinal epee bout, South Korea’s Shin A-lam held a match tiebreaker over her German opponent and had all but punched her ticket to the gold medal match. But questionable judging and timekeeping led to a very long and eventful final second of play, at the end of which A-lam had lost. For the next 70 minutes she refused to leave the piste, since rules dictate that a fencer who leaves the piste accepts the judges’ decision. Her quiet, tearful protest as she sat in the darkened arena will be one of the lasting images of these Games. Her loss was upheld, and she went on to lose the bronze-medal match. She later won a silver medal in the team competition.

2. They’re not even trying
How did badminton, of all sports, ruffled international feathers? In an effort to get better draws during round robin play, two teams from South Korea and one each from Indonesia and China deliberately tried to lose matches, making ‘mistakes’ that even the casual backyard barbecue player would be embarrassed by. All four teams were expelled from the Olympics, but it didn’t bother the Chinese: all five badminton events were still won by teams from China.

1. Boxing and more boxing
Azerbaijani bantamweight Magomed Abdulhamidov got the daylights knocked out of him in the third and final round against Japan’s Satoshi Shimizu, falling or getting knocked down six times and generally looking like a man desperately in need of the white towel; except that the judges’ scored him the win. That decision was overturned on appeal and the ref was dismissed. Then an Azerbaijani heavyweight who was clearly outboxed won his match, too, assuring him a bronze medal. Many wondered if there was a connection between these outcomes and a $9 million loan the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) received from Azerbaijan last year. The AIBA gracefully handled all of the controversy by expelling NBC’s boxing commentators – who were highly critical of the judging – from their ringside seats for the final rounds of competition.

Female runners with high testosterone face new restriction

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Female runners with high testosterone must reduce those levels or will not be allowed in international races between 400m and the mile, according to an IAAF rule starting Nov. 1.

Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya, who was gender tested in 2009, is expected to be affected, according to South Africa’s Olympic Committee.

“Our evidence and data show that testosterone, either naturally produced or artificially inserted into the body, provides significant performance advantages in female athletes,” IAAF president Seb Coe said in a press release. “The revised rules are not about cheating, no athlete with a DSD [difference of sexual development] has cheated, they are about leveling the playing field to ensure fair and meaningful competition.”

The IAAF, after funding a study along with the World Anti-Doping Agency, said research showed the following natural testosterone levels:

Most women: .12-1.79 nanomoles per liter in blood
Normal men after puberty: 7.7-29.4 nmol/L

The IAAF rule forces all women who race the 400m through mile and who are androgen-sensitive to restrict their ratio to below five. It said women who have “a difference of sexual development” can have natural testosterone levels beyond the normal male range.

The IAAF and WADA-funded study found that women with high testosterone have up to a 4.5 percent advantage over their competition on the track.

Research showed 7.1 of every 1,000 elite female track and field athletes have elevated testosterone, most of which were runners in events between 400m and the mile.

“The treatment to reduce testosterone levels is a hormone supplement similar to the contraceptive pill taken by millions of women around the world,” an IAAF doctor said in the release. “No athlete will be forced to undergo surgery.”

The IAAF had gender-verification testing in place until 2011, when it was replaced with a test for abnormally high levels of natural testosterone. Under that rule, female athletes with a ratio of 10 nmol/L or higher could only compete against women if they had an operation or took hormones to reduce their testosterone level.

In July 2015, the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) suspended the IAAF’s regulation, ruling that it lacked sufficient scientific backing and was therefore unjustifiably discriminatory.

The gender-testing issue was raised in 2009, when Semenya won the world 800m title by nearly 2.5 seconds at age 18. Word leaked that track officials mandated she undergo sex testing.

Semenya was not cleared to run for 11 months and came back to earn silver at the 2011 Worlds and 2012 Olympics, while the testosterone-limiting rule was in effect, behind Russian Maria Savinova, who has since been stripped of her golds for doping.

Semenya then had a lull in performance after the London Games while the testosterone-limiting rule was still in effect. After CAS suspended the rule in 2015, Semenya peaked again in 2016, going undefeated in 800m races, twice breaking the national record and comfortably winning Olympic gold.

Semenya has never spoken publicly in detail about her situation. It has never been publicly verified that Semenya’s body naturally produces abnormally high levels of testosterone or that she ever took hormone suppressants.

An image with the sentence, “How beautiful it is to stay silent when someone expects you to be enraged,” was posted on Semenya’s social media Wednesday after reports were first published about the new rule.

Her default position is generally to talk only about her running, but she spoke out against her critics in a speech after accepting South Africa’s Sportswoman of the Year in November 2016.

“They say she talks like a man, she walks like a man, she runs like a man,” Semenya said, before finishing off the series with an Afrikaans word that loosely translates to “Get lost.”

South Africa’s Olympic Committee president Gideon Sam said Thursday his organization was “disappointed by the IAAF ruling.”

“Especially given that Caster’s name is again being dragged through the publicity mill,” he said in a press release. “We are concerned that the decisions have been approved without taking into account all factors into consideration, as these factors have not been properly nor fully ventilated. We wish to place on record that Caster Semenya has never engaged in any performance-enhancing activities and any enhanced testosterone levels are due solely to her genetic make-up.”

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Olympic pairs champions take indefinite break

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Aljona Savchenko, the Olympic pairs champion with Bruno Massot, said they are taking an indefinite break from competition, according to German press agency DPA.

Savchenko and Massot will perform in ice shows next fall and winter, which could preclude them from competing in major events like the Grand Prix season (late October to early December) and the European Championships in January.

The German pair followed their title in PyeongChang with a world title last month, breaking a four-year-old world-record score and winning by the largest margin (20.31 points) in pairs at an Olympics or worlds since the 6.0 system was replaced 14 years ago.

Savchenko, 34 and a five-time Olympian, became the oldest Olympic pairs gold medalist. She then claimed her 11th world medal — tying the female record held by Norwegian singles legend Sonja Henie — and sixth world title — tying Soviet Alexander Zaitsev for second on the all-time pairs list, four behind Irina Rodnina.

The French-born Massot, 29, competed in his first Olympics in PyeongChang and earned his first world title. Savchenko’s previous five world titles came with now-retired Robin Szolkowy.

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