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Johnson Loses His Gold Medal Over Steroids

September 27, 1988|BILL DWYRE | Times Sports Editor

SEOUL — In the highest-profile and most startling drug-testing sanction ever imposed in Olympic sports, Canadian track star Ben Johnson was stripped of his gold medal and banned from international competition here today.

An anabolic steroid called Stanozolol, a drug used by athletes to increase muscle bulk and strength and enhance performance, was found in a urine sample from Johnson. The Jamaican native, who competes for Canada, set a stunning world record of 9.79 seconds in the 100-meter race Saturday, breaking the 9.83 record he set at the World Games in Rome last year while beating American arch-rival Carl Lewis.

He beat Lewis again here Saturday, but Johnson's disqualification moved Lewis up a notch to the gold medal. American Calvin Smith, fourth Saturday, moved up to the bronze medal as England's Linford Christie advanced from the bronze to the silver.

Under International Olympic Committee rules, all medal winners, plus some other competitors chosen at random, are tested after competing to make sure they have not used drugs that can give unfair advantage. The banned drugs fall into five major categories: anabolic steroids, stimulants, narcotics, beta blockers and diuretics. Within these categories, there are more than 5,000 specific drugs on the IOC's banned list.

The sanctions against Johnson were announced at a press conference here by Michele Verdier, IOC director of information, and Prince Alexander de Merode, director of the IOC's medical commission. They said that all review procedures had been followed; that Johnson, his coach, Charlie Francis, and the Canadian Olympic Assn. had been given their say, and that the decision was final.

Verdier read a statement from Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the IOC: "This was a blow for the Olympic Games and the Olympic movement. But it showed that the IOC is doing what is right by keeping its sports clean."

Canadian officials, who also met with the press this morning, said that Johnson and Francis had denied steroid usage and had outlined a possible scenario where something Johnson drank was sabotaged just prior to his urine test. They said they presented that possibility to the ruling IOC executive committee in a meeting that didn't break up until about 1 a.m. today, but the IOC rejected that defense.

Canadian officials also said that Johnson had been tested eight times between February, 1987, and February of 1988, but not since.

Johnson and his coach, Francis, left Seoul this morning on a flight to New York.

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