Canada's Ben Johnson (left) 'wins' the 100m at the 1988 Olympic Games from America's Carl Lewis (right) with Britain's Linford Christie (second right) thirdWell, I had to get round to the men's 100m at the 1988 Seoul Games at some point and as this year is the 20th anniversary, it fits in quite nicely.

I remember being in absolute awe of Ben Johnson, not just because he won the 100m, or because he beat Carl Lewis, but because he ran the perfect race.

He exploded out of the blocks, was into his running quickly, surged away from the field and blazed across the line with his arm raised in 9.79 seconds - phenomenal. Watch the race again and admire how the 100m sprint should be run.

And the look on Lewis' face with his puffed out cheeks as he trailed in second seemed to sum up what the world had just witnessed.

But then of course the dream turned into a nightmare.

Everyone suspected the Eastern Bloc countries had been up to no good for several years, but a Canadian? Surely not.

Johnson was stripped of his title for using an anabolic steroid called stanozolol, had his 1987 world record time wiped and was banned for life.

There is far more to this story, such as the Johnson v Lewis battles around the time, accusations of other athletes taking drugs and conspiracy theories involving spiked drinks.

Even Lewis, who was so outspoken against Johnson, has recently admitted to failing a drugs test at the US Olympic trials in the run-up to the 1988 Seoul Games.

If you are interested, you can hear more from Johnson himself in a BBC Radio 4 documentary, where he is interviewed by Steve Cram.

The programme, called The Dirtiest Race in History, airs on Saturday at 2000 BST.

In more recent times, Johnson has attempted to laugh off his misdemeanours, reminiscent of England footballers Chris Waddle, Stuart Pearce and Gareth Southgate and their penalty misses.

While advertising an energy drink called Cheetah Power Surge, Johnson was asked, "Ben, when you run, do you Cheetah?"

Johnson replied: "Absolutely, I Cheetah all the time."

His comments may have been made with his tongue thrust firmly into his cheek, but they do little to repair the reputation of a race that has seen three of the last six Olympic champions fail a drugs test.

Britain's Linford Christie, who was promoted to silver in Seoul and won in Barcelona four years later, failed a doping test late in his career, while reigning champion Justin Gatlin will not get the chance to defend his title after falling foul of the testers.

So was Johnson just the unlucky one to be caught out on the world's biggest stage? And what more needs to be done to keep the sport clean?

Peter Scrivener is a BBC Sport Journalist. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.


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  • 1. At 2:34pm on 19 Jul 2008, turisbot wrote:

    a lot of people can use anabolic but nobody with our without anabolics can run like Johnson.

    Luz Feliz
    Mundo Prestamos

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  • 2. At 12:30pm on 24 Jul 2008, Golden_J wrote:

    I'm finding Ben Johnson so difficult to listen to, he actually feels hard done by being found cheating. He believes he's been picked on and used as and example. He does not seem to have any shame and still describes himself as the best sprinter in the world. What he doesn't think of is that if everyone else had used the same as him then he'd have been nowhere.

    He says that if he was running now then with advances in technology, diet, tracks, science..... then he'd be running 9.5 - what a fool. He'd also be dead by the age of 38, look at womens' champion from a similar era.

    This is the society we live in - absolute rubbish, I've lost any respect for him because I thought he would have some sense of shame or sorrow for this.
    He now says he has a comfortable life and is doing well, he's very pleased and still feels that he's the fastest ever man in the 100m, I couldn't hate the man anymore. If he hadn't cheated he wouldn't even be used in programs like this and wouldn't even be recognised. Forget him but never forget what he's done in the past - he's a cheat who would not have been close ot winning and should not be feted as a could've been. He wasn't even close.

    I do feel sorry for you Ben, there's nothing special about you, and quite frankly I couldn't show you the courtesy that Steve Cram showed in allowing you to air your views and listen to your sorry self-gratifying comments.
    The shame of this all is that I love athletics and always have but I can't speak to people nowadays without them having some cynicism against the feats of some of the best club and national athletes. This is all fault of you and others like you.

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