A last-minute injury, a challenging course, and strong rivalries aren’t the only obstacles Olympians need to worry about during the Summer Games. Sometimes an athlete’s biggest enemy is the one staring back in the mirror.
For example, sprinter Wallace Spearmon’s time of 19.95 seconds in the men’s 200m finals earned him the bronze in 2008, but it was quickly taken away when instant replays revealed he had stepped outside his lane during the race, a direct violation of the sport. Now Spearmon returns to the Olympic stage for a chance at redemption. (Read about The 20 Greatest Olympics Moments of all time.)
In addition to playing within the lines, here are six other ways Olympians can earn a DQ (disqualification) and wave goodbye to their podium dreams.
1. Being Barely Legal
China’s women’s gymnastics team raised lots of eyebrows at the Beijing Games when its lineup of tumblers appeared to be anything but 16, the minimum age for Olympic eligibility since 1997. Though it was never proven, it may come to light later. That’s what happened with Chinese gymnast Dong Fangxiao, who won bronze in the 2000 Sydney Games. In April 2010, the International Olympic Committee ruled that Fangxiao was only 14 at the time she competed, and the gymnast has since been stripped of her medal. (Don’t worry, our 12 Hottest Female Olympians are all of legal age.)
2. Jumping the Gun
The world’s fastest man, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, dashed away his chance to compete in the 100m final at the World Championships last August when he prematurely false-started twice. The punishment: straight elimination. Bolt will need to rein it in before stepping onto the starting blocks in London. The stakes are even higher for swimmers: Unlike track stars, swimmers don’t get a second chance. If they dive into the pool before the starting signal, they’re immediately out.
3. Wearing High-Tech Uniforms
Since Speedo revealed its performance-enhancing, full-body, impermeable LZR Racer swimsuit in February 2008, athletes wearing it have set or broken a whopping 91 world records (23 of those were set in Beijing). Unfair advantage? In 2009, FINA, the world governing body of swimming, banned the super suit from future Games, calling it “technological doping.” This Olympics, female swimmers must wear a suit that only covers from just above the knees to the chest—it cannot extend past the shoulders. Males can only cover from the waist (at or below the navel) to just above the knees. Suits made of neoprene or polyurethane are prohibited.
4. Finishing the Race Improperly
Swimmers competing in the breaststroke and butterfly events must place both hands, simultaneously, on the touch pad on the pool wall at the end of a meet or risk disqualification. In synchronized swimming, an entire routine can be thrown out if one or more competitors stop swimming before they’ve completed the sequence. (Want secrets from London’s biggest star in the pool? Here’s how Ryan Lochte prepared for the ultimate Olympic test.)
6. Changing the Game Plan
Look out for the dreaded double bounce on the end of the board in diving. The split-second move along with any hesitation (taking too long to dive) can result in a no-score, which might as well be a DQ. Athletes can also receive a no-score by performing an unplanned dive, like if they promised three flips, but only delivered two.
For more Olympics news, fitness tips, and up-to-the-minute health buzz, sign up for the Men’s Health Daily Dose newsletter!