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1988: From victory to scandal

Some commentators called the 100m sprint at the Seoul Olympics the "greatest race in history".

But Ben Johnson's world-record breaking run to take the gold medal soon became one of the greatest scandals in the history of sport.

Three days after the race Olympic officials confirmed they had sent the Canadian home after his urine had tested positive for anabolic steroids - a banned substance.

The news shocked the world of athletics and cast a shadow over the rest of the 1988 Olympic Games.

Your memories:

I would have been seven when Ben Johnson won and then lost Olympic Gold.

I remember jumping around celebrating. A Canadian had won!!!

When we found out that he had cheated I felt sick and betrayed. Even today when I think about it I feel ill.

It is so important to make sure that atheletes are clean. Today I root for atheletes who are working to make their sport cleaner. Like Beckie Scott. No one should have to wait, with baited breath, to see if the person who is representing their country is clean.

It distracts from why we watch sport in the first place. Which is what the human body and human mind can do.
Claire, Canada

"No-one can take it away from me," he said, failing to menation the armada of steroids he was taking. Could these words be any more prophetic?
Leonard Collett, Canada

I could not believe it. I had watched the race at 4.30am UK time. I'm sure a huge proportion of Britain had stayed up to watch the race.

The lead up to the race was compelling. Lewis was favourite. Despite Johnson's previous year's 9.83 second world record at the World championships, his form had been poor. The prospect was of yet another win for Lewis, with hopefully Christie winning a medal. Johnson was given a chance - just.

The race was amazing. The sheer excitement that Johnson had won - and so convincingly, cocking a snook at Lewis was earth shattering. And Christie did indeed win a bronze behind the shocked silver winning Lewis.

The time - 9.79 was incredible. How could a human do that? Only Johnson himself had gone below 9.86 before.

On the Monday I was in a pub and the BBC was reporting on the Olympics. Des Lynam looked very serious as he delivered the sombre news. "Ben Johnson is a cheat. He has been found guilty of taking the anabolic steroid Testosterone."

It was too bad to be true, and I did not believe it for three hours. When I returned home the news was reinforced and over the next couple of days it was clear - Ben Johnson had cheated.

It was a tragic event. Though there has been worse at the Olympics - such as Munich - this fallibility is the single worst example of sporting cheating and engulfing sporting news that I can remember - I and many others will never forget it.
Neville Ebanks, UK

I remember the race well, not least because as Ben crossed the line ahead of the American Carl Lewis I jumped up to cheer from my position standing atop a bar stool into a ceiling fan.


" Canadian sporting innocence ended that week in 1988 "

Alec, Luxembourg

In the delirium that followed this didn't really matter. The quiet Canadian had beat the brash American, and we all poured out of the crowded sports bar into the streets of Kingston, Canada to celebrate. It was the same all across the nation.

So the disappointment was great when news emerged of his failed drug test.

A newspaper cartoon best captured the Canadian response. Three identical pictures of Johnson carried the following successive captions.

Under the first picture: "Canadian wins Gold!" Under the next picture: "Jamaican-Canadian tests positive". And under the final picture: "Jamaican stripped of Gold". Canadian sporting innocence ended that week in 1988. And it has been of little comfort to watch as the rest of the world has followed. Cometh the hour, cometh the man! .. cometh the drug test.
Alec, Luxembourg

I remember watching Ben Johnson win the 100m race in the 1988 Olympic Games. The one thing that stands out in my mind it the power he had coming out of the blocks.

I had never seen nor have I seen since such a burst. I knew the second he left he was the winner. It was disappointing that he tested positive for anabolic steroids three days later but didn't surprise me at all. It explained the raw power I witnessed that day back in 1988.
Robert Newman, USA

He was still accelerating as he went over the finishing line. I thought: "Man or machine...?"
Jon Rimmer, UK

I remember that we were learning all about the Olympics at school - I was eight at the time, and a big deal was made of the event. Our teacher was a keen athlete and I remember the buzz generated in our class when we heard that Ben Johnson had become the fastest man on earth.

I don't remember much about the scandal that followed but I do remember being very disappointed that the record hadn't been broken, and that we had to return to the old one. To this day I keep a keen eye on the 100m sprint, always looking out for that new record.
Ian Cowley, Cambridge, UK

I vividly remember where I learned of Ben Johnson's Olympic 'demise'. I had just started my second year of study at the University of Toronto and was sitting in on some lecture with about 1,000 other students when somebody told our professor.

The embarrassment many of us felt was almost palpable in that lecture hall. Not one of our country's prouder moments!
Don Dawson, Canada

I was sitting at home watching it live on the BBC. It was an extraordinary event in every way: Johnson's speed out of the blocks, his acceleration to maximum and most incredibly of all, the way he slowed down at the end with his finger in the air!

The race was replayed over and over again that day. Desmond Lynam who was commentating said before one replay: "If you haven't seen this already, then watch, because it's fantastic."

He was right. Not being Canadian I didn't feel the pain of the disgrace; I was just angry that he cheated, that he took away the stunning image I had of the race and replaced it with that photo of him skulking half-behind a door.
Paul Furbur, South Africa

Performance enhancement via anabolic steroids is good for the sports industry and good for the athlete so long as it is under medical supervision.

It makes athletes stronger, faster and better, and at the end of the day makes a particular sporting event more exciting to watch. Athletes, like the rest of us, can only go so far, it's their choice if they want to use steroids or any other performance booster.

Ben Johnson worked hard - that race was the best race in history, and we owe it all to steroids.
Jeremy, UK

I was a 25-year-old new mother with my first child only a month old. I remember seeing Ben Johnson pass Carl Lewis as if he were standing still.

Ben Johnson looked so freakishly fast and I felt that something wasn't right, because Carl Lewis was extremely fast.

I wasn't the least bit surprised that Ben Johnson tested for anabolic steroids, but I was very disappointed, because I wanted to believe that a man really could be that fast.
Dana Abadal, USA

The enduring recollection that I have was not of the race, but the medals ceremony.

I distinctly remember that his demeanour stood atop of the podium was not that of someone who had just won a gold medal in a world record time.

Something just did not seem "right" to me - although I had no idea at the time as to what. It was most bizarre.

So much so I would like to see the medal ceremony again - just to make sure.
Steve Moore, UK


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