The dirtiest race in history
It’s the blue ribbon event at the Olympic Games and despite lasting a mere ten seconds it’s the crown jewel of the athletics; it’s the men’s 100 metres final. Although before Usain Bolt singlehandedly redeemed the race’s reputation four years ago in Beijing the event was persistently coming under intense scrutiny. Allegations of past winners doping either during the Games or at some stage in between were becoming as common as they are in cycling today. Every winner since 1984, except for Bolt (2008) and Donovan Bailey (1996), has at some point tested positive for or has been caught with banned substances during their careers. Three of these past ‘winners’ were participants in the 100m final at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul; Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and Linford Christie. The race has been consequently dubbed ‘the dirtiest in history’.
Ben Johnson won the race and set a new world record whilst defeating his bitter rival Carl Lewis in the process. However three days later Johnson tested positive for anabolic steroids and was stripped of both his world record and his gold medal. As such Carl Lewis won the gold by default, but he wasn’t without controversy either. Lewis tested positive for stimulant use at the 1988 U.S. Olympic trials but his twelve week ban was overthrown by the U.S. Olympic Committee. Linford Christie tested positive for a banned stimulant after the race but escaped punishment after his excuse of having drank ginseng tea was accepted, which was pretty tame in comparison to Dennis Mitchell’s excuse (see below). Calvin Smith was the only athlete in the top five whose reputation remains untarnished. In a field of eight runners, six have had experiences with performance-enhancing drugs at some stage in their careers.
Below are the positions where each athlete originally finished. After Johnson’s disqualification each competitor was pushed up one place.
- Ben Johnson (Canada): tested positive for anabolic steroids three days after the 100m final and was disqualified. Another offence in 1993 brought with it a lifetime ban.
- Carl Lewis (USA): was banned for stimulant use at the 1988 U.S. Olympic trials but his ban was overturned by the U.S. Olympic Committee so their poster boy could compete.
- Linford Christie (Great Britain): tested positive for the banned stimulant ephedrine but convinced the drugs panel he had unintentionally taken it by drinking ginseng tea. He tested positive for anabolic steroids in 1999.
- Calvin Smith (USA): never failed a drugs test in his career.
- Dennis Mitchell (USA): was given a two year ban in 1998 for abnormally high levels of testosterone and during his appeal gave one of the most infamous excuses ever. Mitchell claimed that his high levels were the result of a sleepless night on the eve of the test which consisted of five beers and four bouts of sex with the missus because ‘it was her birthday, the lady deserved a treat.’
- Robson da Silva (Brazil): never failed a drugs test in his career.
- Desai Williams (Canada): never failed a drugs test but after retiring he admitted to using anabolic steroids during his career.
- Ray Stewart (Jamaica): received a lifetime ban in 2010 for supplying drugs to the athletes he coached.
By Eoghan Wallace
Posted by Robert McNamara, Sports Editor on at 5:55 pm.
Got an opinion on this article? Leave it below.