You know back in the day, I was pretty fly for a white guy... I was pretty quick and very skinny. I started running from a young boy in school. I did a lot of Cross Country and then got into track in high school. Around 15, I developed some speed, and I began sprinting. -Even though I hated it. I was good at it, and I wanted to win. My brother Chris trained with me with a couple other friends, and we began going to York University to train on their indoor track in the winter and use the outdoor one in the summer.
That was a great time for Canadian Track and Field. We had Ben Johnson, Desai Williams, Angela Issajenko, Mark McCoy and a few other Track World Greats. We watched them train, lift weights, run, and socialize all to the beat of their own drums.
Ben had about 6 different cars, and we would always guess which one he would be bringing that day. Charlie Francis, his coach was always there and we would watch to see what kind of drills they would do to make Ben better than World #1.
I wish I could say that Ben was a great role model, but I can't. Maybe it was because he was at "work" and he didn't want to be bothered by kids or autograph seekers, but he wasn't ever nice to us. Whatever the case was, I wasn't really a big fan of his. I did approach him once for an autograph. Jannine Bolton loved him, and he signed for her and was quite nice about it. You should've seen the look on her face when I gave her that autograph...lol
Anyway, I guess when Ben was breaking all these records and had this rivalry with Carl Lewis, it was the greatest time for the sport that maybe hasn't ever been surpassed. I remember being in Halifax watching the 100 Metre Dash in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, and seeing him absolutely DESTROY Carl Lewis in the Men’s Final.
9.79!! His previous world record of 9.83 was shattered. Before this, the record was 9.99. So, in an event where a hundredth of a second was the difference between world record and second place, this was a massive amount to beat it by. We as Canadians were marveled by Ben's achievement. It was truly unbelievable. And then we found out a couple days later that it REALLY WAS unbelievable.
Ben Johnson on steroids?! No way. Not possible. -Someone duped his water bottle!! But as we all found out later, it was like finding out that there was no Santa. Ben had cheated, and a piece of my childhood went out the window for good.
What we thought was bad turned worse. It seemed like a house of cards coming down. ALL of these players in Canadian Track and Field were cheaters and it all came out in the wash. Maybe it was just our athletes that got busted, as I’m sure looking back now that everybody was guilty of substance abuse, but we were obviously one step behind the testing.
And now I look at this and think I could rhyme off names like Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens, A-Rod, Flo-Jo, Marion Jones, Edwin Moses, Floyd Landis, and Michael Johnson just to name a few.
I know that there are many more, but this is a good start. Let's look at a great example of this.
I mentioned Michael Johnson. He was a 200 and 400 metre Olympic champion and former world record holder in each event. His record of 19.32 in the 200 metre was remarkable and unbelievable. Up until his record run, Pietro Mannea's record in the 200 metre of 19.72 had stood as the longest unbroken track record. Not even the great Carl Lewis who had amassed a 2 year unbeaten streak in the event, and came within a 100th of a second of tying the 200 metre world record, could come close to it. And this was the world's dominator in the event for a decade. So it stood unbroken for Michael Johnson in the Atlanta Olympics of 1996.
And Johnson ran it in 19.32.
Hmmmmmm, lets see here. This record stood for over 2 decades and the best in the world couldn't get within a 100th of a second of it, and now this Johnson guy comes around and beats it by 4 TENTHS of a second?! YOU GOTTA BE SHITTING ME!!...
How was every alarm in the world not going off calling this guy a cheater?! If this wasn't a wake up call for the World Doping Organization to get their act together, I don't know what could be. NOBODY beats the longest serving record where an elite world class athlete like Carl Lewis couldn’t touch it by that margin. It just can't happen. That's the equivalent of someone walking into a casino and hitting 4 jackpots in slots for millions in 4 pulls. -Its theft!!
Yet, it went unheard.
Now, this Jamaican runner comes out of the woodwork and beats these records that were tainted by drugs and thought to be unbeatable. Johnson's 19.32 was eclipsed to a modest 19.30 by Usain Bolt. -The same man who just broke his own 100 Metre record this weekend. In a time of…(Can I have the envelope please?)
His broke his own record by .11 of a second. That’s the largest margin the record has been broken in the 100 since the invention of electrically timed runs started in 1968. (Ben Johnson did it in Rome 1987, but because of his steroid scandal, it was stripped from him) So are you getting the hint?
How long do we buy this shit about our athletes breaking old sacred records by massive amounts before we say something and cry FOUL?
Mark McGuire, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa stole a record which belonged to a class act like Henry Aaron and Roger Maris respectively and we let them do it.
I think it’s only a matter of time before Cyclist Lance Armstrong gets fingered out and caught for some sort of substance abuse. I mean, do you really think he retired a couple years ago because he wanted to?
I think that he was basically FORCED to retire because his little secret was about to get found out and he couldn't risk losing races and titles without his advantage. So he quietly retires. When he gets a new formula, he'll be back. Oops...Scratch that. He's already back. And despite the time away from this incredibly tough and competitive sport of cycling, he ALMOST wins the Tour De France.
Sprinters are no different. I say we set the records straight and keep blood samples for as long as it takes so that when technology catches up in a decade or so, we can strip the athlete for cheating. I mean, cheating has no time limit, right? Can you imagine if Ben Johnson ran and didn't get caught and then 10 years later his urine sample was found to have steroids in it that were not detectable at the time?
Stand the test of time if you want your record to.
So let this Jamaican have his moment of glory and his fame and fortune that he's cheated for. But just like the others before him that were once World greats, his legacy will be tainted before his time is up.
And I Thank God for this...