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Saturday, October 17, 1998 Published at 12:36 GMT 13:36 UK


Sport

Man, beast and machine

It was not reported if any of the horses were drug tested after the race

Disgraced drug-cheat Ben Johnson didn't quite have the horsepower to make his return to racing a triumph when he took on two horses and a car in a charity sprint.

A 17-year-old workhorse and a fast-stepping harness pacer beat the notorious sprinter in the race but Johnson did, however, leave a race car spinning its wheels on a muddy track.

It was all in aid of the Charlottetown branch of the Children's Wish Foundation and may have been part of a campaign by Johnson to have himself reinstated for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

Johnson, 36, has not competed since receiving a lifetime suspension from the International Amateur Athletic Federation in 1993 after a second positive drug test.

The 100m champion was stripped of his Olympic gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics after he tested positive for steroids.


[ image: Johnson wants to compete in the next Olympics]
Johnson wants to compete in the next Olympics
"Hopefully I can get the chance to be reinstated and compete against the best," said Johnson, who has been thwarted repeatedly in his attempt to win reinstatement into track.

"If the public accepts me and loves me and wants me to come back. We are all human beings, we all make mistakes and everybody forgives and we go on with life."

The charity race attracted attention far and wide and, for the most part, it was good-natured.

Both Johnson and his agent, Morris Chrobotek, rejected suggestions he was turning his past glory and infamy into a sideshow.

"Ben is not a circus," said Chrobotek. "We did this strictly to raise money for children with life-threatening illnesses."

At least 5,000 spectators jammed the grandstand at Charlottetown Driving Park to watch the competition between man, beast and machine.

Johnson was an early favourite to beat the horses and the car and he led briefly. But he was quickly passed by the horses in a race that had staggered distances.

Johnson ran 80m, the pacer 100m, the workhorse 120m and the car 140m.

The crowd went wild as Johnson flashed across the finish line, respectably close to the steeds.

The saddlehorse, a workhorse that had never before been raced, was ridden by veteran jockey Lloyd Duffy of Charlottetown.

Duffy said before the race he didn't think he would be able to beat Johnson.

"The track was muddy and my horse had no shoes on and I figured he'd be skating all over the race track," the jockey said. "But once I got him rolling, he handled it pretty good."

The workhorse, named Windsong, looked nervous as he pranced on to the track. Windsong's owner, Yogi Fell, spent days trying to get animal used to the loud noises of the track, but he looked spooked as cameras flashed and speakers blared.

Johnson, who said he still hopes to fulfil his "destiny" as the fastest man in the world, said he will consider more fund-raising races.

However, his agent said that does not mean Johnson will submit to the ridiculous. He said he recently turned down a request from a US television network to have Johnson race a cheetah.





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