On this day in 1988: 'the dirtiest race in history' was held at Seoul Olympics

In reality, six out of the eight competitors in the 100-meter final, including Johnson's American adversary Lewis, were found to have taken performance-enhancing drugs.

FP Trending September 24, 2022 14:39:06 IST
On this day in 1988: 'the dirtiest race in history' was held at Seoul Olympics

Six out of eight sprinters participating were found to have been taking performance enhancing drugs. Image: Twitter

Most people will always remember the sight of Ben Johnson gazing skywards as he sprinted across the finish line in the 100-meter final of the 1988 Seoul Olympics, leaving a startled Carl Lewis in his rear. As Ben Johnson and American great Carl Lewis competed in the 100-meter final on 24 September, 34 years ago, it was dubbed ‘the clash of the titans.’ The Canadian sprinter Johnson won the final, shattering the previous record in the process. The triumph in 9.79 seconds was remarkable in itself, though not quite as noteworthy as what transpired the next day. It was the turning point in the war against drug cheats when doping first made an ugly appearance in the world arena.

Two days after the feat, Johnson had to surrender his gold medal after testing positive for the illegal steroid stanozolol. In reality, six out of the eight competitors in the 100-meter final, including Johnson’s American adversary Lewis, were found to have taken performance-enhancing drugs. This is why it was Richard More gave it the moniker of “the dirtiest race in history.”

After the drama, Johnson, though, was the only one held responsible and suspended and Lewis, who had finished the race in 9.92 seconds, took the Gold home.

Johnson’s coach Charlie Francis revealed at the Rubin Commission the next year that the speedster had been using performance-enhancing drugs since 1981, three years before he made headlines by finishing third in the 100-meter race won by Lewis in Los Angeles.

In the years that followed, Johnson’s lead over his main competitor was reduced, and as the two prepared for the 1987 World Championships in Rome, Johnson defeated the American multiple times to emerge as the top sprinter in the circuit.

At the 1987 World Championships in Rome, Johnson achieved greatness, becoming the best in the world, and went on to break a record. Although his victory in Seoul might have been the pinnacle of his career, the terrible event ultimately led to his demise.

Johnson’s 1991 comeback after serving the drug suspension was not quite impressive. After losing the Gold, the ‘Human Bullet’ expressed his belief that Americans always stand up for their nation and athletes.

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