My name will be cleared, says Ben Johnson

Thirty years on from the 1988 Seoul Olympics − where he was found to have doped − sprinter Ben Johnson believes his name will finally be cleared, with reports revealing inconsistencies in his drug test.

Ben Johnson attends a session at the Ekamra Sports Literary Festival held in Bhubaneswar on Saturday.   -  BISWARJAN Rout

On September 24, 1988, the whole world was glued to the Olympic Stadium of Seoul. For, the planet’s greatest race ever was about to take place – Carl Lewis of the United States against Canada’s Ben Johnson.

Exactly 9.79 seconds after the starting pistol was fired, all the hype was justified. Johnson had lowered his own 100m World record of 9.83s by 4/100th of a second. His bitter rival Lewis had to settle for the silver medal.

The race became the world’s most famous race. Two days later, it became the world’s most infamous race. Johnson had tested positive for stanozolol and was stripped of the gold.

Thirty years later, Johnson believes his name will be finally cleared, with newspaper reports revealing the inconsistencies in the laboratory report of his drug test.

“I think it is destiny and my name will be cleared,” he told Sportstar here on Saturday. “I have waited 30 years for this to happen. The minutes of the medical commission at Seoul are going to be made public on January 1, 2019. I don’t know why they have waited this long; maybe they didn't think I would live for 30 years,” he said.

Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson (second from left) wins the final of the 100 Metres event at Seoul Olympic Stadium during the Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, 24th September 1988.   -  GETTY


He added that he never regretted working with his controversial coach Charlie Francis, who admitted in 1989 that he had introduced Johnson to drugs. “I have no regrets,” he said. “It was my destiny that I left Jamaica for Canada and met Charlie.”

Johnson was one of the speakers on the second day of the Ekamra Sports Literary Festival. He proved the biggest attraction too. He loved the attention from the large crowd, especially schoolchildren.

“I have enjoyed this tour to India,” he said. “I would have loved to answer more questions at the end of the session, but there was no time.”

Sharing the stage with him on the session was author Richard Moore, whose book on the Seoul race titled The Dirtiest Race in History has been critically acclaimed.

The final day of the festival, organised by the Government of Odisha and Emerging Sport, featured many other stars including Australian Olympic swimming champion Stephanie Rice, Indian cricketers Ajinkya Rahane and Mohammad Kaif, the recently-retired hockey great Sardar Singh, athlete Neeraj Chopra and his German coach Uwe Hohn, gymnast Dipa Karmarkar and wrestlers Yogeshwar Dutt, Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat.

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