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On This Date in Sports September 26, 1988 Ben Johnson Gets Busted

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Two days after shattering the world record in the 100 meters, Ben Johnson of Canada is stripped of the Gold Medal, due to testing positive for the use of steroids. Johnson had run the race in a time of 9.79 seconds, topping his own record by .04 seconds, while finishing .13 ahead of American Carl Lewis, who would get the Gold Medal after Johnson was disqualified.

Ben Johnson was born December 30, 1961, in Jamaica. When he was 14, his family moved to Canada, where he quickly became one of the nation’s top junior sprinters whilst being trained by Charlie Francis, a former member of the Canadian track team, who later became the nation’s sprint coach. After some success at the Commonwealth games, Ben Johnson made his first Olympic appearance in the 1984 games in Los Angeles taking home a pair of Bronze Medals in the 100m and the 4×100 relay.

In the four years between the Los Angeles Summer games in 1984 and the 1988 games in Seoul, Ben Johnson developed a great rivalry with American Carl Lewis, the 1984 gold medalist. In 1987, at the World Championships in Rome, Ben Johnson blazed down the track 9.83 seconds to set a new world record, on the way to being named the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year.

When the track and field events began in Seoul, the showdown between Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis was seen as the main event. The two were by far the best sprinters in the world, with Lewis looking to repeat the four-Gold Medal performance from the 1984 games. The two qualified first and second and were in the middle lanes as all eyes focused on the ten-second race to determine the World’s Fastest Man. When the race was over, Ben Johnson became a hero in Canada and the first to Canadian to win Olympic 100M since Percy Williams won Gold at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam.

The joy was short-lived as a simple urine test, tested positive for Stanozolol an anabolic steroid. Just two days after becoming the pride of Canada, Ben Johnson became Canada’s shame. At the Olympic Village, Canadian swimmer Mark Tewksbury hung a sign out of his room stating from hero to zero in 9.79 seconds. With Johnson’s disqualification, Carl Lewis the winner of the Gold Medal in 1984 was Olympic champion again with a time of 9.92 seconds, while Linford Christie of Great Britain moved up from Bronze to Silver, as American Calvin Smith received the Bronze Medal.