Ben Johnson, track and field athlete (b at Falmouth, Jamaica 30 Dec 1961). In 1976 Johnson immigrated to Canada and was attracted to competitive sprinting, initially in the 100 and 200 m.
Ben Johnson, track and field athlete (b at Falmouth, Jamaica 30 Dec 1961). In 1976 Johnson immigrated to Canada and was attracted to competitive sprinting, initially in the 100 and 200 m. In 1978 he entered national competition with the Scarborough Optimists track club in Toronto under coach Charlie Francis (later national sprint coach). Johnson's first sprint record was on the Canadian senior 4 x 100 m relay team against the US in 1982. After deciding to concentrate on the 100 m sprint - the most prestigious event in track and field - he improved dramatically from a time of 11 sec in 1978 to 10.62 sec in 1980. By 1985 Johnson had lowered his time to 10.00 sec and in 1986 he beat world champion Carl Lewis in Moscow with a time of 9.95, the fastest time ever recorded at sea level. He set a new world record of 9.83 sec on 30 August 1987, at the world championships at Rome, again defeating Lewis. As the undisputed owner of track and field's most prestigious title, the "world's fastest human," Johnson became a celebrity, courted by advertisers and honoured with the Order of Canada and the Lou Marsh Trophy (1987) as Canada's outstanding athlete.
At the Seoul Olympics of 1988 Johnson again lowered the world record, to 9.79, and took the gold medal. The triumph, however, was short-lived as Johnson tested positive for steroids. Olympic officials confiscated the gold medal, erased his records and suspended him from competition for 2 years. He was eventually stripped of his 1987 world record as well. At the Dubin Commission hearings Charlie Francis and then Johnson himself admitted that Johnson and other athletes had systematically used steroids, beating the tests by stopping the use a set period before a race. Francis was banned from coaching for life. After serving the mandatory two year suspension, during which time he counselled young people against the use of drugs, Johnson returned "clean" to competition in January 1991. His performances were well below his previous standards, but he finally posted a time fast enough to qualify for the 1992 Olympics. Johnson made the semifinal but tripped coming out of the blocks and was eliminated. In February 1993 Johnson again tested positive in a drug test, above the allowed levels of testosterone, and the IAAF banned him from competition for life. In April 1999 Athletics Canada granted Johnson's application for reinstatement in Canada, subject to certain conditions; Johnson was to make himself available for random testing three times a year for the next three years, as well as make an application to the IAAF. This has since been denied by the international body.