Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson has returned to Seoul’s Olympic Stadium – 25 years to the day after the steroid-assisted 100m final victory that destroyed his career and reputation.
The runner revisited the site of his stunning triumph and downfall to bring an anti-doping message for a sport still struggling to rid itself of banned substance use.
“It feels good to be back,” Johnson said as he stepped out onto the track where, at 1:30 pm on Sept 24, 1988, he lined up for a 100m final that would become known as the “dirtiest race in history”.
“This is where history was made,” Johnson said. “Some might call it bad history, but I don’t see it that way.”
First out of the blocks in the final, Johnson destroyed a field that included his hated rival Carl Lewis and stormed to victory in a world record time of 9.79sec.
Three days later he was stripped of his medal, his time and ultimately his career after it was announced that he had tested positive for stanozolol, a banned anabolic steroid.
Six of the eight finalists would eventually be implicated in doping scandals, including Lewis, who it was later revealed had tested positive for stimulants at the US Olympic trials.
Johnson, 51, has admitted to years of steroid use, but still feels he was unfairly picked out for vilification at a time of widespread drug use in athletics.
“I was nailed on a cross, and 25 years later I’m still being punished,” he said.
“Rapists and murderers get sent to prison, but even they get out eventually.
“I know what I did was wrong. Rules are rules. But the rules should be the same for all. But politics always plays in sports.”
Asked what he would change if he could go back 25 years, Johnson said there was no point trying to live in the past.
“But I still believe I could have won the Olympic Games without any drugs back then,” he added.