10 Plausible Sports Conspiracy Theories

Michael Phelps' 'Golden Touch'
Milorad Cavic of Serbia (L) and Michael Phelps of the United States reach for the wall in the men's 100m Butterfly Final at the Beijing Olympics. Who really won? Nick Laham/Getty Images

Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps' record-breaking performance in the 2008 Beijing Games — eight gold medals, the most first-place finishes in any Olympic sport, ever — was the sports storyline of the year.

Adding to the excitement was the story of his seventh gold of the games. Phelps' mounted an impossible comeback, surging from several lengths behind in the 100-meter butterfly to touch the wall exactly 0.01 of a second before Serbia's Milorad Cavic.

Or did he?

Watching the video replay frame by frame, it looks like Cavic has the clear lead within inches of reaching the wall. But then Phelps manages one final half-lunge as Cavic glides to what he believes is guaranteed gold. Did Phelps' outsized hands really reach the wall first?

Conspiracy theorists argue that too much history was riding on Phelps' victory to allow an upset, and that since Phelps was a spokesperson for Omega, the official timekeeper of the event, something was fishy with the clock [source: Klein]. Another theory says that Phelps' strong push to the wall caused a wave of water to hit the touch pad, causing it to think contact had been made. Omega said that was impossible [source: Fanning]. Suspiciously, no official photos were released by Olympic officials of the supposedly "photo" finish.

Serbian Olympic officials briefly protested, but Cavic, for his part, was a gracious silver medalist, blogging "there's nothing wrong with losing to the greatest swimmer there has ever been" [source: Mackey].