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THE SEOUL GAMES / DAY 11 : Johnson Loses Gold to Drugs

September 27, 1988|RANDY HARVEY | Times Staff Writer

SEOUL — Canadian Ben Johnson, whose explosive strength enabled him to become the world's fastest man, was stripped of his 100-meter gold medal Tuesday by the International Olympic Committee after testing positive for an anabolic steroid commonly used by bodybuilders.

Johnson, 26, faces a two-year suspension by the International Amateur Athletic Federation, which governs track and field, and likely will be prevented from competing at least through the 1992 Olympic Games by the Canadian Olympic Assn.

With the disqualification, an IAAF spokesman said Tuesday that the gold medal will be awarded to the United States' Carl Lewis, who finished second to Johnson in Saturday's 100-meter final at the Olympic Stadium.

Lewis thus became the only man ever to repeat as the Olympic 100-meter champion and, after finishing first in the long jump Monday, could win four gold medals for the second consecutive Olympics. He competes Wednesday in the 200 meters.

Great Britain's Linford Christie will receive the silver medal, and the United States' Calvin Smith, who finished fourth, will receive the bronze.

Johnson's winning time of 9.79 seconds will not be counted by the IAAF as a world record, leaving the 9.83 that the Jamaican-born sprinter ran last year at the World Championships in Rome as the existing standard. Lewis ran 9.92 Saturday, an American record.

Track and field promoters, as well as Johnson's biographer, Jim Christie of the Toronto Globe and Mail, estimated that the suspension will cost the sprinter more than $3 million in athletic shoe and apparel contracts, endorsements and meet appearance fees.

Christie said that Johnson had a four- or five-year contract valued at $2.5 million with an Italian athletic shoe and apparel company, Diadora, and five or six sponsorship agreements with Japanese companies. He said that all of Johnson's contracts included clauses that invalidated them if he were discovered to have violated rules against the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Johnson became the seventh athlete since the Games began Sept. 17 to test positive for banned substances, the first for an anabolic steroid.

Two other gold medalists, Bulgarian weightlifters Anguelov Guenchev and Mitko Grablev, were forced to forfeit their championships last week after traces of the diuretic, furosemide, intended for quick weight loss and to hide steroid use, were found in their systems. Bulgaria's weightlifting team withdrew from the remainder of the competition.

Since the IOC began testing for drugs in the 1968 Olympics at Mexico City, adding anabolic steroids to its banned list for the 1976 Games at Montreal, only one other track atnd field medalist has produced a positive sample at the Games. Finland's Martti Vainio was disqualified after finishing second in the 10,000 meters 4 years ago in Los Angeles.

Johnson is the most celebrated athlete required to return his Olympic gold medal since Jim Thorpe, the 1912 decathlon champion, who violated the IOC's amateurism code by accepting $25 a week as as minor league baseball player.

"This is a blow for the Olympic Games and the Olympic movement," IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch said in a prepared statement. "However, it shows that the IOC was right in the first stand it has adopted to keep the Games clean."

Carol Anne Letheren, head of the Canadian delegation, said: "The people of Canada and Jamaica were elated over the 100-meter final. Now there is pain. The heartbreak is shared by the Canadian Olympic team."

Johnson, who was asked to return the gold medal by Canadian Olympic officials at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, after their hearing with the IOC Medical Commission, left Seoul later in the morning on a flight bound to New York and was unavailable for comment.

His manager, Larry Heidebrecht of Williamsburg, Va., told the Associated Press, "Johnson was completely shattered by the developments."

He also suggested that someone tampered with the liquids that Johnson drank in the approximately 15 minutes between the time he finished the race and was escorted to the room inside the stadium where urine samples are collected from all medal winners and other athletes selected randomly.

"The only thing we can say at this stage is that it is a tragedy, a mistake or a sabotage," he said. "Up to five days before the race, Ben was in perfect condition. Something has happened in those days.

"We do not know what happened and how it happened, but apparently somebody has sabotaged Ben, and we will find out who it was and how it was done."

Heidebrecht's reference to Johnson's condition five days before the race indicated that he had been tested since arriving in Seoul. But Canadian track and field officials said that they had no knowledge to that effect.

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