Seoul 1988: The dirtiest race in Olympics history

Seoul 1988: The dirtiest race in Olympics history

The 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, the 21st occurrence of the modern Olympic Games, is believed to be one of the, if not the most problematic Olympics in history. Boycotts had stained the previous two Olympiads, political problems, violent student riots leading up to the Games and an ongoing war with North Korea are just some of the controversies the Olympics that year have faced. More OBN stories here! 

Then there was the men’s 100m competition, the race that has frequently been dubbed ‘the dirtiest race in history’. The race went just fine with few records being easily broken including four of the eight competitors who broke the ten-second barrier for the first time in history. The controversy occurred the day following the race. Follow onlinebetnow to get the latest in sports and beyond! 

The records of the race were led by Canadian Ben Johnson, the reigning world champion and fastest man on the planet, who crossed the line in a new world record of 9.79 seconds, ahead of his bitter rival, Carl Lewis of the U.S. Lewis, the owner of nine Olympic gold medals – four golds won in four different Games – was named “Athlete of the 20th Century” by the IOC, the IAAF, and Sports Illustrated.

Ben Johnson, who also won the long jump, part of his career tally of a record nine Olympic gold medals, initially won the race until he was stripped of the medal just days later, after testing positive for stanozolol, an anabolic steroid. Johnson failed his drug test and Lewis was awarded the gold ahead of Britain’s Linford Christie, who was upgraded to the silver medal.

Johnson’s admission to steroid use between 1981 and 1988, he claimed that it wasn’t really cheating if everyone else was using drugs. Five of the other seven athletes in the race subsequently went on to test positive or be involved in the use or supply of performance enhancing drugs. It opens the suspicion of wider drug-use in the field as that year was an era in which steroid abuse was endemic.

Previously, Lewis tested positive for banned stimulants during the U.S. Olympic trials that year but had avoided a 12-week suspension, while Britain’s Christie tested positive for pseudoephedrine, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) later cleared him, after he blamed the test result on ginseng tea. Johnson was exiled from the Olympics, but he was not the only one.

Lewis and Christie were not the only 1988 medallists who escaped punishment. Joe DeLoach and Andre Phillips also failed tests for three stimulants found in cold medications: pseudoephedrine, ephedrine and phenylpropanolamine at the US trials but travelled to Seoul and won gold medals in the 200m and 400m sprints respectively.

The CBC radio documentary, Rewind, “Ben Johnson: A Hero Disgraced” broadcast on September 19, 2013, for the 25th anniversary of the race, stated 20 athletes tested positive for drugs but were cleared by the IOC at this 1988 Seoul Olympics. By the end of his career, Johnson was banned from competition for the rest of his life and stripped of all his medals, titles and world records.

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