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Ben Johnson and that 100m final was the Olympic moment that changed my sporting life. Before the 1988 games in Soul I naively believed that most western athletes were clean and the Games were the supreme test of amateur sport so no need to cheat as there was little financial reward to gain. How could you stand on the rostrum to your national anthem if you know you had cheated? Ben's expression of guilt reflected that stolen moment. Well they did and still do and how wrong I was on my sports integrity. 34-year-old Kelly Holmes pure smile of elation and surprise when she won gold was because she wasn't a cheat and she was stunned she had beaten the cheats that had denied her medals for so long.
When Ben was caught after winning the 100 meters it set off an investigation that would eventually reveal that the sprints were soaked in steroids, at least nine US athletics gold medalist from the previous Olympics also testing positive in the lead up to LA Angeles 84 but the results kept secret, the damming evidence mysteriously disappearing from a safe soon after. Carl Lewis, the 84 champion, was believed to be one of them.
1984 was the last real Cold War games were America and Eastern Europe flexed their ideological muscles, and as the Eastern Block were doping on mass for communist athletic superiority then America had to follow suit. A journalist's investigation revealed that Lewis did test positive three times - at least - in out of competition testing in 1988. The first reveal of blanket US cheating came from damming documents found in the America Athletics Federation trash, listing up to 100 fails, and the second was the fact that Carl Lewis was still wearing a brace on his teeth at 25, jaw bone change a telltale sign of the use of banned growth hormone. Six of the eight finalist of that feted 100m Final would go on to fail drugs tests later in their careers, including 1992 champion Linford Christie, a man I used to believe in.
One man I do feel sorry for over this is Michael Johnson, the articulate America Olympic sprint legend, one of very few black athletes able to express the pain and shame of this constant stain of drugs on his sport. Because there are so few whistle blowers in athletics the public feel everyone is on the juice and so guys like Michael Johnson constantly having their world records and gold medals somehow devalued because of the cheats. His latest excuse offered up on why so many black men win the sprints is the slave theory, reduced to having to defend himself with this kind of stuff in the run up to the London Olympics to make people believe in the Games once again, a bigger challenge than winning his five gold medals. It's a neat theory that because of the nature of the salve trade and how black people were forced marched across the continent and many died on the journey then only the fittest survived and those genes somehow became sprinters genes down the line, why most of the last 100m champions were born in Jamaica, the West Indies the final slave staging post before the men and women were packed tightly into boats and set to America and the Empires. On the same TV program he never once mentioned performance enhancing drugs were more likely a reason for their elite performance, as proved. Even today the Jamaican Athletics Federation does not have a fit and proper national drug testing program in place.
We don't really know what to believe in professional sport these days, like cycling, the sprints having more famous cheaters than winners. Can we really believe Bradley Wiggins is clean when 60% of previous winners of the Tour de France have been involved in drug scandals? Was that streamline suit Australian Cathy Freeman wore to win in Sydney merely a distraction, drugs, not latex, that was making her go faster? Freeman, like Carl Lewis in L.A, had to win for huge political reasons of reconciliation and race and so she did win. Were Flo Joe's extravagant go-faster nails and sexy latex tops also a distraction for the TV cameras from telltale signs on the rest of her body of drug use, or did the nails grow too fast because of drugs? She died at 37-years-old. Usain Bolt dresses like he has just had to ask for PE kit because he forgets his, that laid back amateur appearance of Bolt and his junk food habits some kind of cloak for the real Usian Bolt, maybe? Like Carl Lewis, is Usain Bolt too big to fail a drug test?
Athletes cheat today for cash, simple as, why most cheats are no longer white Eastern Europeans. The commies cheated as they were told to by their governments whereas today athletics is simply a job. Black guys know they won't get a fair deal for their talents elsewhere in their chosen careers and so music and sport still remains their bankers for a decent wage and lifestyle, why 25% of professional footballers are black, over representation through hard work and determination. Ben Johnson cheated to make a life for himself and most of us bend the rules to get our pay packets. If you treat sprinting like a job as Dwain Chambers did then in away you can abscond some of the guilt if you do cheat. We have seen with the City of London bankers and financiers that it's normal to cheat and steal to make money. Once sport becomes professional it no longer has integrity and so your hero's will break your heart. Sadly the 100m and the sprints are the big events and the promoters want the fast times and so blind eyes will always be turned on cheats to keep those times, why Usain Bolt will be beaten by Johan Blake next week!