TORONTO — A shotputter suspended for using banned drugs said Wednesday he was reinstated by the Canadian Track and Field Assn. after he threatened to expose anabolic steroid use by sprinter Ben Johnson and other athletes.
Peter Dajia, who attends the University of Texas Arlington, testified in the Canadian government's inquiry into drug use by athletes that he had been on muscle-building drugs since 1983 but that he appealed a June 1986 drug test because it indicated that he and two teammates used a substance they had not taken.
Dajia said his appeal was rejected and that his 18-month suspension lingered for two years. When his lawyer failed to gain his reinstatement early last summer, the shotputter said he spoke with Steve Findlay, an athletes' representative at the CTFA in Ottawa.
"I threatened to turn in the world's fastest human being," Dajia said. "I told him I had some information about Ben and Angella (Taylor Issajenko), and Dr. (Jamie) Astaphan, also, and that I'd be speaking to a reporter. I had nothing to lose."
Issajenko, Canada's leading female sprinter for most of this decade, earlier testified about her steroid use. Astaphan treated Johnson, Issajenko and other Canadian athletes.
Dajia, 25, said Findlay tried to calm him, telling him, "Think of your sport."
Several days later, the CTFA began proceedings to reinstate Dajia and his teammates, Rob Gray and Mike Spiritoso.
Dajia finished second at the national championships a month later at Ottawa, but was still banned from competing internationally by the federal government and was not allowed to participate in the Olympics at Seoul.
As a result, he said, he repeated his threats to the CTFA's president, Paul Dupre, its chairman, Jean-Guy Ouellete, and the head of its doping control program, Bruce Savage.
"I said something to the effect that, 'You guys do not realize what I know about track and field. I could cause a real black cloud around it if I go to the press,' " he said.
Asked Robert Armstrong, senior counsel for the inquiry: "Did any of the people representing the Canadian Track and Field Assn. ask you what you were talking about?"
"No," replied Dajia, who said he had been obtaining banned drugs from Astaphan since 1985.
"Did you have any sense of whether they understood what it was you were talking about?" Armstrong asked.
"I'm sure they did," the shotputter said.
Dajia, who competed for Clemson University in 1984 before transferring to Arlington, said steroid use is widespread among U.S. college track and field athletes.
"There were distance runners, sprinters, jumpers, you name it," Dajia said. "In all the events, they used it."
Ouellete, Dupre and Savage were unavailable for comment Wednesday, but Findlay said in a telephone interview from Ottawa: "We've agreed to cooperate with (the inquiry) and not comment on any evidence until the CTFA gets a chance to comment at the inquiry."
Earlier in the day, hurdler Mark McKoy testified that he abandoned the Olympic team in Seoul because of racism and back-stabbing after Johnson was stripped of his gold medal. He was suspended for two years by the CTFA when he fled Seoul before running in the 400-meter relay. He finished seventh in the 110-meter high hurdles earlier.
"It's not so bad if other teams were looking down on Canadians because of what happened," he said. "But when our own teammates, our own coaches and officials were doing the same thing, I thought, 'I don't need to take this. I can go home.' "
McKoy cited a banner strung across the Canadian headquarters in the Olympic village, apparently hung by other Canadian athletes, that said: "From hero to zero in 9.79 seconds."
He said that an unidentified Canadian coach told the track team from Johnson's native Jamaica that the sprinter was "not a Canadian anyway. You guys can have him back now. We don't want him anymore."