Twenty years ago, in the syringe shot injected around the world (unless it was oral), Ben Johnson's shocking positive test at the 1988 Seoul Olympics shocked a sleepy naive world to the reality of elite track doping. The controversial test showed stanozolol (Winstrol) in the sprinter's urine. Thus began a long road leading to the institution of the World Anti-Doping Agency, to the alleged Carl Lewis' sabotage, and to Johnson's inclusion as one of the most hated Canadians of all time. The Globe and Mail interviews Johnson on the occasional of the infamous anniversary.
Twenty summers ago, Johnson ran to notoriety in front of 70,000 screaming fans in Seoul's Olympic Stadium and another billion on television. Canadians punched the air - one even told us he put his fist through a wall - at the spectacle of a Canadian becoming the world's fastest man ahead of U.S. favourite Carl Lewis.
But the awful truth of doping would make the glory short-lived and the stigma of cheating stick forever. As recently as a few weeks ago, he says, an International Olympic Committee functionary decreed that because of his lifetime ban from the Olympic Games, Johnson could not be used as a commentator in Beijing.
Johnson says he could have been angry. About what? It is clear from reading (his coach) Charlie Francis's book that Johnson was a chronic user of a variety of doping agents: anabolic steroids, HGH, &hetamines. Guess the anger is about getting busted, not being a drug cheat.
The fame, the money, the record all vanished with the dirty urine test. Whether or not anyone buys the conspiracy theory that Johnson was set up as a scapegoat for a field of drug-fuelled athletes, that all-consuming sprinter's life was over and a new one had to be reconstructed.
"I could have been angry. My mother always said to leave everything in God's hands and I'd get the courage to get through. It wouldn't be easy. It was hard, but I always believed," Johnson said.
The interview stresses how Johnson lost his riches -- sad isn't it? Nonetheless, 20 years later Johnson is penning a tell-all book..perhaps named 'Cheetah'.
Twenty years on, Ben Johnson's eyes aren't yellow, the tell-tale side effect of the steroids that were in his liver. "I avoid rich foods, chicken instead of red meat, I eat more vegetables. I weigh about 190 pounds, within 15 of what I weighed in Seoul. I try to keep my stress level at zero."
His words, like his eyes, are more clear than they used to be. So are his thoughts. He's writing an autobiography entitled Seoul to Soul, which he hopes to have published before the end of the year."I'm trying to get the book done in the right way and clear up the negativity around me," Johnson said.