Taylor Hooton Foundation > Hoot’s Corner > General > At Least 120 Athletes at the Rio Olympics Have Previously Been Suspended for Doping
August 19, 2016
At Least 120 Athletes at the Rio Olympics Have Previously Been Suspended for Doping

Of the approximately 11,000 athletes competing in Rio, at least 120 have served suspensions or had to return medals for doping and were reinstated in time for this year’s Games. This is about one out of every 100 competitors.

At Least 25 of These Athletes Have Won Medals in Rio So Far

As of Friday, 28 of the 773 medals that had been awarded were won by athletes who had served suspensions for doping.

Some of these athletes have been openly criticized by their fellow competitors in Rio. In the swimming competition, Yulia Efimova of Russia and Sun Yang of China were the targets of pointed comments.

Efimova, 24, won silver medals in the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke events in Rio.

She has served a 16-month suspension for doping, and she tested positive again this year, for the newly banned substance meldonium.

Yulia Efimova of Russia in a preliminary heat in the 200-meter breaststroke.Dominic Ebenbichler/Reuters
Initially, Efimova had been barred from Rio, along with six other Russian swimmers who either had positive tests on their records or had been named in an investigation of a massive state-sanctioned doping scheme. But a last-minute ruling allowed them to compete.

Efimova was booed every time she raced in Rio and was the object ofpublic derision from the American swimmer Lilly King.

Sun, 24, was called a “drug cheat” by the Australian swimmer Mack Horton before the men’s 400-meter freestyle. Horton, 20, won the gold medal, and Sun placed second. Horton called it “a win for the good guys.” Sun later won a gold medal in the 200-meter freestyle.

Sun Yang of China receives his gold medal in the 200-meter freestyle. David Gray/Reuter

Almost One-Third of the Countries Participating in the Rio Games Have Athletes Who Were Previously Suspended for Doping

At least 63 of the 205 national delegations at the 2016 Olympics have athletes who have served suspensions for doping. The United States has the second most, with seven, after Ukraine, which has eight.

Countries with athletes in Rio who have served suspensions for doping:














N. Korea


United States


S. Korea

One of the more prominent Americans in this group is the sprinter Justin Gatlin, this year’s silver medalist in the 100 meters. He has beensuspended for doping twice, once for four years. Fans booed him as he took the track ahead of his race.

Another American, Tyson Gay, was caught doping after the 2012 Olympics and cost the United States team its silver medal in the 4×100-meter relay. Gay is running with Gatlin in the same event in Rio on Friday.

Justin Gatlin, left, handing the baton to Tyson Gay in the 4×100-meter relay at the 2012 Olympics. Hassan Ammar/Associated Press
It is worth noting that the United States has one of the largest delegations at the Games. The percentage of the team that is on this list is less than 2 percent.

More suspensions are not necessarily an indication that a country has more athletes who are doping. They can also be a gauge for how strong a given country’s drug-testing program is.

Russia would most likely have had more athletes on this list if its full delegation were competing in Rio. Nearly one-third of the Russian teamwas barred by various sports federations after investigations revealed an extensive state-run doping program.

The analysis by The New York Times matched names of athletes who had served suspensions for doping with the official roster for the Rio Games. The names of suspended athletes came from the Anti-Doping Database and from official statements from national and international sport federations.

Because the rendering of names from the various sources was inconsistent, the names presented here are for athletes whose circumstances could be confirmed. This leaves open the possibility that there are other athletes at the Games who have served suspensions for doping and are not listed here.