Seoul Olympics 100m race was fixed: Ben Johnson
The 1988 Seoul Olympics occupy a special place in the history of 100m sprinting.
Titans clashed on the track, with Ben Johnson emerging as the first person to breach the 9.80-second barrier. Two days later, the Canadian speed demon tested positive for banned steroid stanozolol and was stripped of his gold medal.
In fact, six out of the eight athletes in that 100m final, including Johnson’s rival Carl Lewis of the USA, were accused of doping, earning it the moniker – ‘the dirtiest race in history’.
But it was Johnson alone who was found guilty and banned.
Now with a report in Canadian newspaper ‘The Star’ revealing inconsistencies in the laboratory report of Johnson’s drug test, the former sprinter is convinced that the Seoul Olympics race was fixed.
“I know that whatever happened in Seoul was premeditated. It was a set-up, I know that from Day 1. And 30 years later, it has come out that actually it was fixed at Olympic Games because America wanted to win the gold medal,”Johnson, who is in India for the Ekamra International Sports Literature Festival in Bhubaneshwar, said in an interview.
The Toronto-based newspaper reported that Johnson’s laboratory report had hand-written and unsigned changes and inconclusive statements about the type of steroid found in Johnson’s system, among other things. Also, no Canadian official was allowed to see the laboratory report.
With no way to appeal against International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision to strip him of his gold medal, Johnson had to live with the ignominy of being called a dope cheat for the last 30 years.
“There is politics in every sport. It’s dirty, it’s not good and I don’t like it... I have no regrets. I can’t change whatever is in my destiny. If I do something great and people are jealous, I can’t do anything about it.”
Johnson’s world record timing of 9.79 seconds in the 100m final was derecognised and the gold medal went to American Lewis, who had timed 9.92 seconds.
Lewis was also accused of failing three drugs tests prior to the 1988 Games but was cleared by the United States Olympic Committee. Justin Gatlin is another US athlete, who made a return to the track after serving doping bans, and even won the 2017 London World Championships 100m gold medal.
Johnson had no such successful return in 1991 after serving the doping ban.
Johnson felt that the Americans defend their country and athletes.
“The only problem between me and Gatlin is that he is American and I am Canadian. Americans take care of their athletes, so to speak. When America has certain problems in their country, they don’t tell the media anything, they keep it hush-hush. A lot of people die in America but they don’t tell the tourists ‘don’t go to America because it’s bad for you’. The western world will admit that ‘ok we have this there is a problem in our country and are trying to fix it as quickly as possible’.
But Americans they will lie about everything,” he said.
Asked if doping has become more sophisticated, Johnson said: “I have been away from the sport for 30 years and I can’t really comment on that. But I know that people are still doing what they want to do. It’s all in the game, nothing personal about it. It’ all business.”
While Usain Bolt has lowered the 100m world record to 9.58 seconds, Johnson feels it could reach 9.30 seconds. “I believe the IAAF is trying to make the man go under 9.3 or even 9.2 in the next 50 years. Now they are building tracks that are faster. The spikes are a lot better than what I was using back in my days. The technology has changed manifold,” Johnson said.