Did the Soviets really exile failed athletes to Siberia?

I first started watching sports in the late '70s and early '80s. At the time, Soviet athletes were always very prominent in the Olympic-type sports that were often shown on shows such as ABC’s Wide World of Sports.

Many times when we saw a Soviet athlete or team lose an event, my father would comment that they would be sent to Siberia by the Soviet government as punishment. In fact, for a long time, I thought that Siberia was just a large, cold, hell-like Soviet prison (kind of like an unpleasant version of British Australia). I used to feel terrible for those athletes and actually began rooting for them over American athletes (since our athletes would simply go back home to nice, warm beds even when they lost). I was probably the only person in the US that was disappointed when the “Miracle on Ice” team beat the Soviets.

Now I question whether my dad was just a victim of our own propaganda. Did the Soviets really exile athletes back then?

I was just reading about the 1960 Rome Olympics. This was the prototypical “cold war” competition. But even looking at Soviet athletes who lost to Americans we find Janis Krumins, Vasili Kuznetsov, Valdis Muiznieks, Igor Ter-Ovanesyan, Maigonis Valdmanis, Gennadi Volnov, and Viktor Zubkov - none of whom was sent to Siberia. They all continued competing and lived in normal places after they retired.

No, that didn’t happen as a rule or anything. He may have confusing the Soviet team with some other nations, which could be severely punished ofr poor performance.

Like whom? I’m curious.

Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

He actually had a special prison for athletes who ‘disgraced’ his country by losing. It was run personally by his son Uday. Some of his innovations included forcing losing olympic track team members to run on newly-poured, hot asphalt, and forcing the Iraqi soccer team that failed to reach the 1994 Olympics to practice kicking with a concrete soccer ball.

The stories were known enough that the International Olympic Committee held an investigation in the late 1990’s. But nothing much came of it, because most Iraqi athletes refused to testify (except those already in exile outside Iraq).

What’s especially cruel about this is that there weren’t any Summer Games in 1994, making it pretty hard for soccer players to get there.

There was a World Cup in 1994 though.