When Ben Johnson came on the scene he was seen as a welcomed antidote to the jingoism and relentless flag waving of America. It was this very same angst against athletic defeat that caused the Olympics to include professional basketball players into the game as they feared their dominance being challenged around the world. Ben Johnson was also seeing as the antithesis of the arrogance of American sprinting as personified by Carl Lewis and his ilk. Unfortunately Ben Johnson became a victim of his own success and the failure of a country to protect a representative of theirs unlike any other country in the world. You see during the time of Ben’s ascension in Canada, he had the terminity of not only usurping Wayne Gretzky as athlete of the year twice, but to be loved by people all over the world for his rags to riches story and persona.
Rest assured Canadian officials where not fans of Ben Johnson or the Optimist track Club he and his fellow athletes represented. It it’s also ironic that the late Charlie Francis, a Caucasian and excellent sprinter in his days, is not often talked about, because he coached the optimist group to unprecedented heights and had a fuck you attitude about it. Understand that Canada (while much much better) to this day still does not give African athletes the props they deserve. Back in the 1980’s it was worse and thus the arrogance of the optimist track club, who constantly fought with sports Canada for funding and other support. In fact the Country is notorious for under funding athletics in general…even hockey, believe it or not. However, there is no aversion to wanting to share the spot light when it comes time to stick their chest out. Remember, this is a country that still praises ex-basket ball coach Jack Donohue claimed to try motivating Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during halftime of a high school game by telling him he was playing “like a nigger.” The same coach and basket ball organization that refused to allow African ball players on the national team for years, when Jay Triano was playing, because they played “nigger ball”.
For one moment in time Ben Johnson slayed a purple pillow biting dragon in pink mu-mu named Carl Lewis and in effect reminded America that they world was catching up. I confess that I grew up with Ben Johnson and remember him as a skinny 14 year old at a local “black” track meet beaten youth older than him by wide margins. I also remember Ben’s older brother, not as talented as him but with tremendous work ethics would haul Ben out of bed in the Canadian winter as a teenager building and developing the foundation and work ethic that Ben soon became known for. Dude was a beast in the weight room and his training-in fact the training of the whole team was much much more top flight than many others in the world. This was why before and after the Seoul Olympics, many former club members have been involved to date in training or over seeing athletics, because of their experience and knowledge. This was a directly related back to Charlie Francis who believed that sprinters must do sprint work. Not a very original concept now, but trust me, it was a foreign concept in 1970-80’s. And i wasn’t a fan of Charlie Francis, but I will give props to his knowledge.
It’s time that Canadians, if not the world recognize that if there was no steroids in track and field Ben would have beaten Lewis eventually anyway. It is just that both were on the juice and Carl being the bitch he was and supported by American money and politics was never allowed to be found guilty of steroid abuse. He, Carl Lewis, was caught 3 times during 1988 for illegal substances in his body. This is the same period that he got the gold medal from Ben Johnson who was caught with steroid use. There was also a sports story a decade after the 1984 Olympics in Los Angles, where the BBC reported that as many as nine positive tests from the final days of competition had been destroyed.
The results had been sent from a UCLA laboratory to the International Olympic Committee’s temporary offices at the Biltmore Hotel. Prince Alexandre de Merode, chairman of the IOC’s medical commission, said he never got a chance to match the coded results to specific athletes. He claimed the paperwork was accidentally discarded when the Los Angeles organizing committee converted his temporary office back into a suite immediately after the closing ceremony. Local officials offered a different story, saying De Merode must have misplaced the results. “Smoke and mirrors,” said Steven Ungerleider, an Oregon researcher and anti-doping expert. “In those days, you looked the other way and said, ‘Oh my goodness, what a great Olympics.’ “
When money talks bullshit walks and American advertisers and the American media love the hype of laying claim to the worlds fastest man and woman and they cannot stand it when some other country holds the title. After 1996 Olympics in Atlanta the American media claims Micheal Johnson is “The Worlds Fastest Man” even though Donovan Baily won the gold in the 100m and set a new world record. “Oh yes, but Johnson won gold in the 200m AND the 400m” Funny, becasue as I recall Bailey won gold in the 4×100 as well. On the other hand the media was quick to pronounce Gail Devers as the fastest woman in the world even though Marie-Josee Perec of France duplicated Johnsons accomplishment of winning the 200m and 400m events. Even when Johnson, who was trailing badly, pulled up “lame” in the much hyped 150m race against Donovan, the unofficial title still stayed with Micheal Johnson.
Keep in mind that the 1979 that Ben ran wasn’t touched until Usain Bolt did over 20 years later and on a faster track. Ben has the fastest reaction time and the most amazing start as he would leap out of the blocks with both feet not one at a time, if he just kept training hard he still would have won because his start was unstoppable and he had the strength and power to pull off a start like that.
Ben’s 3.67 30m in Seoul is still faster than Usain Bolt’s 3.78 in Berlin. At 60m Bolt had 6.31, Ben 6.33.Both reached their top speed at that time and maintaining it is Bolts greatest gift. Ben’s Seoul time is 9.72 in reality because he shut down at 80m. If his career didn’t come to an end then he would go onto 9.6 or lower for sure (not to mention the faster surfaces today). But those in the know, those who don’t drink the hypocritical and moralisitc cool aide about fairness in sports, know what Ben Johnson accomplished and this should be enough to entrench him in our consciousness as a Canadian hero and eligible for celebration as our own son and brother and pioneer for Canadian “black” history month.
This video gives a brief narrative of Ben Johnson’s journey to fame and infamy. unfortunately I couldn’t find an unbiased narrative, but discerning readers would be able to separating the moralism from unbiased journalism.
Reputations: The Ben Johnson Story