Ben Johnson: From Glory to Twilight at Full Speed

On September 5, 1989, the International Athletics Federation stripped Ben Johnson of the world record and title.

The Canadian athlete was stripped of his achievements at the 1987 World Championships in Athletics after admitting to using anabolic steroids during his career.

Ben Johnson’s statement occurred while his positive doping in Seoul 1988 was being investigated, the same thing that earned him the annulment of the Gold and Olympic record.

Benjamin Sinclair Johnson was born in Jamaica and spent his childhood in poverty. At the age of 14, he immigrated with his family to Canada, where he encountered athletics during his school years.

Trained by Olympic sprinter Charlie Francis, Ben Johnson took Canadian citizenship and broke into world athletics with an outstanding participation in the 1982 Commonwealth Games.

A year later he played for the first time in the World Athletics Championships, reaching the semifinals. The competition was won by the American Carl Lewis, owner of the world discipline scene, with whom Johnson would build a great sporting rivalry.

The Canadian’s performance at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics put the American’s crown in check. Ben Johnson earned two Olympic bronzes, one in the 100-meter dash and another with the relay team.

Finally, and after seven consecutive defeats, Johnson managed to defeat Carl Lewis in the 1985 Zurich Championship.

Johnson’s career, like world athletics, had a break in the 1987 World Championships in Rome, when the Canadian was left with the highest international competition with an impressive time of 9.83 seconds.

“Big Ben” established a new World record for the 100 meters with an amazing record for the time. In later statements, the defeated Carl Lewis claimed several athletes were taking performance-enhancing drugs, without naming them.

A year later, at the Seoul Olympics, Ben Johnson would win the Gold medal in the 100-meter dash, beating his own record. He did it in 9.79 seconds, the mark left everyone stumped.

But the glory in what was then known as the “Race of the Century” would be short-lived, since hours after competing Johnson was doping positive for Stanozolol, an anabolic steroid used to increase muscle mass.

Two days after the race Ben Johnson received a two-year ban from the International Athletics Federation and was disqualified from Seoul 88, missing out on Olympic Gold and the world record.

Johnson denied using performance-enhancing drugs, however, and in the course of the investigation he came to admit to having used steroids for most of his professional career.

This declaration earned him the annulment of the title and world record achieved in Rome, as ordered by the IAAF on September 5, 1989.

It also uncovered a worldwide scandal over the use of anabolics in athletics, which ended with more athletes being sanctioned.

Ben Johnson returned to professionalism in 1991, but never recovered his level and two years later he returned to being doping positive, a situation that earned him a definitive suspension by the International Athletics Federation.

Among the activities he carried out outside of high competition, it stands out that he was Diego Armando Maradona’s personal trainer during 1997.

On September 5, 1989, the International Athletics Federation stripped Ben Johnson of the world record and title.

The story is also news on Radio Perfil. Script by Nicolás Ziccardi and voice over by Pita Fortín.

by Radio Profile

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