Category Archives: Special Lists

Teams suspended from Olympic competition

In November, it was announced that no Bulgarian weightlifters will compete at the Rio 2016 Olympics, as a punishment for an excessive amount of doping positives among Bulgarian lifters. Such a suspension is not unique, but – fortunately – still relatively rare. We’ll take a look at other exclusions in Olympic history.

Just look at Bulgaria’s Olympic weightlifting history already reveals a few similar cases. In 1988, the team withdrew after two gold medallists (Mitko Grabnev and Angel Genchev) had tested positive for doping. Twelve years later, three Bulgarian medallists, including gold medallist Izabela Dragneva, were caught with performance enhancing drugs, which was followed by a suspension of the rest of the weightlifting team. In 2008, Bulgaria chose not to compete in the Olympics, with no less than 11 national team members facing doping suspensions in the run-up to the Games. Those low points are now followed by a suspension ahead of the Games.

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One of the players in Bulgaria’s tainted Olympic weightlifting past: Izabela Dragneva.

Another group of athletes possibly facing suspension are the Russian track and field athletes. Following a recent report by WADA, the International Assocation of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has supended Russian athletes from competing internationally. Depending on how quick they can reform, they may also miss the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

A similar exclusion came in 1988, when Mexico was banned by the international football federation (FIFA), after they were found to have knowingly used at least four players over the age limit in an U20 tournament. All Mexican representative teams were banned for a period of two years, including the Olympic team that had already qualified for Seoul. They were replaced by Guatemala.

Another age-related suspension was handed out in 2010 by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG). In gymnastics, there is a minimum age for competitors, and North Korea was found to have submitted false birth dates for at least two competitors. They were suspended from international competition for two years, which included the 2012 London Games.

In the past, it has happened several times that nations were not allowed to compete at the Olympics. The first such occasion came in 1920. Despite the fact that Olympic renovator Pierre de Coubertin was not in favor, the (perceived) aggressors of World War I – Austria, Germany, Hungary and Turkey – were not invited. The Germans were not invited in 1924 either, leaving them to return on the Olympic podium only in St. Moritz 1928. Twenty years later, Germany could also not enter the Olympics. Following World War II, the country had been divided by the four allied nations, and the German National Olympic Committee therefore did not formally represent any recognized nation. However, Japan was not allowed to compete in the 1948 Games either, suggestion this formal reason might merely have been an excuse to not invite the war aggressors.

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Activist Dennis Brutus campaigned for Apartheid-era South Africa to be banned from the Olympics – with eventual success.

The 1964 Olympics were marked by the suspension of the South African NOC, a year earlier. The South African NOC did not allow mixed-race competition, which was in conflict with the IOC’s non-discrimination policies. In 1970, South Africa was expelled from the International Olympic Committee and only reinstated in 1992. A similar fate befell Rhodesia – present-day Zimbabwe – when its invitation for the 1972 Olympics was revoked shortly before the opening ceremony, and the NOC was suspended. Most African nations did not recognize the (white) Ian Smith regime, and threatened to boycott the Munich Games if the nation were allowed to compete. Rhodesian athletes had already missed the 1968 Olympics when strict interpretation of passport rules meant they could not enter Mexico. Competitors from Taiwan suffered from the same issue in 1976, when they were unable to enter Canada.

Following the break-up of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, a United Nations resolution prohibited teams representing that country at sports events. Individual athletes were allowed to compete, and so the IOC created Individual Olympic Participants, allowing such athletes to take part in Barcelona 1992.

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In 1999, the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan was suspended from competition, among others for not allowing women to compete in sports. As of 2012, four Afghan women have competed in the Olympics.

In more recent years, several National Olympic Committees have been suspended by the IOC for not abiding by the rules of the Olympic Charter. Frequently, this concerns government intervention in the NOC, but there may be other reasons. Such suspensions include:

  • Venezuela in 1993
  • Iraq in 2003-2004
  • Panama in 2007-2008
  • Kuwait in 2010-2012 and again in 2015-present
  • Ghana in 2011

Two such suspensions had effects on a nation’s participation in the Olympics. Afghanistan was banned in 1999, causing them to miss the 2000 Olympics – although the Taliban probably couldn’t care less. In 2013, India was also suspended, forcing one of its athletes to compete as an Individual Olympic Athlete during the first week of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. The suspension was lifted during the second week, allowing the remaining two competitors to contest their events under the Indian flag.

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Luger Shiva Keshavan was forced to compete as an independent athlete in Sochi 2014, as his nation’s NOC (India) had been suspended.

Back in 1962, the Indonesian NOC had also been suspended by the IOC, as they had refused to allow athletes from Taiwan and Israel compete in the Asian Games. Angered by the fact that France and the US (which had refused to allow competitors from East Germany) were not suspended, Indonesian President Sukarno created the Games of the New Emerging Forces (GANEFO). Held in 1963, the IOC banned all athletes that had competed at these Games, which caused Indonesia and North Korea to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics, even if they were allowed to enter athletes who hadn’t contested the GANEFO. North Korea competed again in the second (and last) edition of the GANEFO (1966), which meant they were suspended by the IOC, causing the nation to miss the 1968 Olympics as well.



1920,Germany, Not invited as WWI aggressor nation

1920,Austria, Not invited as WWI aggressor nation

1920,Hungary, Not invited as WWI aggressor nation

1920,Turkey, Not invited as WWI aggressor nation

1924,Germany, Not invited as WWI aggressor nation

1948, Germany, Not invited as WWII aggressor nation (no formal NOC)

1948, Japan, Not invited as WWII aggressor nation

1964, South Africa, Suspended by IOC

1968, North Korea, Suspended by IOC

1968, South Africa, Suspended by IOC

1968, Rhodesia, Could not enter host nation

1972, Rhodesia, Invitation revoked

1976, Rhodesia, Suspended by IOC

1976, Taiwan, Could not enter host nation

1988,Mexico (football), Suspended by IF

2000, Afghanistan, Suspended by IOC

2012, North Korea (gymnastics), Suspended by IF

2014, India, Suspended by IOC

2016, Bulgaria (weightlifting), Suspended by IF


Pregnant Olympians

Serena Williams announced yesterday (19 April 2017) that she was pregnant and was likely pregnant during her dominant Australian Open victory in January. Amazing. Below is an updated version of our “Pregnant Olympians” post from 2014.


Addendum for 21 April 2017 – Olympic Channel today posted a video on pregnant Olympians, starting with Fanny Blankers-Koen. We used to have Blankers-Koen in this list, based on a rumor we had heard, but deleted her and think the Olympic Channel has it wrong in this case. Per Jeroen Heijmans, our Dutch member of the OlyMADMen, “Fanny had two children, Jan Jr. (ca. 1941) and Fanny Jr. (ca. 1946).” So we’re fairly certain she was not pregnant at the 1948 Olympics, unless she lost the child.


Have any Olympians ever competed while pregnant? Yes, as you would suspect. It has happened 18 times that we know of, although with this sort of topic, its difficult to know with precision. Witness to that fact is that Kerri Walsh did not know she was pregnant in 2012 until after the Olympics ended. The following list details the 18 times we know it has occurred.

Note that in 2012 at London, Malaysian shooter Nur Suryani Mohd Taibi competed while 34 weeks pregnant – making her the “most pregnant Olympian” of all-time.



Lisa Brown-Miller,USA,ICH,1998,Unknowingly pregnant during the 1998 Winter Olympics with her first child Alex.

Anky van Grunsven,NED,EQU,1988-2012,5 months pregnant when she won a gold medal in 2004.

DeAnne Hemmens,USA,CAN,1996,2 months pregnant in 1996.

Anna-Maria Johansson,SWE,HAN,2012,3 months pregnant in 2012.

Magda Julin,SWE,FSK,1920,3 months pregnant in 1920.

Amelie Kober,GER,SNB,2006-2014,2 months pregnant in 2010.

Kateřina Kůrková-Emmons,CZE,SHO,2004-2012,1 month pregnant in 2008.

Kristie Moore,CAN,CUR,2010,5 months pregnant in 2010.

Mara Navarria,ITA,FEN,2012,Discovered after London Olympics that she was in early pregnancy during the Games.

Cornelia Pfohl,GER,ARC,1992-2004,In early pregnancy (daughter Mara) when she won a bronze medal in 2000 and 7 months pregnant in 2004. Daughter Roselinda born only 57 days after her last Olympic event.

Kim Rhode,USA,SHO,1996-2016,Discovered weeks after London Olympics that she was in early pregnancy.

Diana Sartor,GER,SKE,2002-06,9 weeks pregnant in 2006.

Anita Spring,AUS,BVO,1996,4 weeks pregnant in 1996.

Juno Stover-Irwin,USA,DIV,1948-60,3½ months pregnant when she won a bronze medal in 1952.

Kerstin Szymkowiak,GER,SKE,2010,2 months pregnant when she won a silver medal in 2010.

Nur Suryani Mohd Taibi,MAS,SHO,2012,34 weeks pregnant in 2012.

Martina Valcepina,ITA,STK,2014,1 month pregnant with twins during the Sochi Olympics.

Kerri Walsh,USA,BVO/VOL,2000-2012,1 month pregnant in 2012 (not known until after the Olympics).



See also

Note: Updated mid-June 2014 after receiving information from Gazzetta dello Sport reporter Andrea Buongiovanni about the pregnancies of Navarria and Valcepina.